The question I get asked the most is “what are the best shoes for dance fitness?”. This may not seem like the most riveting topic, but in the words of the late great Marilyn Monroe: "give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world". So, I have set out below the main things to look for when buying shoes and/or insoles for dance fitness classes. I am definitely not a shoe/foot expert, so below is just what I have learned along the way. I also do not have any affiliation with any shoe or insole company … always open to offers though ;).
FLEXIBLE AND LIGHT
The ideal shoe for dance fitness classes is very light & has a flexible sole, allowing it to flex with your foot as you move. A flexible shoe might have grooves in the sole that allow flex, or it might have a split sole. Either of these options is great, although split soles may not be ideal if you have arch issues, as they may allow a little too much flex.
NOT TOO GRIPPY
Most running or walking shoes are made for outdoor wear, and have very grippy soles. That kind of grip is not ideal for indoor pursuits like dance fitness … in fact it can create a real injury risk. In a dance fitness class we do turns and quick direction changes. When you have a shoe with a very grippy sole there is a risk that your body changes direction, but your feet stay stuck … this can lead to strain or injury, especially to the knees. If you dance at home on carpet (Never Stop Dancing Online people, that means you), a very grippy shoe can be doubly bad (also not great for your carpet).
The ideal shoe for a dance fitness class has a pivot point, or a worn or non-grippy surface, on the inner ball of your foot, to allow for spins & turns. Some grip on the outer edge and the toe can be useful for preventing slipping in squats or lunges.
In a dance fitness class there is usually a bit of jumping around, so it is important to have some cushioning in your shoe to act as a shock absorber for your joints. Unfortunately it can be quite difficult to find an indoor shoe that has good cushioning, and in the right places. I get around this issue by removing the factory insole in my shoe, and replacing it with a good quality insole. When you run or walk, the part of your foot that suffers the most impact is your heel. But, when you jump or change direction in an NSD class, the part of your foot that suffers the most impact is often your forefoot. So, look for a shoe or insole that has plenty of cushioning & support in the forefoot (not just the heel).
eXPERIMENT: BEST SHOES FOR DANCE FITNESS
So, what do I wear on my feet? At the moment I wear a fairly standard Nike Flex TR shoe (good flex, light, not too grippy, but very little cushioning), with a Sorbothane Max Duty insole (which I order via YouShop, as they do not ship to NZ). I have been using this combination happily for years. Unfortunately, the latest incarnation of the Nike Flex shoe has a sewn-in tongue. This is not ideal, as the insoles I use take up a bit more space inside the shoe, so I rely on being able to loosen the laces to allow for the thicker insole. This is not possible with a sewn-in tongue.
So, as an experiment, I am going to try a shoe that is actually designed for dance fitness. Sadly, not many manufacturers make shoes designed for this purpose, but after a good look around, I have ordered (online) a Ryka Devotion XT Training Shoe. I ended up buying the shoes on Amazon Australia, as Ryka also does not ship to NZ (sigh). Once these arrive, I will give them a trial and let you know what I think, and I will also let you know some other specialist dance / dance fitness shoe brands that are available ... I feel a follow-up article coming on :).