Everyone has their own preferences for shoes. For lindy hop, I most often wear flat canvas tennis shoes. For balboa, I most often wear a vintage-inspired shoe with a low heel (1.5-3 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. While a lot of swing dancers like to wear shoes they find at any regular shoe store, I find most of my swing shoes at the websites below. 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.
www.dancestore.com (lindy hop and balboa)
www.grasshoppers.com (lindy hop)
www.keds.com (lindy hop)
www.remixvintageshoes.com (balboa and lindy hop, for those that like to dance in heels)
www.worldtonedance.com (balboa – the shoes I prefer are under the salsa section)
www.discountdance.com (balboa – the shoes I prefer are Very Fine)
If you are buying regular shoes (“street” shoes) you may want to make the sole more slick for pivoting and spinning. A lot of lindy hoppers 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. Balboa dancers often prefer hard leather on the soles of their shoes, which is even slicker than chrome leather. A cobbler can do both of these things for you. Chrome leather is a more unusual request for a cobbler, so they might not know what you mean if you ask for that. You can also buy chrome leather and glue it to the bottom of your shoe.
Another 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. I have heard of people using Moleskin also on the soles of shoes, which is very slick. I have also heard that you can use Elmer’s Glue on the sole. Let it dry completely and it will be very slick.