Ecstatic Dance is a barefoot practice…most of the time.
The benefits of having bare feet articulating on the wood floor are many: energetic grounding; increased foot intelligence; subtle body awareness through the feet; strengthening of feet, toes, and arches, among others. But sometimes a little extra foot support is necessary when dancing. I have an old ankle injury that flares up if I dance a lot, and shoes make it possible for me to dance without pain for longer periods of time. Some dancers have various foot challenges, or sensitive soles that need extra protection. Some dance floors aren’t ideal to dance on barefoot for long periods of time.
Whatever your reason for wanting to know more about dance footwear, there are many options to choose from, and it can get confusing! I’ve narrowed down three categories for dance footwear I think you’ll find most helpful, and my opinions on each, starting with the least supportive to the most.
1. Modern Shoes: as close to barefoot as possible.
Modern shoes are a good option if you frequently get blisters or calluses or like to spin a lot, but are not a good option if you need support. These include shoes that cover your full foot as well as ones that just cover the ball of your foot, including foot thongs. I use foot thongs when I’m not using shoes because I like to turn a lot and get terrible blisters if I don’t wear them. They’re made of a soft suede pad and a mesh upper with elastic to keep them on your feet. Some are made of neoprene, which gets really hot and it is hard to get the right size. The problem with most foot thongs is they fall apart quickly because they’re made of mesh. For this reason, I buy the cheapest ones I can get, and order a few at a time. I like this brand best.
2. Jazz Shoes: offer a bit more support than modern shoes.
Most jazz shoes have a hard heel and offer some slight arch support, while still giving your foot the flexibility to move. Jazz shoes generally have no padding.
3. Dance Sneakers: offer the most support you can get for dancing, with a sole that’s made to glide across the dance floor (rather than grip, like non-dance specific sneakers).
Dance sneakers are a great option if you’re dealing with foot issues or foot pain, though the trade off is you don’t get the benefits mentioned above, like you do when you’re barefoot. My favorite dance sneakers are these because they have a soft suede sole, they last a long time, and they offer the support I need for my ankle injury. When they get stinky (and they DO), I just throw them in the washing machine. (Important tip: don’t wash them with anything else, or it will all end up smelling like sweaty gym socks).
I’ve also used these in the past, but find them too stiff for my foot to be able to articulate the way I want it to.
If you need dance footwear, the most affordable place online is Discount Dance Supply.
Enjoy, and get out there and dance!