If Practice Shoes Could Speak

You can tell a lot about a dancer why the way they use and abuse their shoes. If a modern-day Sherlock Holmes were to examine a ballroom dancer’s shoes, he could discern an enormous number of clues about their owner–clues about everything from technical mastery and gender to income level and preferred dance venues. I decided to conduct a photographic study of my own shoes to see what kind of story they tell about me.

1) Clues: Material, Color, and Style

Leather. Beige. Low, wide heel.


My gnarly dance shoes


What this tells you: This dancer prioritizes comfort and practicality over sex appeal or style. Leather stretches over time (clearly), conforming to the feet. The beige color is a neutral that can be worn with any outfit. It’s also a color that extends the leg line and helps conceal imprecise foot work. The wide heel is most likely chosen for long-term wear and overall comfort. Also, based on style, it can be assumed that the dancer is female. (Some men might wear this type of practice shoe, but in general, it is not a common choice for men.)

2) Clues: Make/Brand and Income Level

Metal tag on underside of each shoe says “Supadance.” This is a UK brand not frequently sold in the Midwest (where the dancer lives).

What this tells you: This dancer most likely ordered these shoes online. It is also possible, although less likely, that the dancer bought these shoes while visiting a place where the shoes were available. This is not an inexpensive brand. That means that this dancer either has plenty of money to spend on shoes or is willing to pay extra for more expensive shoes of (perhaps) higher quality. Based on amount of wear on shoes, it is unlikely that the dancer has a high income as the shoes would likely have been replaced before they reached their current state of decrepitude.

Speaking of decrepitude, there is evidence that the suede on the heels has recently been re-glued. This provides a further sign that the dancer is interested in extending the life of her shoes in order to put off the purchase of new ones.

3) Clues: Wear Patterns

What you can see (and discern): This dancer likes to wear her shoes snug, with her toes right on the front edge of the shoes, kissing the floor. She also likes to wear a strappy style to more easily conform to the shape of her foot (notice the stretching in the straps). From the side view of the front part of the shoes, you can  see that even the straps of the shoes show floor-wear. This is true on both the inside and outside of the foot.



My footprint, permanently embossed into the leather.



Wear pattern on side of shoes


The soles of the shoes show wear all over with a moderate concentration on the inside of the foot. This indicates that the dancer may be working on dancing on the inside of her foot, but has not yet achieved consistency. The heavier wear on the front of the shoes indicates that the dancer spends most of her time poised forward and perhaps not enough time working through her heels. Minor wear on the inside and back of the shoes indicates that the dancer is working on brushing her feet together during steps; however, the level of wear here is lower than in other parts of the shoe, indicating that this practice is inconsistent.



Wow, you can see the imprints of my toes and the balls of my feet here too!



Inside heel. Sadly only minor rub patterns.


5) Clues: Grime and General Battering

There are signs that this dancer owns and occasionally uses a shoe brush, but not with sufficient consistency. The bottoms of the shoes are caked with a thin layer sticky black grime, common to dancers everywhere. The bottoms of the shoes are dirty, but not so dirty as to indicate that the dancer regularly wears these shoes on anything other than frequently cleaned floors (i.e., at a dance studio).

The battered state of the heels indicate that these shoes are frequently worn among large gatherings of people where the dancer is occasionally stepped upon or jostled. The battering may also indicate a certain degree of klutziness in the dancer, but this is mere speculation.

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