Everyone has their own preferences for shoes. For lindy hop, I most often wear flat canvas tennis shoes, although I recently switched to Swivells and Chloe Hong and am loving them both. I may be done with cheap canvas shoes. For balboa, I most often wear a vintage-inspired shoe with a low heel (1.5-2 inches). I personally wouldn’t go above a 3 inch heel for balboa and I am preferring the look and feel of shorter heels more and more. For women, you will need a sole that isn’t too sticky so that you can spin. Spinning with sticky soles can wreak havoc on your knees and ankles. A lot of swing dancers like to wear shoes they find at any regular shoe store but there are so many great swing dance shoe companies out there these days. I often add insoles and cushions to make my feet more comfortable. If I buy regular shoes, there are things I can do to make the soles more slick. I elaborate more on adjusting the sole below. You can expect a really good pair of dance shoes to cost you around $200. A lot of the great companies are overseas so you will have shipping fees as well. I find many of my swing shoes at the websites below.
Regular shoe options:
www.keds.com (lindy hop) Soles can be very sticky
Chelsea Crew (balboa) I love these shoes and the manmade sole works great for slick and sticky floors. The inventory changes often so shoe styles I used to recommend are no longer available. If you find a style you like, buy many of them at once. You can find these on Amazon.
Dance shoe company options:
www.dancestore.com (lindy hop and balboa)
www.swivells.com/en (lindy hop) Ankle boots and derbies. So cute and comfy! These are great for slick and sticky floors.
www.remixvintageshoes.com (balboa and lindy hop, for those that like to dance in heels)
www.fromchloehong.com (balboa and lindy hop) These come from Korea. Check the sizing section for the right fit. Chloe often goes to ILHC and brings her shoes to try on there.
www.discountdance.com (balboa – the shoes I love are Very Fine) Very comfy and affordable
www.worldtonedance.com (balboa – the shoes I prefer are under the salsa section)
Adjusting the sole:
If you are buying regular shoes (“street” shoes) you may want to make the sole more slick for pivoting and spinning. A lot of swing dancers like to have chrome leather (suede) on the bottom of their shoes. Chrome leather picks up wax and dirt from the floor and becomes slicker over time as you wear it. You can use cement or a wire brush to scrape off the wax if they become too slick. Some dancers prefer hard leather on the soles of their shoes, which can be even slicker than chrome leather. A cobbler can do both of these things for you. You can also buy chrome leather and glue it to the bottom of your shoe.
A really cheap option for making your sole slick is duct tape. I generally add the duct tape lengthwise down the shoe rather than across, but it has been years since I have used it. Across may work better. I have heard of people using Moleskin also on the soles of shoes, which is very slick. In a pinch, another temporary option is to use clear medical tape. Again, you can buy this for a few dollars at the drug store. I place a few strips right to left directly over the ball of the foot for spinning. It usually lasts only one night of dancing but it won’t stick as permanently to your shoes as duct tape if you decide you don’t want it on there any longer.
I personally can’t dance for long without arch support of some kind. For my balboa heels I love this Superfeet orthotic that you can buy on amazon.
For canvas shoes I usually buy a cheap arch support like this one that you can buy at the local drug store. I buy slightly larger shoes so that I can fit the arch support in the shoes with my feet.
One really great resource on Facebook is the group “Women’s Swing Dance Shoes Hunt!” You can find shoes here and also get lots of great information about how shoes fit, what other dancers like, etc. https://www.facebook.com/groups/819377521406334/
For men there is a similar group called “The Gentleman’s Corner Shoe Exchange”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/204522953626337/