Selecting The Right Men's Tango Shoes: Tips and Tricks for Buying

by Florentino Guizar and Isabelle Kay

When man starts learning Tango, the last thing he thinks about is the shoes. During the first few lessons, he can generally get away with dancing in regular shoes or in socks, though, men are less likely to take their shoes off because of potential foot odor issues.

Of course if the shoes are made of rubber and cling to the floor, the typical male will merely lift his feet a bit of the ground. While this works, it is not conducive to smooth tango walking. Interestingly not all rubber bottom shoes stick to the ground as some do allow sliding and pivots albeit with a bit more effort and a bit more impact on the knees.

For older individuals, men with with knee problems, and anyone wanting maximum pivot and with minium effort like the kind requried for more advanced moves like back sacadas and enrosques, specialized tango shoes are a must.

Men's Tango shoes are quite different from regular street shoes. Some dancers prefer split leather soles though I found them harder to take care of and unforgiving if you usen them on the street. They are also more problematic if you get them wet by walking on spilt liquid on the dance floor.

Once you get more comfortable with your dancing, start dancing for more hours at a time, or just want a more options, you can purchase another shoe. Men generally, will buy a fancy shoe only when their dancing improves and they want to draw attention to their fancy footwork.

Since most men own only one or two pairs of dance shoes. It makes sense to start with black shoes that do not attract attention.

The advantages of men's shoes made specifically for Argentine tango include:
  • Comfort: Men'sTango shoes are lighter making it easier to pick up your feet, to make precise foot/leg movements, and to dance for hours.
  • Safety hers!: Tango shoes have no protuding sole that can scratch or hurt a partners leg. Typical street shoe have 1/4"-1/2" or more of protuding sole.
  • Support: Men's Tango shoes have a built in metal shank to support arch. (Most ballroom shoes do not!) Note though that dance sneakers don not have a shank.
  • Safety: yours! The leather is thicker and therefore more protective if you accidently hit your foot. Thicker leather also helps if and when you get stepped on.
  • Durability: Classic Tango shoes are made of high quality leather with both leather upper and leather soles. A good pair of Tango shoes will last you years. Inexpensive shoes last about a year.

    You will be able to learn and apply increasingly complex concepts and movements without being handicapped by your footwear. 
General recommendations on selecting men’s tango shoes:
  • Sizes:  If you are unsure, or between sizes, order a smaller size if it is suede, the larger size if it is leather or cloth.
  • Heel heights:  There are basically only two types of men's shoe heels standard or French/Cuban Heels.

    Normal: A standard heel common in most dress shoes about 1" in height.

    French/Cuban Heels: These heel are tapered down and offer a more stylish appearance and are generally about 1/2" higher the standard heels.

  • Materials:
    • Smooth leather uppers are traditional, and if you have only one pair, they should be of leather; it is hard-wearing, easiest to clean, and stretches somewhat to fit your feet. 
    • Suede uppers add a rich look, but require more careful maintenance; the material also stretches more quickly, reducing support.
    • Soles:  traditionally, smooth leather is used,   But with slippery wooden floors, suede (also called “split leather” or “chrome leather”) offers more security, but also requires more care, including avoiding liquids, and brushing regularly. 

Selecting Your First Tango Shoes

  • Start with a “normal or standard” heel, unless you are shorter than average,or like the elegant look of "French/Cuban" heels. These heels are two inches high, somewhat wide, but elegant, and look nice on a closed-toe shoe. 
  • Next, try to find a “Classic” tango shoe that you can wear with anything and everything. There are many brands of these, but I recommend Darcos Tango Shoes as being well made, of quality materials, with good arch support, and reasonably priced

The options for men are less numerous and less colorful then women's shoes. (One small thing for which we can be thankful!)

  • You will find a nice range of colors black, grays, browns, reds and lately silver and burgundy and many combinations there of.
  • One can also find, different material for the upper leather, particularly fake and real animal skins, and patent leather.
  • Shoes also come in a variety of designs from two tone, to multi tone, to cross weave though most use shoe laces and very few if any use buckles or stretchy fabric

Care and Maintenance:

  • Do not use your Tango shoes to walk on the street or parking lot. Use a shoe back or shoe carrier to protect your shoes.
  • If using open leather, brush your shoes regularly with a soft wire brush.
  • If using patent leather, apply a moisturiser such as Vaseline before dancing to avoid having your shoes catch and stick together.
  • Don't leave the shoes in the car where the sun and heat can dry up your shoes and shrink the inner sole.
  • Shine your shoes regularly, it revitalizes the leather so that your shoes will last you longer and keep looking spiffy.

Comments and questions are welcomed!

Florentino, Dancer, Instructor, and Performer
Darcos Tango Shoes Representative

About Florentino Guizar

Isabelle over the last ten years of dancing, I dance in about 10 different pairs of shoesfrom makers such as Neo Tango, Jorge Nel Designs, and of course, Darcos Tango Shoes. I purchased my first two pairs from ballroom shoe retailers. Big mistake! The first was paper thin as I was regularly feeling the pain of my heel hitting my foot. The second pair had no arch support and caused me some down time when my arches started hurting after dancing more than a couple of hours. Both were split leather and my feet would grind to a halt when I hit a bit of water on the dance floor. I also modified one of my dressy Italian shoes and used them for a while tough they were very heavy and my feet tired.

I started buying lighter Tango shoes not made in Argentina but I found that they wore out within a year or so and suffered CSF (catostrophic shoe failure) when the heel came off the shoe. About six years ago, I received some nice Tango shoes as a gift and used them so much I wore out the heels which a shoe clobber replace for me. Good as new!

Since then I have been buying better quality shoes, mostly black with one or two brown two tone shoes. I normally take only one pair to dance but if I am performing I will take two pairs. I currently own only three pairs of shoes, two of which should be retired as they have stretched too much to provide a solid connection with the floor.

About Florentino Guizar's Dance Background