Shoe Care & Maintenance
Remember that our ballroom dance shoes are equipment. It’s essential to take good care of them so they can last longer and perform well. Suede sole ballroom shoes are meant for just that—ballroom dancing! So we want to keep them indoors on a clean, well-kept ballroom floor.
Surfaces that are okay for dance shoes:
- Hardwood floors (the ideal dance floor)
- Most non-abrasive, indoor surfaces are fine to walk over and won’t damage the shoes:
Recommended to avoid:
- Any outdoor surfaces, including but not limited to:
- Any pavement
- Dirt and grass
- Water or moisture of any kind (this will alter the texture of the suede)
Brushing Your Dance Shoes
The most important thing for a dancer to do for their ballroom shoes is to brush the suede soles on a regular basis. The suede will collect dirt and wax from the dance floor over time and get matted down. This causes the suede to lose its nappy texture and get slippery. For safety reasons and for prolonging the lifetime of the suede soles, they should be brushed with a metal bristle Shoe Brush on a regular basis. These shoe brushes differ from other shoe care brushes, made specifically for cleaning the soles of ballroom shoes.
How often should I brush my dance shoes?
The suede soles on ballroom shoes won’t need to be brushed after every use, but it’s important to pay attention to the traction you feel when dancing. If they start to feel more slippery, giving you less control than usual, it’s time to give them a brushing!
For reference, a dancer who practices vigorously 3-4 times a week for several hours each session may need to brush them every week or so. A more casual dancer who might take a group class once or twice a week may not need to brush them as often and can go longer without needing to brush them.
Excessive brushing will also be bad for the suede soles, since the bristle will start to take off good suede fibers, so be mindful of that!
Is there a method to brushing shoes correctly?
If you’re on top of maintaining your suede soles, a gentle brushing should do the trick. If the suede has been neglected for longer periods of time, you may need to brush them more firmly to remove the build-up.
There is no specific direction to brush along the suede, but the brush will work most effectively if you brush against the bristles (the metal bristles will usually be angled downward.)
Don’t worry if you see dust and residue flaking off from the suede! That’s the dirt, dust, and old suede fibers getting removed, which is what the brushes should be doing. To keep tidy, it’s a good idea to brush your shoes over a waste bin.
The idea is to revive the nappy, hairy texture of the suede, which is what will “grab” the floor when you dance. The more flattened down the suede is, the less traction you will have. The more textured it is, the more traction you will have.What should I do if brushing doesn't seem to help the suede traction anymore?
That sounds like it’s time to have the shoes resoled, then. The suede soles won’t last forever, and if the ballroom shoes still fit you well, it’s not necessary to replace them with a whole new pair. The suede can be resoled with a new layer using replacement suede soles and the correct suede sole adhesive, both sold on our website.This is a DIY project anyone can do at home, but if you’re not comfortable with resoling the shoes yourself, any local shoe repair shop should be able to do the job for you.
Tips On Caring Uppers of Shoes
Ballroom shoes come in all forms and materials, which might make taking good care of their appearances a bit tricky. One thing dancers must remember is that our dance shoes are first and foremost our equipment, which will inevitably show wear and tear over time. The kind of damage and wearing we see on our shoes are also a great indicator of how we dance, and may even be itself a good learning tool. For example--we may see uneven wearing on our heels, which is a great indicator of how we use our feet, how much and where we put our foot pressure, the tracking and directionality of our steps in our figures, etc.
We may see certain spots on our shoes wear out much faster than others, such as the inside edge of the heel cups, or the inside edge of the front of the shoes. This shows us where the most contact and friction is taking place as we dance our figures. Whatever the case, we all do our best to take good care of our shoes so they can last as long as they can. With different finishes and materials our dance shoes come in, there are a variety of tips and tricks for how we can care for them.
Satin and Other Textile Material Shoes
Satin and other fabric materials may be some of the trickiest to care for due to their delicate nature. They are among the most common looks for ballroom shoes since they show quite well and elegantly on the competition floor.
Due to the nature of all satin material, please be aware that it is inevitable for them to get dirtied over time. With all the contact we make on the floor, with our own feet, or anything else our shoes may brush up against, satin will track dust over time. It is suggested to coat satin or any fabric material dance shoes with products like Scotch Guard, which can help protect and ward off the dust and dirt a bit better. It will not completely prevent dust from showing, but it will help guard it and make spot cleaning a bit easier.
We can carefully spot clean dust marks. With a gentle soap and water and a towel, we can moisten and lift away dirt marks very carefully to help lighten them on the satin. It is not advised to use any scrubbing or rubbing motions as this will irritate the weave of the satin and cause it to pill and lose its sheen! There are also many online tutorials on how to care for different types of shoe materials one can reference. However, please be mindful of all the details and information given and use your best judgement!
**PLEASE NOTE: It's highly advised to practice in inconspicuous spots first to see results! Please be aware that due to the differences in grade and quality of different types of satins and textiles used among different brands, one method may not necessarily work for all types of materials! Please use caution and care when trying to spot clean your shoes.
Suede and Nubuck Shoes
Suede shoes are quite common even among street shoes. The upside to this is there are also many products out there that are made to care for suede uppers. Suede dance shoes can be cared for just as regular shoes with suede uppers. The same types of sprays and brushes can be used to clean and maintain suede and nubuck dance shoes.
Whichever product you choose to use, please be sure to read the directions of the product carefully!
Leather and Patent Leather Shoes
Leather is among the most common material used in ballroom dance shoes, especially in men's styles. Leather can be polished and buffed just like regular street shoes. The same array of products on the market for leather shoes can also be used for your dance shoes.
Patent leather requires slightly more attention. It can be shined like regular dress shoes with the proper polish. We also suggest a light coat of petroleum jelly (the same kind like Vaseline, used for our lips) to cover large surfaces of patent leather on your dance shoes. Patent leather often has more friction and can "stick" to itself, which might hinder our dancing. The petroleum jelly not only helps reduce the friction, but it also helps condition the material to help against cracking over time.
Heel protectors or heel caps are commonly worn on women's heeled shoes. They primarily serve to protect the plastic heel tips from wearing down. Some prefer the convenience of replacing and discarding heel protectors over taking the shoes to a cobbler to have the plastic tips repaired. If you choose to wear heel protectors, please be sure to find the correct size for the correct heel! The various heels often vary minimally between brands, and there are many different heel shapes, like "Flared" or "Slim".
Certain heel styles also do not have standard heel protectors made for them. Typically, the larger types of heels may not have protectors, since it's preferred by the manufacturers to place suede on the surface area of such heels instead. Some heel protectors come with built-in suede. The built-in suede offers an added layer of protection, helping them last longer than plain ones. The suede also helps with the traction on the heels while dancing. Consider your own dancing, choreography, and style when choosing whether or not, or what type of heel protector to wear. Tips for putting on the heel protectors:
- Heat is your best friend! Warming up the heel protectors with your breath or your hands, or with the help of a hair dryer will soften the plastic.
- Use your fingers to stretch the opening of the protectors as best as you can.
- First work the rounded end of the protector over the heel, then wiggle it over the tip until the two corners slip inside the cap.
- Press the heel flat the rest of the way into the heel protector against a hard surface. You're done!