Some people suspect that some women start to dance tango just so that they can go and buy fabulous shoes...but we don't think that's (entirely) true. What is true, though, is that a fabulous pair of shoes will make your dancing happier, no matter whether you're a woman or a man. 'Fabulous' as in 'good quality' - not necessarily as in 'very pretty', even though the latter can easily come with the former. The advantage of a good pair of shoes is that they will give you stability (yes, you can wear 9 cm stiletto heels and be quite stable on them), they will make turning easy, they will give you some arch support, they will make your connection to the floor better, they will stop you from treading on your partner's toes.
A high quality tango shoe comes at a price, and so it is an investment which is probably only worth making if you have decided to stick with tango for a while. You shouldn't conclude, though, that while you make up your mind you can wear any old pair of shoes. Shoes with rubber soles, heels in which you wobble, shoes which have a long, pointed tip or shoes in which your feet slip about will be a hindrance...and you might not even be conscious of that, because you have nothing to compare them to.
If you're a man
- and you notice you have problems pivoting and therefore loose your balance: check if you have a pair of shoes at home with a leather sole. If you don't, consider sticking some gaffer tape on the soles of the pair of shoes which you have assigned dance duty to.
- and you find it hard to find space for your feet where they ought to go: check if maybe you have a less bulky/wide/heavy pair of shoes which you could wear. Maybe you have some slim Puma (or other) sneakers. You could ask the cobbler to stick a suede sole onto them (or do that yourself) and they will make a fine pair of dance sneakers.
If you're a woman
- and you feel you can't balance on one leg in the shoes you've decided to dance in, or the heels wobble as you step onto them: don't wear those shoes. Consider wearing flats (perfectly good and far more healthy!) or check at home if you have a pair which fits snugly and doesn't wobble.
- and your toes slip through the toe band or hang over the tip of the shoes - or the shoe is loose because the ankle strip doesn't fit snugly any more - or the heel cage gives no support, then these shoes are probably not fit for the purpose.
- and none of the shoes you've got are any good but you don't want to spend £100: sometimes you can find stable and pretty shoes at Next Clearance for something like £8. If that fails, try Clarkes.
If you're ready to invest in a pair of purpose-made tango shoes have a look at the links section. Different brands cater for different needs, i.e. GretaFlora sneakers for men are soft, wide and let you feel the floor, whereas 2x4 al pie have a slimmer shape and give more support. Or Comme il Faut have a better fit for women whose second toe is longer than their first, whereas Neotango are cut for women whose first toe is longer than all the others. If you're unsure what you want to buy, or what you need, ask around during the practicas. People are generally happy to share their experiences.
Last but not least: we don't think it's worth investing in ballroom shoewear. The shoes are generally not made for the rough-and-tumble life of a tango shoe.