Good Fit. To offer proper support, dance shoes should fit like a glove but not rub uncomfortably anywhere. Shoe sizes vary greatly from company to company and a size 7 medium in one might be a size 7.5 wide in another.
Good Support. Quality dance shoes are specially constructed to give your foot good support while dancing. The back of the shoe (the heel counter) which cradles your heel should fit well and feel firm, not flexible. Quality dance shoes have a hidden steel shank running lengthwise along the instep for stability. Many makers such as International, Freed and SupaDance have come out with a shorter shank which allows you to point or flex your foot more easily. Flexibility does have its drawbacks, however, and a short shank will not offer the same level of support as the traditional longer shank shoe. Check with your foot doctor before buying shoes if you have any history of foot problems.
Cushioning. Many shoe companies now offer padding in the soles of their shoes. Toe to Toe Dance Shoes specializes in shoes with extra padding.
Materials. Leather has more breathability than synthetic and should remain cooler and stretch more. Satin shoes can be dyed to match any color but do not stretch as much as leather. Satin is the usual material of choice for competition.
Shoes for Bunions. The basic idea is to get a shoe with the best possible support that is still comfortable, especially around the widest part of the foot and the toes. Many dancers with bunions find that leather shoes without a reinforced toe box are most comfortable, as the forefoot area has some give to it. A longer shank shoe will offer greater support. Orthotics are always a challenge to accommodate in dance shoes, often requiring a half size larger shoe to fit. Some orthotic corrections can be built into the shoe itself rather than using a separate orthotic insert. Because orthotics often make the foot sit higher in the shoe, elasticized (around the front opening) court shoes may be more comfortable for ladies. The lowest heel possible will reduce pressure on the ball of the foot. Some bunion suffers like padded dance shoes such as those from Celebrity or Coast, as long as the orthotic still fits in the shoe. There are some shoes that just won't fit right once you put the orthotic in.
Practice Shoes for Ladies with Orthotics: Ladies Supadance (normal width) or International (wide width, by special order) practice shoes are excellent choices if you wear orthotics, featuring a wider forefoot area with a rounded toe. The length of the forefoot area is different in these models, the Supadance being shorter than the International. If one doesn't fit right, you might want to try the other model.
Social or Competitive Options for Ladies with Orthotics:
The Celebrity "Sophia" model is a basic pump with a slim buckle strap across the instep which can be ordered in many different materials including nude color leather and in multiple heel heights. The instep strap offers great support...no more elastic bands! The toe is a little more roomy than most other shoes and the shoe is thickly padded, yet still accommodates a slim orthotic.
Supadance model 1008 is a classic elasticized court shoe in satin and white/black/silver/gold leather. You can order this with a 2 inch heel if desired. This shoe has a shorter forefoot area than most others, so orthotics may not fit as well in this shoe.
Freed model "Cara" is a leather 2" heel pump with a scalloped edge along the top of the shoe. Light padding on the inside still seems to accommodate slim orthotics quite well. The V-front opening of the shoe is a great cut for bunion sufferers (at the big toe joint), minimizing rubbing along what is usually a tender area for most. Although advertised as a social dancing shoe (because it's made of leather rather than satin), it's very elegant and suitable for competition as well. It comes in a nude color as well as black.
Freed also carries a square-toed elasticized pump in both leather and satin with a 1-1/2 inch heel...a very comfortable and foot healthy option that accommodates orthotics well. This shoe is made especially for American dancers, so look for it in the U.S. at places like dancesportshoes.com.
If you find other choices that work well, please send your suggestions to the webmaster.