This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
Our dance hobby is relatively light on equipment – all you really need is a good pair of dance shoes. Once you find that pair (or 20) you want to be able to wear them for as long as possible, get the most mileage out of them, but you also want them to look nice for as long as possible. Here are some tips on keeping your shoes in shape:
We get sweaty when we dance and gravity tends to pull things downward, including your sweat. There have been those nights after a dance where my socks are a puddle. Rather than stuffing your shoes away or leaving them in a bag, when you get home from the dance take them out and just let them sit overnight. A good airing out will do wonders for longevity and odor prevention.
For more advanced airing out, you can purchase unvarnished shoe trees to draw the moisture out of your leather shoes, so long as you get the trees into the shoes within an hour or two of removing your shoes. If your shoes are really wet, stuffing them with newspaper will help draw out the moisture. Be sure not to put them on a heater or heat dry them, as this can damage the leather and/or the bonding material.
Wash Your Feet and Your Socks
While I rarely wear out dance shoes, I have had to throw away a pair of shoes for the smell (leather wedges, how I love to wear thee without socks!). To help prevent smelly shoes, in general, it’s a good idea to make sure your feet are clean and that your socks are cleaner – just say no to wearing that same pair of socks all day and night and late night at an event. Bring a change of socks and, if you happen to have smelly-prone feet or a predilection for walking around barefoot between dances, take a moment to wash your feet before inserting them back into your dance shoes.
This must be the coolest kid in the ballet class.
It’s a good idea to put your dance shoes in a small shoe bag or another type of small bag before slinging them into another bag, your car, your suitcase, or whatever vessel gets you and them to the dance. It protects their exterior from scuffing up against other things (ballpoint pens, food, sharp objects, etc.) that may be lurking in your bag that could damage the exterior of your shoes. Bagging your shoes also conveniently serves the purpose of protecting your other things from the shoes, which may be dusty from the dance floor. I like to put mine either sole to sole or top to top and then wrap the rest of the loose bag around them like a burrito to make sure they are secure, then put them in my bag for the night.
I firmly believe everyone should have a cobbler. I don’t know how I would live without mine – I’ve had heels pop off, soles come loose, and giant patches of color scraped from the toe of a shoe by a wayward leader’s giant foot. A visit to the cobbler means that these things can be repaired by replacement, re-gluing/nailing, and I actually had to have a pair of shoes entirely re-colored because there was no polish of that color – but I did it and it meant spending $20 to have them fixed rather than $160 for a new pair. If your shoes are smelly, have your cobbler replace the insole to see if that helps with the odor. I have rarely encountered a shoe problem that could not be addressed, or at least improved, by a cobbler in some fashion.
Soles getting thin? Cracked? Coming apart? Or maybe you just want a different sole – talk to your cobbler about your options.
My dad has had one of these mega shoe shine kits with the swanky wooden box for as long as I can remember. When you have to special order extra narrow shoes, replacing them can get expensive. I used to consider it a privilege to sit down with my dad and polish his shoes (is that weird?) and I always loved the results – shiny!
Polish, Shine, Brush, and/or Dye
How to spruce up your shoes is going to depend on the type of material.
If you have leather shoes, polishing them is good not only for keeping them shiny and new looking, but also for preserving the leather and keeping it supple – the salt in your sweat can dry out the leather over time. Cobblers, grocery stores, and other retailers have shoe polish kits that you can buy to help you with the materials and instructions you may need. If you can’t find the right color polish locally, you may have to hit the internet (so many colors!) or get creative to cover those scuffs – I discovered that Gold Sharpies are almost the exact same gold as the Re-Mix Balboas in gold, I just color over the scuff and rub the color in with my finger.
For suede shoes, there are specific materials – you can get a suede eraser to touch up scuffs and a suede brush will restore the nap of the leather.
If you love white Keds, you know that by sueding them you can’t just throw them in the wash when they get dirty. You can use a tablespoon of baking soda and just a bit of water to make a paste and rub it onto the more noticeable spots, then wipe clean.
Then there’s that whole bit about cleaning the white mesh Aris Allen oxfords with Windex…
Finally, some shoes are made of dyeable materials, so if they are just beyond hope you could always make them a different color. Beth Grover at V is for Vintage has a great tutorial on how to dye your Aris Allen oxfords.
Buy More Than One Pair
I know I’m going to get resistance from some people on this one, but you should own more than one pair of dance shoes, especially if you are Lindy Hopping multiple nights a week. You want your shoes to last longer and to give them time to breathe between wearings, which is why it’s not a good idea to wear the same pair of shoes every day. You also want your feet to stay limber and not put repeated pressure on the same areas of the foot with a certain pair of shoes, which is another good reason to rotate dance shoes. Different shoes use different muscles and we want to keep our muscles in good condition so we can dance for as long as possible. :)