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Don’t Worry - Your Ballroom Dance Shoes ARE Supposed to be Tight

AIDA Dance shoes strives to ensure that all our dancers are wearing the proper shoe. That is why we create so many different customizations - widths, toe box shapes, and materials. But in order for that to make sense, our dancers must know what criteria they are looking for! So if you've ever wondered about how and why your shoes are supposed to fit the way they are, please take 2 minutes to read this article.

There are a number of criteria a ballroom dance shoe must have before it is deemed a right fit. But whether you’re looking for Ballroom, Latin, Smooth, or Practice shoes, there is always one thing that holds true — the shoes must be tight! Like they say ‘No Pain, No Gain’! Well that is true of ballroom dance shoes as well.

In order for the shoes to stretch ONTO your foot (more on that later) there must be absolutely NO space between the your foot and the shoe. An easy test is the simple finger test. If your finger fits between the shoe and the foot, then the shoe will become too big in a matter of days/weeks.

The shoe must be so tight on your foot that when it stretches out it simply contours the shape and mold of your foot. If the shoe is not tight enough (i.e. fails the ‘finger test’) then within a few weeks the shoe will stretch to become uncomfortable. The shoe must essentially become a part of your foot when you put it on.  That is what is meant by the shoe stretching ONTO your foot. And there is no way for that to happen if the shoe is not completely tight from the beginning.

And don’t worry, the shoe WILL stretch (unless you’re wearing Patent Leather shoes - that material has very little elasticity). There will be 2-4 days of growing pains, but there are two things that ensure that the shoe stretches:

  • The material is designed to stretch - leather, satin, and even crepe satin all are stretchable materials
  • Over time, your foot will sink into the orthotic cushion on the sole of the shoe creating more volume in the toe box . This thick padding is not only created for added comfort, but for a better fit as well.

There are seldom instances where even after wearing the shoe for a number of days, the shoe does not fully stretch out. In these situations, we must manually stretch the shoe There are of course remedies to these situations! One is a DIY at home solution, while the other is taking the shoes to a cobbler.

  • Doing it yourself is quite easy and quick. It involves a zip-lock bag, water, and a freezer! You can also refer to this AIDA blog for instructions.
  1. Fill a zip-lock bag 3/4 of the way with water and SEAL it. Make sure it is sealed, because we DO NOT want to get the shoe wet.
  2. Insert the zip-lock bag inside your shoe, such that these no space inside the shoe. The zip-lock bag should be protruding through all the possible crevices of the toe box if it is a Latin/Rhythm shoe.
  3. Place the shoe inside a freezer and let it stand there until the water freezes. When the water freezes, the expanding ice will stretch the shoe out.
  4. Once you take the shoe out, make sure to take out the bag of ice right away. We do not want condensation to get the shoe wet!

  • The easiest way of course is to go to a professional shoe cobbler with a shoe stretcher. The whole process takes 5-10 minutes and will stretch your shoe out to exactly the amount you need it. This service usually costs $5-10, depending on how tight you are with your shoe cobbler. 

Now of course there is such a thing as TOO tight. There are a number of sure ways to know if a shoe is too tight on your foot:

  • The straps of the shoe dig into your foot so much that your start seeing blood circulation cut off. We want tight, but not to that level.
  • If it is too painful to walk on the foot, then that is also a bad sign. But remember, there must be a certain level of pain for the first couple of days in order for the shoe to stretch perfectly onto your foot. So make sure the pain is truly unbearable.
  • Standing on your foot scrunches up your toes. If you are wearing a close toe shoe and your can see the intend of your bent toes protruding through the shoe, then chances are this shoe is too short.

So whether your foot is wide, narrow, square, or round, the shoe must be tight around your foot in order for it to be a proper fit. For there is one thing that will ALWAYS hold true to fitting ballroom dance shoes:

YOU CAN ALWAYS STRETCH A SHOE OUT, BUT YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO SHRINK IT!

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