Tango Argentino > What should I look for in AT shoes?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Luvs2Lindy2, Feb 14, 2007.

  1. Luvs2Lindy2

    Luvs2Lindy2 New Member

    Like many women, dancing in high heels gets painful after awhile. What should I be looking for in AT shoes to (hopefully) guarantee good fit, comfort in the ball of the foot, good arch support, etc? Is it possible to get a shoe with a 3" heel that I can dance in for hours? I have a low arch and need something that will support it. Also, can someone point me in the direction of where I can buy good AT shoes at reasonable prices? I am looking for online links and any sources in the NYC/NJ USA area.

    Many thanks, Amy
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    A lot of people, myself included, swear by Comme Il Faut shoes. I believe Jennifer Bratt is in the NYC area, and she sells them (last I knew). They're not cheap, though, at $180 a pair. The web page is w w w.malevashoes.com. I think they only make shoes with either a 3.5 inch or a 4 inch heel--I've got a pair of each and I can dance in either one for hours. Sure, they're tired and sore at the end of the night, but nothing like what I've experienced from street shoes with that kind of height.

    I don't know if you'll like them, though, based on your description. They don't have anything, really, in terms of padding in the sole. You might be able to go up a size or so and put in a pad under the ball of your foot. I don't find it to be a problem, because the placement of the heel is such that most of your weight comes down there, instead of on the ball of your foot.

    As for the arch thing, I've got no clue. I don't know if I have high or low aches, I just know I've never had a problem, so I don't pay attention to it.

    I've also heard both good and bad things about Tara shoes (w w w.22tangoshoes.com/index.php) and Guaranteed Fit Tango Shoes (w w w.guaranteedfittangoshoes.com). I've never tried either one.

    If you search a bit on the forum, I know there has been discussion about shoes, with some reccomendations.

    Good Luck!
  3. AATanguera

    AATanguera New Member

    Dancing in heels for hours at a time is just not natural, so accept that most feet will be sore in any kind of heeled shoes. I think the obsessive tendencies of Argentine tango dancers to dance it for hours at a time probably exacerbate the sore feet problem. At the height of my tango obsession I was taking 8 classes a week (I knew people who took 12 per week), and on some Saturdays I could be dancing 3 hours at a mid-morning practica, another 4 hours at a late afternoon milonga, and then another 5 or 6 hours at an evening milonga. That kind of beginner’s pace is going to take a toll on your body. I don’t do that anymore.

    As you’re just beginning, do what you can to preserve your feet. Take it from someone who has small, wide, flat feet that have seriously deteriorated from AT. I didn’t used to have painful calluses, corns, or bunions, but now I’ve got varying degrees of all. Occasionally, I also get numbness in some of my toes, but surprisingly, I don’t have any arch problems. I went to an orthopedic surgeon to see if there were any preventive things I can do to preserve my feet such as orthotic inserts (not for me; no arch problems; beware of podiatrists who over-prescribe them) or stop running, and also surprisingly the answer was “no” and “no.” He did advise I wear comfortable shoes with lower heels and a roomy toe box. Well, duh. That’s what every popular magazine article about foot care says, but have you ever tried finding such a women’s dance shoe? The orthopedic surgeon just gave me blank stare.

    I’ve bought more tango shoes than I care to admit to in the last 3.5 years, and I find Tara shoes to be pretty comfortable. I only wear the Tara Malena style in the 2 inch heel so I can’t comment on other Tara styles, but a friend has the style with the cork platform, which she says is the most comfortable shoe she has.

    I’ve bought a lot of shoes (have Comme Il Fauts, Neotangos, Susana Artesanals, etc.), and I think only the Taras have a thick cushion in the ball of the feet. I think they recently changed the cushioning to a better material. It seems like the shoe has memory foam in the front because it seems springier than the old models. I like the new memory foam, but the current model seems to have been built on a slightly narrower last because they feel tighter out of the box than the first Malenas I bought two years ago. However, my feet could be spreading and simply getting wider from all the dancing.

    Another dance shoe that comes in a low heel with wide-toe box is La Duca’s Cherie model, a beautiful character shoe that Broadway dancers use. It doesn’t have padding in the sole, but it has a very round, roomy toebox and a thick heel that comes in low and higher heights. Some people may not like the thick heel for AT, but it has a simple but elegant styling. It’s a cute shoe. I wear them sometimes for workshops that are over an hour because they’re comfortable.

    Finally I know someone who has danced AT for over 13 years and her feet are in perfect condition. She probably could be a foot model. She only wears custom made dance boots by Zee Shoes. I can’t comment on these shoes because I’ve never worn them. However, these shoes come in 2.5 heels, so they may work for you.

    One other bit of advice. Whatever you decide to buy, buy several pairs. If you become an avid AT dancer, at a minimum, you will need to get a new pair every 6 months or so. Between the pounding, paradas, and perspiration, you’ll need them.

    Have fun! AT is the best.
  4. Good thread, I am also interested in the answers to this question.

    I just ordered my first pair of tango shoes from guaranteed fit (URL see above), this was a recommendation from my tango teacher who said that those shoes are very comfortable. Another reason to order from them was that I have "complicated" feet and normally cannot buy shoes from the Internet. These people will send me a measuring kit at no charge and I can enter custom measures for my feet. And if they still do not fit, I can return them. I thought that sounds like a good deal and I will give it a try. You can order extra padding to be incorporated for an extra $15-25, check out their website.

    My highest dance shoes have a 2" heel (6 cm). They are comfortable but I can only wear that height when I know I will have a place to sit in between dances. When I have to stand all night, my feet start hurting after half of the night and I am getting uncomfortable (this is sometimes the case in salsa venues). So when I am not sure I have a place to sit, I wear 5 cm heels.

    Now you tangueras say that dancing tango works better in higher heels and it is not a problem because tango shoes are so comfortable. I ordered my tango shoes with a 5 cm heel (they do not have 6 or 6.5 cm) and I do not dare to order 7.5 cm heels and up, I might not even be able to walk in them.
    What is your experience regarding this issue: "upgrading" your heel height? I wish I could try some higher tango shoes on in a real store to see how it feels.
  5. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    My wife's shoe repertoire comes in 3" to 3.5" inches. For classes and workshops, she wears her old ballroom shoes in 3." (Capezio, Supadance, etc.)

    For milongas, she wears her 3.5" heels. She does this for hours on end with no issues.

    I have her shoes hand made (expensive, but well worth it). Or, buy them here: http://www.darcostango.com

    I asked my wife, and my other tanguera partners before about heels (they all wear 3", to 4" heels) They tell me... "Your weight is always forward, and always centered on the balls of your foot. The heels are just there to extend the lines of your legs which make them look sexy. The heel is just there to help stabilize you every now and then but not to put your weight on full time."

    Come to think of it, I also dance with "Nuevo" Tanguera friends who wear "Puma" sport shoes... They're always on the balls of their feet too.

    Which kinda makes me wonder, as I observe women dance (for purely scientific and objective study) Tangueras do have thicker and more muscular gluteus maximi, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves than other types of dancers (also observed for scientific and objective study). Could this be because of the time and movement spent being on the balls of their feet?
  6. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    what a selection at that website, ampster... some very colorful options...

    thanks for your input
  7. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    You're welcome. ;)
  8. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    You could try the rocket-scientist shoe inserts mentioned in another thread...
  9. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    my tara tango shoes are cushioned, and apparently they have cork in the soles (not visible). they are very comfy, especially considering the design -- they completely lace up the front. purple suede... yum.:cool:

    i've ballroomed in them -- comfy enuf for a social. very sore balls of my feet after a night of salsa in them, tho... i don't do that any more. have never AT'd in them... not yet, anyway. they are at the ready, tho... ;)
  10. Me

    Me New Member

  11. samina

    samina Well-Known Member


    don't ballerina's spend their time up there as well, when not en pointe?

    i wonder if the body type-cum-personality is more drawn to the dance than that the dance creates the body type...
  12. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    samina, It could very well be true. In my (purely scientific observations) the muscularly propotioned lower extremities seem to be a coomon trait to Tangueras.

    I believe I must examine your quandry by doing more research by more direct scientific observations! And, now, experimentation. I do have a few friends who are in fact Tangueras and bailerinas also. And yes, they are built like bailerinas (long and lanky). More research!
  13. AATanguera

    AATanguera New Member

    I don't think that followers are supposed to be on the balls of their feet all/most the time. I tried to remember what some of my beginner class teachers said about dancing backwards and I don’t recall any of them saying that followers are on the balls of their feet all of the time. In fact, most try to get the followers to put their heels down, which is not to say that we are to dance flat-footed. Tango is not ballet, so we should not be on demi-pointe all the time. There are many followers who dance that way, but I don’t think teachers teach that. My current teacher told the class to evenly distribute the weight between sole of the foot and heel.

    Of course followers will tend to favor the ball of the foot because the natural way to walk backwards is the reach back with the toe, roll through the sole while tranferring weight from one leg to the other, and then onto the heel. If you walk backwards (not in tango mode), that’s how you’d walk. If you were to walk backwards fast, that’s still how you’d walk. Try running backwards on demi-pointe. It looks and feels strange.

    Of course, there are times when dancing in demi-pointe is easier, such as in a corrida/running step sequence during an especially fast milonga or with someone in an extreme apilado style (especially a leader will a nice round middle), but even then I will put the heels down where possible. In milonga classes I’ve taken with Eric Jorissen, Pablo Pugliese, and Omar Vega, they all say get those heels down.
  14. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking the same thing.

    I wouldn't say I dance flat-footed, but I do use my heels A LOT. I'd say I tend to keep my weight somewhere in the vicinity of the arch of my foot--maybe a hair further towards the ball, but not much. I used to dance with my weight over the balls of my feet, and not use my heel much, but was broken of that pretty quickly.

    I generally aim for something approximating an exaggerated-natural walk, with the exaggeration coming from a slight delay/hold/exaggeration at the point where my feet are gathered. So...rolling through my foot from ball to heel/heel to ball.

    Not that I always succeed...
  15. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i've already got that particular muscular proportion thing goin' on... don't need AT for that... :cool:

    ah, the trials & tribulations of the dancing life:rolleyes:
  16. Genesius Redux

    Genesius Redux New Member

    Actually, that's kinda hot. :p
  17. AATanguera

    AATanguera New Member


    Yes, that’s absolutely right. I’m not so great at analyzing the mechanics of movement to the nth degree, but I think your description is right on regarding the proper walk backwards. Your heels should be contacting the ground to have a solid grounded walk. There are some followers who dance on demi-pointe all the time; one I know for sure started her career as a ballerina so perhaps that is a habit that is hard to break.

    To be grounded and feel grounded, one has to put the heels down. A follower who does not put her heels down must feel like a leader who does not walk into the ground and evenly distribute his weight across his feet when he walks forward. Such leaders don’t feel grounded to me; they feel very tippy and off-balance. I had this epiphany about 2 years ago when I was following a fellow chica who was a heck of lot small than me (I’m 5’2” but she was even smaller), but I felt really secure in her lead. I commented how I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have a good connection with another leader who was much bigger than she. She said that leader is not grounded and explained the forward walk thing to me. It must be the same going backwards.
  18. Me

    Me New Member

    I have always been taught to keep my weight forward, but to press my heels into the floor. Makes for nice long legs and doesn't cause you to step flat-footed or your weight to fall back into your heels. Sometimes you'll see some of the Argentines wrap their back foot in cruzada, pressing that heel toward the floor.

    But as far as shoes go - it's just a matter of personal preference. If you're not wanting to (or feel you cannot) go with the higher heels, I would actually recommend ballroom shoes for you, especially since you already dance some ballroom. You can buy the shoes locally and for less than specialty tango shoes.

    But, if you're just completely in love with tango and must have some tango shoes, I have always heard great things about the comfort of Tara tango shoes, which can be bought on-line easily. Ladies I know who have problems with their feet love the Taras.
  19. Luvs2Lindy2

    Luvs2Lindy2 New Member

    Thanks to all who replied, I appreciate the input. My problem is the balls of my feet after a few hours of dancing in heels....they simply ache. Additionally, the Morton's Neuroma in my right foot gets aggravated, and my toes start to go numb and tingle. The big issue for me with shoes is a comfy, roomy toe box, and good padding at the ball of the foot. The heels are of less importance to me (though, I'm sure, are of the utmost importance to the tangueros!).
  20. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    L2L2, If that's the case, then perhaps you may want to check out the cork padded Tango and ballroom shoes of TaraTango: http://www.22tangoshoes.com/index.php

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