Ask any podiatrist or yoga instructor, and you’ll get an earful about the downside of heels. They can cause injuries—sometimes permanent—while shortening your calf muscles, giving you painful bunions if they pinch, and a smattering of other potential cons. Plus, some women simply don’t like them! Just because you shy away from heels doesn’t mean you have to give up your dream of salsa classes or even competitive dancing. There are plenty of low-heeled, wide-heeled and nearly flat women’s salsa shoes available that are just as stunning as their high-heeled comrades.
However, do keep in mind that if your reasons for not wanting heeled shoes is simply lack of practice, know that there are definitely some plusses to wearing heels while dancing. They can make turns and spins easier, simplify “flair” for women, and if your regular partner is much taller than you, heels can help level the playing field. Heel height, or lack thereof, is largely a personal preference, so go with your instinct (or what your doctor recommends if you have an MD giving you advice).
Here are some of the most comfortable, low-heeled salsa shoes for women that will still turn heads in all the right ways:
- Customizable women’s dance shoes from Light in the Box: Choose from black, gold, silver, bronze, leopard and nude and get a pair of dance shoes custom made just for you! While the heel shown is very wide and low at about half an inch, you can customize the exact height during checkout, including a no-lift option. However, bear in mind that any shoe under twenty dollars is going to be disposable and not the best quality. Still, this is a great option if you’re just starting to test out salsa and/or a no- or low-height shoe. It will let you experiment without breaking the bank.
- Eckse Rafa 015: The Eckse brand offers a variety of nearly flat women’s salsa shoes that are professional, high grade and still sleek and beautiful. The Rafa 015 is made of a soft cognac leather and comes in a variety of colors including the featured green nubuck. Specifically designed for salsa, the shoes are flexible with a latex that softens the load on the foot. Also check out the full Eckse flat shoes line including the Rafa 001 through the Rafa 028. Most are unisex.
- Supadance style 3026, 3120, 3122 and 3124: This line of women’s practice shoes don’t only feature a low, one-and-a-half-inch and wide heel, but are also a solid shoe overall that engulfs the entire foot while still allowing for plenty of “breathing” and airflow. It’s a sturdier option that still looks lovely and goes with any practice or performance attire. Available in beige, white or black leather, everything from the color to the size is made to order. Yes, the heel is on par with kitten heel height, but given the encompassing of the entire foot, it offers much more flexibility and stability than the strappier women’s salsa shoes you see on the dance floor.
- International Dance Shoes Cindy: If you’re a woman who loves the look of the strappy, popular salsa shoes but just can’t or won’t commit to the staggering heel heights, you’ll fall in love with Cindy. It’s one of the beloved company’s original dance shoes and has been around, in one incarnation or another, for over 30 years. Salsa dance shoes have actually increased in height over the decades, meeting the demands of some female dancers who wanted higher and higher heels, but in reality lower and sturdier dance shoes are the classic choice. Cindy features adaptable straps and are lightweight, flexible, handmade in the UK (but ships worldwide) and features a gel padding so you can dance the night away. The lowest heel option is two-inches, but can be customized up to three inches if you decide to “up the ante” in a few months with a new pair.
- Freed of London React: Another British brand famous for producing performance-grade shoes with lower heel options, there’s a variety of unisex shoes in chic black including the React. A black leather split sole with suede soles and a low Cuban heel is perfect for any salsa dancer, female or male. You can even order it in wide fitting for more comfort, and rest easy it’s the flawless unisex shoe that looks fantastic in any dance attire.
When it comes to salsa, make it your own from the ground up. There are no rules that women have to wear heels, and if you’re more comfortable in flatter shoes, that comfort will shine through in your dance. These are just a few of the options available, but shop around and (if possible) check out some options in person. Some studios offer loaner shoes so you can get a feel for different heel heights before committing to buy. Dance on—in comfort and style.