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Tango Shoes - A Complete Guide

This article provides a complete guide of tango shoes for both leads and followers.

Tange dance shoes
Tango Shoes

Structure of tango shoes

If a thing is worth knowing, it is worth knowing well. Hence a few minutes should be spent around what makes a tango shoe:
  • All shoes have four components: an upper (the part that covers the feet), an insole (the part that touches our feet), an outsole (the part at the bottom of the shoes) and a heel
  • The heel is attached to the outsole by glue and nails
  • In between the insole and the outsole, there is a shank (a piece of metal) to support the arch (the shank is shorter in tango shoes than in ballroom shoes, to provide extra flexibility)
  • There is normally some padding on the top of the insole - however for tango shoes this padding is thicker than normal shoes, to provide extra comfort
  • The insole is attached to the outsole using rubber cement - however for tango shoes this is further reinforced with nails to provide structural stability

Buying good tango shoes

Buying good tango shoes is as much a science as an art form. The following tips might help:
  • It goes without saying that tango shoes should be the right size, and professionally fitted - and make sure that your feet are not swollen at the time of purchase
  • Before paying, make sure that the shoes are balanced - you will often be on only one foot, so ensure that you test each shoe individually by standing on one foot and ensure you still feel secure and grounded
  • Followers: tango shoes should be tested by walking backwards!!!! That's how you will be using them, remember
  • Another test is pivoting - ensure the shoes hold well
  • Followers: choose the height of the heel well; beginners may not want to start with a heel that is too high
  • Leads: there are two heights for tango shoes heels - generally beginners should start with the lower height (ballroom)
  • The shoes should be close fitting without cutting your circulation, or causing cramps (which can be caused by particularly high heels)
  • The single most important test is to ensure that you do not slide inside the shoe
  • The sole should be made of material that allows easy turning - too much traction, particularly during pivots, may induce serious injury (more on soles below)
  • Normal shoes are not appropriate for dancing, hence correct tango shoes should be used for classes, practicas and milongas
  • Followers: for classes, you may want to purchase closed toe shoes for better protection
  • You should have a carry bag for convenience and protection of tango shoes
  • If you like especially rigid shoes, there are inserts available (which often come with high quality shoes) that distribute support across the foot arch, as tango shoes are actually made without a rigid bridge to provide flexibility
  • Insoles can also be used for two reasons: if your shoes are slightly too big, and also to provide greater comfort and bounce
  • Tango shoes themselves are normally either leather or suede: leather tends to be stronger, suede tends to be more flexible (other types of uppers are discussed below)
  • Followers: the heel needs to be situated squarely under the heel of the foot
  • Followers: with higher shoes, your feet tend to slip forward so shoes should have good padding to the ball of the foot and toes

Women's Tango Shoe Size Conversion

      US       Spain & Italy Other Europe UK & Aust   Inches       cm    
4 33.5 35 2 8 5/16 21
4.5 34 35.5 2.5 8 1/2 21.5
5 35 36 3 8 11/16 22
5.5 35.5 37 3.5 8 13/16 22.5
6 36 37.5 4 9 23
6.5 36.5 38 4.5 9 3/16 23.5
7 37 39 5 9 5/16 23.5
7.5 37.5 39.5 5.5 9 1/2 24
8 38 40 6 9 11/16 24.5
8.5 38.5 40.5 6.5 9 13/16 25
9 39 41 7 10 25.5
9.5 40 42 7.5 10 3/16 26
10 41 42.5 8 10 5/16 26.5
10.5 41.5 42.5 8.5 10 1/2 26.5
11 42 43 9 10 11/16 27
11.5 42.5 44 9.5 10 13/16 27.5
12 43 44.5 10 11 28
13 45 10.5 11 5/16 28.5
14 45.5 11 11 11/16 29.5
15 46 11.5 12 30.5
16 46.5 12 12 1/2 31.5

Men's Tango Shoe Size Conversion

    US     Europe UK & Aust   Inches       cm    
4 36.5 3.5 8 15/16 22
4.5 37 4 9 1/16 22.5
5 37.5 4.5 9 1/4 23
5.5 38 5 9 1/4 23.5
6 38.5 5.5 9 5/16 24
6.5 39 6 9 1/2 24
7 40 6.5 9 11/16 24.5
7.5 41 7 9 13/16 25
8 41.5 7.5 10 25.5
8.5 42 8 10 3/16 26
9 43 8.5 10 5/16 26.5
9.5 43.5 9 10 1/2 27
10 44 9.5 10 11/16 27.5
10.5 44.5 10 10 13/16 28
11 45 10.5 11 28.5
11.5 46 11 11 3/16 29
12 46.5 11.5 11 5/16 29.5
13 48 12.5 11 11/16 30
14 49.5 13.5 12 30.5
15 50.5 14.5 12 5/16 31
16 52 15.5 12 1/2 31.5

Tango Shoe Soles

There are three types of soles:
  • Suede soles: for very smooth floors, as suede will offer better grip
  • Leather soles: for normal dance floors
  • Rubber soles: for slippery floors (porcelain, marble, some types of hardwood) - generally should be avoided, as it can be dangerous if grips too much
  • Some shoes will actually have interchangeable soles for different types of floors
  • The sole should not stick out beyond the shoe (making a rim)

Tango Shoe Uppers

Uppers can be made of many materials:
  • Leather: stronger, long-lasting, but it also softens well and stretches molding itself to the foot
  • Suede: very stretchable, and hence is probably the most comfortable, not as long-lasting as leather
  • chrom / mara: feels like suede, shimmers, very easily stretchable
  • Velvet: very delicate, and does not stretch much


Tango would not be tango without o so beautiful shoes - and of course, for our femme fatale ladies, the high heel factor: the personification of elegance, style, poise and magnificent curves.

But what price do us dancers, followers much more so of course, pay for looking beautiful? The price, it seem, could be high.

Before we get into the topic of shoes (which is discussed at length further on) it should be noted that the body is a finely balanced instrument, and low quality or ill-fitting shoes dramatically shift that balance, potentially causing stresses to a number of points, including:
  • Feet - particularly around the metatarsal bones (ball of the foot)
  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Thighs
  • Hips
  • Spine and back
  • Shoulder
  • Arms
Many types of injuries can occur including:
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Muscular aches
  • Osteoathrisis - due to long term damage
  • Fractures - as a result of falling and stress injuries
  • Inflammation and Swelling (sesamoiditis) - particularly on the foot and toes
  • Cramps
  • Damaged arches
  • Nerve damage (neuromas)
  • Ongoing pain (metatarsalgia) - again, particularly in the ball of the foot
  • Bunions or hammertoes - exacerbated by ill-fitting or very high heels
There are almost 100 common injuries that affect dancers, and this article shall not list them all. The 10 most common dance injuries include:
  • Neck Strain
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Impingement
  • Lower-Back Strain and Muscle Spasms
  • Snapping Hip Syndrome
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
  • Meniscus Knee Tear
  • Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Lateral Ankle Sprain
  • Posterior Ankle Impingement Syndrome

Avoiding tango injuries

To minimize the chances of injury:
  • Wear good quality shoes
  • Stretch exercises: particularly the calves, before and after dancing
  • Arch exercises: raise your legs off the ground whilst in the sitting position, and point your feet as far forward as possible - this position should be held for a few minutes
  • Slow rising exercises: whilst in the standing position, slowly rise until you are on the balls of your feet, hold yourself for a few seconds, then slowly fall back to the ground
  • Toe exercises: whilst in the standing position, bring your big toe up and the other toes down; hold for a few seconds then reverse
  • Releves exercises: stand with legs together and feet to the sides; now rise on the balls of both feet, bringing the knees away from you, and remain in the position for a few seconds
  • Ankle circles: whilst sitting in straight-backed chair, slowly circle your ankle to the right and then to the left
  • Reach and return exercises: whilst sitting on the edge of a chair and keeping your feet on the floor, move one foot along the floor away from you to your limit then pull back


For women, the heel is not as important as you would think because most of the energy and weight is distributed into the balls of the feet. As such, heels come in every shape and size (literally there are about 10 different heel types, and up to 20 different heights). The most common are 3.5" ultra-slim stilletos. Men's heels come in two sizes: Cuban (also called French) or the lower ballroom heel, which many men prefer.


The outsole (or more commonly called just 'the sole') is the bottom part of the shoe, and is very important to get right because you need to slide and pivot easily. As a result, common materials such as rubber and plastic cannot be used and are replaced with either suede or hard leather. Suede is a very soft type of leather, that is both non-slip and enables gripping due to tiny fibres. It does however require brushing to keep up its quality. Hard leather outsoles last longer than suede but are more slippery - though they are great for sticky floors. Another unique feature of tango shoes is that the outsole never protrude past the shoe.

Strong Support

Tango shoes must provide considerable support, with at the same time be flexible - somewhat contradictory requirements. This is achieved by ensuring that the heel and arch do not bend too much, and the shoe must be quite tough around the ball of the foot and toe area.

Straps and Laces

Your tango shoe has to hug your foot without any slip or space, otherwise there will be significant chances of accidents and pain. To ensure tight fitting, both straps and laces are used. Straps come in multiple forms and fashions, but an adjustable ankle strap for women is considered extremely important for stability. In addition, for even more support, some tango shoes (including the Adjustable Shoes on this Very Tango Online Store) have a second adjustable strap on the front of the shoe. This is particularly good if your foot has a slightly unusual shape or size, for example narrow or wide.

Smooth Shape

A tango shoe cannot have bumps anywhere on it that may catch against other shoes, including your own. To ensure this, the shoes will be very smooth.

May we assist you in purchasing a beautiful pair of tango shoes?


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