What about Footwear?

The most common complaint at tango social dances (known as Milongas) is the quality of the floor. It might be too sticky, too shiny, too rough, too slippery, too hard, a bit uneven, the wrong colour... the list goes on. So if people are that sensitive to the detail of the floor, how is it possible to dance in a field or on tarmac? Surely that would be even worse!!!

It is definitely true that some things are easier on a good floor compared to a rough one. You can pivot easier, you can slide better, and barridas are far less challenging on a good smooth floor than they are on a rough one. But with a few adaptations you can dance almost as easily on flat grass as you can on polished oak

And the first thing to look at is your choice of footwear... or more specifically the choice of sole.

Different sole materials behave very differently depending on where you are dancing. Some might work perfectly in one place but not be great in another. and some materials will work better for leaders than followers, or vice versa. A lot of this will be down to your style of dancing and the only way to find out is to try them, but here are a few suggestions to start from...

  • Suede soles - These work best on shiny and clean wooden floors. They are flexible so you can control the grip they give you, and they slide well as needed. They will however be ruined if someone throws a load of talc onto the floor "to help" so you need to pay attention.
  • Leather soles - Hard leather is ideal for dirtier wooden floors or where talc is involved. They do not work well if the floor is sticky, but are great on low-abrasion rough surfaces. They also work well on thin or close-weave carpet.
  • Plastic soles - Great for concrete, tarmac, or other high-abrasion surfaces. They also work well on anything that may be damp like grass as they do not absorb water from the ground. They do not work on carpet at all though, as not only are they too slippery they can generate heat as you turn and you can damage the carpet.
  • Barefoot - Dancing barefoot works well, but remember that grip is likely to be a lot more on some surfaces than you expect, and a lot less on others. Take care with spins and turns at the start as spinning fast on the wrong surface can be painful. But I have danced barefoot a lot and it works well if you are careful.
  • Socks - Nice and slippery on smooth floors, but can create a lot of friction on carpet.


The design of the shoe is something you should pay attention to as well as some work a lot better than others.

  • Trainers are difficult for tango whatever the environment. They are designed to minimise slippage and accidental turning, and grip the floor rather too well.
  • Stillettos are not a good idea on soft surfaces at all as they sink in. You may think that you are keeping your weight forward and this will not be a problem, but if you do any kind of a heel-lead when walking you will sink. If you want to wear a raised heel then look for something with a wider base... although do not compromise on ankle straps.
  • Flared edges on heels will catch on rough surfaces, so look for square or undercut heel profiles to aid turning.

Start with these ideas and see what works for you. But as always remember safety and bend your knees.

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