You are an Absolute Beginner and you don’t have flamenco shoes or attire? That is perfectly fine, keep on reading!

To start out, you really do not need anything special, just make sure you can move your body and lift your arms up comfortably.  As for footwear, bring the closest you have to a flamenco shoe or a flamenco boot, which might be a pair of dressed shoes or cowboy-style boots. Try to avoid sandals or thick rubber soles, you want to be able to hear the sound your shoes make. The heel should not be higher than  2-inch and it should be sturdy, not too thin so you don’t have to worry about holding up your balance. Female students will eventually need a flamenco practice skirt or a similar wide full skirt, but it is preferable not to wear long skirts at the beginning so I can see the position of your knees.

 

Getting your first pair of flamenco shoes

Most beginners underestimate the importance of the right shoes. It’s understandable: genuine flamenco shoes are hard to find, they’re expensive. Why spend over a hundred dollars on shoes you’ll never wear again, if you decide flamenco is not for you?

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By all means, delay buying the proper shoes until you have studied for a term or two, but don’t leave it much longer. As the footwork gets faster and more complex, you’ll find it harder and harder to cope in any other shoe, and you may become needlessly discouraged.

For your first pair flamenco shoes, sometimes you might find a second hand pair locally or on eBay or if you are lucky through other students in the school, if not, you should order online. If  you are traveling within Canada, look for flamenco dance schools in Toronto, Montreal or any other big city, some have shoes for sale for their students.

The Right Fit: You want a shoe that fits neatly, with no gaps anywhere, but not so snug that it cramps your foot. Forget any advice you ever had about leaving room for your toes!  Too-small shoes will cramp your feet, but if they are too big and your foot is able to slide around inside the shoe, you’re more likely to go over your ankle . The movement means your foot will rub against the inside of the shoe and cause blisters. Both extremes will affect your balance. If your shoe doesn’t feel like part of your foot, it is not the right fit. 

Beginner shoes: Beginner shoes are usually cheap shoes designed for you to have “something to wear” during class. I hate to sound this harsh…but what I find ironic is that although it is precisely at the beginning when students need more support on their feet, it is also the time when most of come across synthetic leather – stingy nailed shoes.   It is hard enough to learn flamenco as it is, and certainly cheap, wobbly, uncomfortable shoes can discourage students to the point of  ruining the entire experience for them altogether. I would almost recommend to go directly to semi-professional shoes, but I can understand it is also a matter of budget and commitment.

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Above what NOT to get: terrible “economic” shoes: 100% synthetic leather, thin sole, bad nails: unevenly spaced,  surface of the heel not properly covered. These “beginner” shoes will never adjust to your foot, you will wonder what you are doing wrong and why it is so hard to get any sound out of them, but they will ruin any floor in a few minutes.

Semi-professional versus  professional flamenco shoes: The only difference between semi-professional and professional shoes is that the professional shoe has stitching on the bottom of the shoe to provide extra support and strength for the sole.Professional flamenco shoes are made to last and withstand the abuse done by several hours of vigorous footwork everyday. Professional shoes generally come in a much wider  variety of  colors, fabrics, and styles. The price difference is around 50 euros. Semi-professional shoes cost around 100 Euros, professional shoes cost anywhere between 145-170 euros. You definitely do not need professional shoes to start and even professional dancers often have a pair or two of semi-professional shoes that they use for specific pieces or performances, as they are also very durable.

 

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Here you can see the stitching of a “professional flamenco shoe” from “Flamencista. The stitching will bring the price up by around 50 euros. Beginners certainly do not need professional shoes, these shoes will last you literally forever.


 

What to look for when ordering your first pair of shoes:

The upper part of the shoe: Flamenco shoes are made of leather or suede. Leather takes longer to “break in”, but will look good for longer. Suede shoes come in some gorgeous colours, and are a little softer on the feet—but of course, that means they will wear out sooner. DON’T BUY synthetic—they don’t breathe, nor will they mold to your foot.

The sole: It should be good, thick rubber, to protect the feet and to create the sound. Immediately reject anything with a wafer-thin leather sole – you’ll end up with a bruised foot!

Choosing the heel. It should be between 3cm and 6cm (just over 1 inch to 2.5 inches). The height is measurer on the “longer-outside” part of the heel. I have had students measure the lower/inside part of the heel and order  heels that were much higher than they thought. Heel height: although the height is a personal preference choice,  you should consider the following: higher heels might break more easily and can be strenuous for the lower back and the ball of your feet unless you normally wear high heels and are used to staying on high heel shoes. Heel shape:  the wider the heel, the better the balance and the louder the sound.  Thinner and higher shoes  will look more elegant, no doubt. Below all the heels you can choose from:

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I would say heels between 3cm and 5cm are probably the most popular and comfortable.

 

Please check the nails closely! These are so important, not only for sound but also for balance: some are not evenlly spread out, which makes for a wobbly heels. What is worse, badly nailed nails, will scratch and ruin floors! This is a big problem for dance teachers, because longstanding studio rentals can be canceled because of one pair of bad shoes damaged the floors. So please make sure your nails are not scratchy. Did you know nails can be replaced? They are sold online at some flamenco portals, however if you go to Spain you can bring your favorite pair of shoes directly to a flamenco shoemaker and they will replace the nails for around 30 euros, you shoes will sound just like a new pair.

 

Here a sample of good shoes with beautifully crafted nail work:

Great nails on these shoes from Artefyl

Great shoes, genuine leather in and out, thick sole, great nail work from Artefyl.

 

Detail of nails on the heel: Photo: Antonio Garcia Flamenco Shoes (Madrid).

Watch the video on how flamenco shoes are made:

The right size for you: Here is a link to a chart on how to measure your foot. Many websites have their own measuring instructions. Choose what fits you, not your friends or teacher. Remember a shoe might fit one person perfectly and not another,  the mould of the shoes vary from brand to brand in width and in shape. For example I use Artefyl because they fit me perfectly, but  I have learned that a regular width is in this brand is almost a “wide” in a “Don Flamenco” brand. Both shoes are great quality though. Therefore,  remember to pay attention to the brand when you try out shoes from other students or shoes for sale.

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Designing your shoe: To start, owning a pair of black shoes will make your life easier, since they literally match with everything and are the easier to resell. However if you
love shoes and would rather get something special, the very best website by far that I have found out there to try different shoe models on different colors and with different heels is Artefyl‘s website: simply amazing, you can design and visualize your shoe on the spot, it is a lo t of fun to dream out your shoes!

 

And finally…

Ordering your shoes online!

As with any product, a little researche is required. Search for “flamenco shoes” on Amazon and you’ll get results like Capezio’s Footlight or Manhattan character shoes. DO NOT BUY THEM! They may look the same shape, but they are completely unsuitable for flamenco.

There are several flamenco portals that carry  a variety of brands.  Since you cannot try them on, the customer service and return policy should be a deciding factor once you know what you want. It does happen that people order a shoe that does not fit them as well as they thought it would, and if your feet hurt or if you cannot get any sound out of your shoes, you will simply not enjoy dancing at all. The only plus side of this is that you might find great deals of barely used shoes on eBay, really worth checking.

Flamenco Online Portals: the ones listed below carry various brands. There are many more, and I personally have never bought online, because I buy them in Spain when I go, so you should ask other students about their experience. They will likely be more than glad to share their experience with you.

  • Flamencista – They carry many brands, those of my students who ordered from them, have been very happy with their customer service and return policy.
  • Flamenco Export   or De Flamenco. Both these portals carry the most popular brands:
    – Mat- Osuna (beginner options, unexpensive, used by many dance schools)
    – Gallardo (great brand, geared mostly towards professionals but also offer beginner shoes)
    – Happy Dance (beginner low cost products)
    – Begoña Cervera (absolutely beautiful designs for showing off, but not very well made in my experience, I have tried and seen some cases of uneven surface on the heels, which affect balance, great for showing off though or for having an extra pair to match specific costumes)

Directly from the retailer: most shoemakers now have their own websites in English (Artefyl, Don Flamenco, Gallardo..etc) however if you do not speak Spanish, you might not get the best customer service  due to the language barrier,  reason why most of them sell their products through larger online portals like the ones mentioned above. Once you find the right brand for you though, look for their website, as they might have other offers or models.

I hope this is helpful, please send me your feedback if you have any thing to add or recommendations to make!

 

PRACTICE & PERFORMANCE SKIRTS

Flamenco dance skirt

Skirt designed locally by Marcia Simmons for Maria Osende

 

For those of you who are lucky enough to know how to make your own outfits, try: Flamenco Dress Making, a website that sells online pattern for flamenco outfits.

We also host an annual “Flamenco Flea Market” in early june, to exchange second hand stuff. Request to join our Flameno School group on Facebook, to stay up tunned.

We also have an annual “Flamenco Flea Market” in May. Sign up for our newsletter or request to join our Facebook group to be notified.