The ancients knew how to dance, or at least their shoes did! Leather soles were how it all started. The world’s oldest known shoes (discovered in Armenia in 2008 and believed to date back to 3,500 B.C.) were made from a single piece of cowhide laced with a leather cord along seams at the front and back. Early Native Americans wore a similar type of footwear called a Moccasin.
As humans evolved, so did the soles of our shoes. Today’s soles can be made from a variety of materials. Most modern shoes are derived from natural rubber, polyurethane, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). But every dancer knows that the best soles to dance in are made of natural leather or suede. Depending on the dance surface, you’ll need different soles on your shoes, ranging from slippery to sticky. Hard smooth leather is the most slippery, suede is somewhat “medium,” and rubber is the stickiest (and most difficult to dance in). Many serious dancers have several pairs of shoes with different soles so they can be prepared for any surface, and some bring along baby powder for very sticky floors and stick on pads or a wire brush for very slippery floors.
Ballet dancers have taken the natural leather sole and made it even more flexible. Ballet slippers have a split leather sole, which provides greater flexibility and emphasizes the shape of the foot when pointed.
If you want to make a lasting impression at the club or that next wedding you attend, don’t find yourself stuck in rubber—impress everyone by gliding in natural leather-soled shoes.