Ginger Rogers may have done everything Fred Astaire did “but backwards, and in high heels”, but how high is ‘high’, and what type of heel was she wearing? Slim, square, flared, Cuban, heavy, fine… if there’s one thing that the dance world does not lack, it’s a fabulous choice of heel varieties.
If you’d like to learn to separate your social from your thick, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our Ray Rose guide to Latin and Standard professional dance heels.
Latin & Standard Heels: What’s The Difference?
The main difference is the positioning of the heel. Standard heels are slightly more central to the foot, which enhances stability during backwards movement. Latin heels are positioned with the full weight on the heel. This helps project the balance neatly onto the ball of the foot, and safely absorbs stress during vigorous steps.
Latin Heel Heights
Latin heels range from 2” to 3.5”. The average is 2.5” to 3”, but you’ll often notice heels becoming gradually more vertiginous the higher up the professional ladder you go. The higher the heel, the neater the foot point and straighter the leg line. However, other factors play a role. Choosing the correct Latin heel height also depends upon foot length. Matching a short foot with a lofty heel can transfer too much pressure to the toes, restricting movement.
Standard Heel Heights
Standard heels range from 1.5” heels to 2.5” Standard heels are less about reaching for dizzying heights, and more about achieving perfect balance.
There are five main types:
1) Flared Heels
Flared heels offer support and stability. The flare slightly increases the contact surface area of the heel, whilst adding an attractive curve. Flared heels can feel like they limit movement, but this is a very subtle difference for most performers and is well compensated for by the extra stability.
2) Slim Heels
Slim heels are crafted for precision moves. Sleek and elegant, these heels look dainty but are often not. When designed properly, slim heels offer formidable strength and support – albeit with aesthetic subtlety!
3) Straight Heels
Straight heels are similar in design to slim Latin heels, but offer a little extra width. This can help with stability and posture.
4) Classic Cuban
Classic Cuban heels are low, and are designed for maximum comfort, support and control. They are an ideal introduction to the challenge of dancing in heels.
5) Stiletto Heels
Although Latin features slim and flared heels, the highest heights are often achieved with a stunning pair of stilettos. Stilettos position the weight as far back on the heel as possible, ensuring complete power transfer. Although an advanced heel to master, this improves posture and leg line, while adding an undeniable wow-factor to the performance.
Which Heel Is Right For Me?
Aside from it being probably unwise to break out the high heels in your first dance class, the golden rule is comfort and fit. Both are important for avoiding injury. Most dancers will experiment with several heel types, and top-end professionals will have preferred shoes for different performances. Ultimately it is about choosing the best heel to master posture and control. This can vary depending upon the shape of your foot, your balance, your height, weight and experience.
At Ray Rose, we recommend asking a professional for their opinion. We are happy to advise on a heel that is a good match for your performance level. This is especially the case if you are just starting out, or if you have improved and are looking to step forwards.