There are so many options for dance shoes these days, but limited options to try them on in person. This has created an interesting situation for me of ordering shoes, trying them on and either keeping them or selling them to someone else. It also has allowed me some time to try out and review SO MANY brands. Anyone who knows me knows that I love shoes. There was even a YouTube sensation about it! Ok, so maaaaybe it wasn’t made about me, but it may have well have been!
This is by no means an all-encompassing list, nor does it say how these shoes will fit YOU. This is just a quick rundown of my experiences that will hopefully help you! One thing to know about me is that when looking for anything with HEELS, I am very particular with the way the heel is stacked. I prefer the way heels were designed in the 20s-40s, which allowed your weight to be dispersed properly. Many shoes today, actually angle the heel, which pitches the shoe, making your weight artificially forward more than what is good for natural alignment (or for where you want your weight for dancing).
When it comes to sizing, every brand is different and every human’s foot is different. I try to base sizing and shoes from the US, to China, to UK to EU to try to gauge what the most consistent sizing is. I also have bunions (thanks family and dancing!) Which means some styles just don’t work for me.
Balboas, Emilys, Gramercy, Aviator, Brescia
Sizing: I have found their sizing to be a little all over the board, depending on the style. Typically shoes made with the same last/framework will be similar in size, but the material on the upper part of the shoe also influences sizing. I am a 7 in the Balboa, 7.5 Emily, 8 in Gramercy/Decos, 8.5 Aviators, 7.5 Brescia
Quality: Overall a decent shoe. The leather uppers tend to be very soft, which leads to A LOT of stretch in the shoe, especially as you wear them more. The heel is stacked slightly more angled than I would prefer, but some styles are better for this than others (the old style Aviators and the Gabrielle). There is quite a bit of bend in the sole at the start of the toe box.
Durability: They tend to last for a while, as long as they don’t stretch to the point of not fitting. The soles can wear down a little fast, as there isn’t much thickness to them
Comfort: Not my favorite. Between pitching my weight, lack of padding and support I tend to use these more for looks than comfort. The shoes tend to curve inward by design, which is not the way most feet are shaped. I find this can cause ill fitting in many people.
Materials: Most styles come in soft leather or suede, and hard leather soles
Additional notes: The Balboas are a nice lower heel, making them good for Balboa and Lindy, though they cramp my toes far more than I want. I like the Emilys and Gramercy’s for Balboa, but they get too loose around the ankles after a few wears. The Aviator heel height was too much for me, and caused too much pain on my bunions. Most of their styles are loose around the ankles, but tight toe box. I am not able to add inserts without lifting my foot too far out of the shoe.
Riviera Low/High, West, Pony
Sizing: Also a little across the board, depending on style. I am a 38 in the Pony, 39 in the West. Sadly the Riveiras just really don’t have a size that works for me. The 39 were way too long, and the 38s kept my toes all curled up. (Update! I just received a pair of the Stardust low heel Riviera in 38 and they FIT!!!) She also has a new, higher heel design coming soon that will have a slightly larger tow box! *Additional update: they re-did the higher heel Rivieras giving them a bit more room in the tow box. I tried these on at Focus and they fit. I also tried on the Sky low heel which fit, as did the Ruby. The Cafe and Green did not fit.
Quality: Well made shoe. Keeps it shape/size with a small amount of stretch for breaking in.
Sturdiness: This feel really stable. Heel is placed right were I like it.
Durability: So far these lovelies have held themselves together for a long time.
Comfort: Decent amount of padding under feet, soft leather linings. Again, most of the 38s were too tight in the toe box. However, if they DO fit, they are up for a full night of dancing.
Materials: Heels have a brushed leather sole; Ponys are suede over a couple layers of smooth rubber. Upper are leather, though many styles are actually a layered leather/textile combination which helps change the shape
Additional notes: They are VERY responsive with feedback, super nice and easy to work with. The Pony is actually too stiff for me, the sole doesn’t have enough bend for the preference of foot movement I have. I am excited to see the future designs they put out. I highly recommend their shoes. I am in love with their designs, and again Rani is wonderful to work with. My newest Rivieras have been a blessing, and I have some more on the way! My favorite dance shoe company out there.
Lace up Oxford Heel, Mary Jane, Lace Up Oxfords
Sizing: Not all over the board, but still not a one-size magic. Their single color oxford I was a 37, their summer styles 38, and their lace up oxford/mary janes in between a 38/39.
Quality: They have changed their producer since they first started, so I cannot say for sure for all their lines, but their current ones seem to be good. Many of their styles use a method of connecting the upper to the bottoms that is often reserved for men’s shoes, but allows a bit more stretch of the shoe. The uppers tend to have a good amount of stretch since the leather is very soft.
Durability: The sole is closer to the Remixes, but a bit thicker so they should last longer, but maybe not as long as SS or Swingz. Low thick heels and flats options make these styles you can wear pretty much anywhere.
Comfort: Thanks to the very soft leather and low heels, you can wear these and have them broken in by the end of the night.
Materials: Hard leather soles, soft leather uppers
Additional notes: Overall I like their shoes, though many of them are not ideal dancing shoes for me, but I would love to just wear them around the city! I do LOVE their Oxford Heels.
T-Strap and Dorothys
Sizing: Very true to size. Whole and half size options.
Quality: Some of the highest quality made shoes out there.
Sturdiness: Heel is stacked just where you want it. Materials hold their shape. The toe of the shoe is a bit stiffer than most people are used to.
Durability: It will be tough to destroy these beauties, they seem to be made to withstand years of dancing.
Comfort: Great padding under the sole, leather that stretches to fit. Weight placement allows you to stay in these all night.
Materials: Leather soles, leather, suede and patent leather uppers.
Additional notes: One of my favorite companies out their. Their shoes are incredible. I highly recommend them. Plus, you can order designs they already have or you can also customize!
Some other dance shoe brands that I have tried, but unable to collect as much information on:
Balboa Zin : My experience was great and my shoes fit me perfect. However many other people have NOT had this experience. They are custom order, which means the variables get a bit more chaotic. Mine were leather sole with soft leather uppers. They were easy for me to work with, and very responsive.
Made In Lindy: semi-customizable. Their newest round seems to be good quality, but the pairs I ordered don’t fit me enough to try them out. But they are pretty! Seem to have decent materials and build.
Some other great shoes that are out there, not “dance shoes” but I wear all the time for dancing based on their comfort and heel heights (none of these have been sueded or anything, I just wear them the way they are!):
Mrs L Fire Daisy (mine are Mint color) 1.5in heel, smooth rubber sole
Restricted brand – variety of low heel and flats
Keds champion oxfords
Nisolo low boots (these have a leather sole)
Chelsea Crew low boots (I do not care for their heels based on the heel alignment)