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The best shoes for Zumba
A review of the top 5 plus some alternatives.

Best shoes for Zumba. The search for the best Zumba shoes ever.

As an instructor, I always get the question, "What are the best shoes for Zumba?".  It is a personal choice that depends on many things from 1) budget to 2) how often the student plans to continue with your class to 3) whether they have an orthotic in their shoes to 4)whether you're dancing on carpet, rubber, or hard wood floors.

When I started teaching Zumba Fitness years ago, no one I knew had heard of dance sneakers.  They may have been main stream in the dancing world, but they were not in mine at Princeton.  Here is a quick review of the shoes I tried along with why I liked each one.   To really get to the bottom of the question, "What are the best Zumba shoes?", I tried each of these shoe solutions for at least 4 months to 1 year.

What do you think are the best Zumba shoes? Would you add or take away any from this list? Feel free to connect with me or leave a comment at the bottom.

Star Key:
Star = not too good
StarStar= OK
StarStarStar= I like it!

Shoe Solutions:

Attempt #1: My running shoes

Cushioning: StarStarStar
The LOOK: StarStarStar
Convenience: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: Star
Ability to twist and turn on carpet:Star
Cost: Free
Arch Support: StarStarStar

Most people start a dance fitness program wearing regular running shoes.  The cushion, toe box, and arch support were great. I could do lunges and fitness moves, but the dance moves got me because the shoes didn’t twist when I tried to turn.   Since I hadn’t paid extra for these shoes, this the most cost effective solution for most users.  Using Slip-On Dancers solved the turning problem for me.

 

Attempt #2: Bloch split-sole Jazz sneakers

Split-sole Jazz Shoes

Cushioning: StarStarStar
The LOOK: Star
Convenience: Star
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on carpet: Star
Cost: $$
Arch Support:Star

I must say that the cushion in the ball of the foot was fantastic.   They were very light and were smooth on the sole so I could twist and turn. However, they had NO arch support, and it wasn't long before I had pain in the arch of my foot.   I used a very stiff insole but after a while I couldn’t take the pain in my arch.
Additionally, if you use these on a hard wood floor and try to do fitness moves like lunges and plié squats, the shoes I found them to move out from under me too much.

Attempt #3: Ryka – Studio D

Ryka Studio D

Cushioning: Star
The LOOK: StarStar
Convenience: Star
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on carpet:Star
Cost: $$
Arch Support: StarStar

The Rykas have a following in the Zumba and Jazzercise communities for good reason.
They are reasonably priced and twist and turn fairly well on hard wood floors.  They have a rubber sole instead of the hard plastic of the split-sole jazz shoes so your feet won’t fly out from under you when you’re doing side lunges.  I used an arch support insole, but the shape of the toe box is narrow and my feet were still not comfortable.  While they are more stylish than the split sole jazz shoes, they look a little too much like dance shoes for me to wear them outside of the gym.  Thus, I found myself carrying a second pair of shoes to and from the gym each week.

On carpet or rubber, these still don’t turn easily.   I have found that the Tiranté Sliders for carpet size small make these work reasonably well on carpet or rubber floors.

Attempt #4: Nike Shox Ballo

Nike Shoxs

Cushioning: Star
The LOOK: Star
Convenience: StarStar
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on carpet: Star
Cost: $$$$
Arch Support: StarStar

My black Nike Shox Ballo’s were the first dance shoe that I was able to wear with regular clothes and feel that I obviously had a shoe on that I purchased for the gym alone.  I was a big fan of the look and profile of these.   The tread on these shoes is very flat and rubbery. You can twist and turn on hard wood with no problems and still do lunges without sliding accidentally into a split.  The arch support and comfort was not great. Again, this may not be a big deal for some people, but I felt like the toe box was uncomfortably small.   Because these shoes have a rubber sole, they don’t work great on plush carpet, although they are better than plain running shoes.

Because of the lack of cushion of this style of shoe, I couldn’t teach a Zumba class and then a cardio kickboxing class in the same shoes.  The shoes simply didn’t have enough cushioning and the balls of my feet would feel bruised afterwards.  In this situation, I found myself changing shoes between classes.

Turning on carpet was a problem but the Tiranté Sliders for Carpet have a heel strap so they stay on with shoes like these with smooth soles.

Attempt #5: Zumba shoes

 photo Zkixoriginals_zpsc058aafb.jpg

Cushioning: StarStar
The LOOK: StarStarStar
Convenience: StarStar
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on carpet: Star
Cost: $$$$
Arch Support: StarStar

These shoes are more comfortable than the other dance shoes I tried.  They were great for Zumba, but if you are taking other classes, you may still find yourself bring another pair of shoes with more cushioning.   The smooth rubber sole lets you twist and turn on hard wood and dance reasonably well on carpet.   They look fantastic.  I’m a big fan of the Zumba line of clothing.     My big beef with these is that they are too expensive for the average user.  If you are doing Zumba all the time and plan on doing it for a long time to come, these are a good choice for you.    On carpet, I still find these shoes with too much grip.  There’s a new product coming out that will make Carpet Dancers work with Zumba shoes.   The original version of the Carpet Dancers is not designed for the narrow, smooth shoe sole on the Zumba shoe and so the original can Carpet Dancers move around too much on small sizes.  The Tiranté Sliders for carpet make these work really well actually.

Shoe modifier solutions on regular sneakers, cross-trainers, running shoes (or other dance shoes)

Alternative/Add-on #1: Tiranté Sliders for Carpet or Rubber

Tirante sliders have a special heel strap to hold them in place Tirante-Party-bubbles-carpet-250x257

Cushioning: Depends on the shoe you put them on
The LOOK: StarStarStar pick an accent color that compliments your shoes
Convenience: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on carpet: StarStarStar
Cost: $
Arch Support: Depends on your shoe

The Tiranté Sliders for Carpet are the first new product from the Slip-On Dancers in a few years.  They fit over my shoes like the Carpet Dancers did.  They cover up the same amount of the shoe as the Carpet Dancers too.   What made them different is the heel strap.   With the heel strap, I could make use lots more types of shoes with the Tiranté Sliders for Carpet than with the Carpet Dancers.

I was able to wear the Zumba sneakers, the flex shoes, and the Rykas mentioned above on carpet and on rubber because the heel strap made them stay in place.

The guys in my classes also really like these because they come in different sizes so people with wider shoes could get one that fits.

Alternative / Add-on #2: Smooth Dancers by Slip-On Dancers

Pink Leopard Smooth Dancers on a sneaker

Cushioning: StarStarStar Depends on the shoe you put them on
The LOOK: StarStarStar If you pick an accent color that compliments your shoes
Convenience: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on carpet: Star
Cost: $
Arch Support: Depends on your shoe

Smooth Dancers fit over my regular sneakers that I was wearing day-to-day already.  The accent color I chose to go with my shoes made them look very sharp.  I took them out of my purse and didn’t have to carry an extra pair of shoes.    The original model of Smooth Dancers works fine for any sneakers that have tread.  When friends put them on Rykas, they didn’t stay put as well.  The version with a heel strap would be better.   They didn’t help that much on carpet, but on hard wood floor, they were exactly what I needed.  I could do lunges without slipping because my toe and heal were exposed.

Alternative/ Add-On #3: Carpet Dancers by Slip-On DancersBlue Carpet Dancers(R) by Slip-On Dancers (R)

Cushioning: StarStarStarDepends on the shoe you put them on
The LOOK: StarStarStar pick an accent color that compliments your shoes
Convenience: StarStarStar
Ability to twist and turn on hard wood: Star
Ability to twist and turn on carpet: StarStarStar
Cost: $
Arch Support: Depends on your shoe

The Carpet Dancers fit over my shoes like the Smooth Dancers did.  They cover up more of the top of the shoe, so I chose another contrasting color.  Convenience wise, I could strap them to my bag with a carabineer and pull them out for class.  They were too slippery for me on hard wood floors, but others may like that level of traction.  The comfort level was that of my regular shoes, but a little tighter in the toe box.  When the pair is fresh, the elastic is a little tighter but it loosened up a little over time.   I was able to twist my hips like normal because my shoe would twist and turn more easily.  Because I could turn my hips, I got a better ab workout!   The knee pain that I usually feel after dancing on carpet in running shoes was gone when I wore the Carpet Dancers.  The pair lasted me 6 months dancing three times a week on a carpeted floor.

 

What is my preference?

Seated Katie Hughes, PhD in Purple Carpet Dancers before a Zumba class

Here I am showing my running shoes with my Tiranté Sliders for Carpet

I moved on through the Rykas and Nike Shox Ballo.  At the end of the day, they didn't provide enough support, squeezed my toes or were too "exercise specific."  I was teaching a class or two of kick boxing, hip-hop, toning/weight training, and also doing a little running on the side.  I needed a versatile shoe.

When I'm on the road, I enjoy running as my form of fitness.  So, I like running shoes because they're light and can pull double duty when I'm on the road.  I wear a product I invented called Slip-On Dancers® on top of my running shoes and that is the easiest solution I can provide students that come to my class.  They're quick, they fit everyone's feet, and they work.

After trying all of the above shoes, I invented a product called Slip-On Dancers which fit over my regular shoes so I didn’t have to bring another pair with me to the gym.

Times have changed! Now-a-days there are lots of options for shoes.

If one of my students is really interested in dance, I do send them to websites with dance shoes.  Now, more and more local shops are also selling shoes that are made for dance aerobics programs.   If they're coming to tons of classes, I believe it's appropriate to recommend a more expensive and dance specific shoe.  That said, I wouldn't want them to try to go running in the shoes they buy for the dance class.

In the end, everyone makes a choice.  I always present my students with a few options and let them make the right choice for them.  I'm a big fan of versatility though and I want my shoes to be able to handle most of the activities I do.  With the Slip-On Dancers, my running shoes can pull double duty and fill the bill for a jog around the park, in the studio teaching a class or at the community center teaching in a carpeted room.

What is your favorite dance shoe or shoe and traction modifier combo?

 

About the Author:
Katie Hughes, PhD is CEO of Dance Yourself Fit LLC, inventor of Slip-On Dancers and a part-time Zumba fitness instructor now based in Charlotte, NC. katiehughes.zumba.com
You can find her on Twitter @katiehhughes theTimeItTakes.ME

Full disclosure: The links in this blog-post may have affiliate codes associated with them and the author may benefit.

 

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