Stay away from the 3" until you are very good. No one docks points for heel height that I've ever heard of unless it's because your shoes are crippling you and you've lost technique and capacity. Many of the top pros don't go to 3" I promise you they don't. Some do because their partners are so much taller than they are and it evens it up a little.
The key in your shoes is having something that creates an extension of your own foot without handicapping you. Your feet shouldn't move around even a little bit. There should be no wiggle room. The heel shouldn't be a bother and you should feel balanced and you need to dance in these shoes until they are a part of your own foot. Most women wear latin shoes several sizes smaller than street shoes so their toes can grip the floor and add stability.
As far as Stephanie's...don't even think about it. Ray Rose shoes are very good. The Carmen was developed by a woman who is considered to be one of the top female competitors of our time. They are good but I need to warn you that you have to 'earn' these shoes. Your toes are going to bleed until you break them in. It isn't just my experience...but many others who I know that own them and pray they don't have to start fresh with a new pair so they only wear them at comp time. I like Dance Naturals and went to Italy to be fitted. They aren't necessarily the best idea because most of them are 3" heels.
Thanks for your thoughtful response. You have given me a lot of information to consider. I'm glad to know that most professionals don't necessarily dance in 3" heels and based on that info, I will probably be opting for a lower heel shoe. What do you think of Ray Rose's Blizzard shoe for a beginning competitor? I like that they have the strap that loops around the bottom of the shoe for maximum support.
As others have said, don't start with 3" heels. I started competeing in 2" heels because I was nervous and shaky and I needed the stability. When I got more comfortable, I moved up to a 2 & 3/4 inch heel. Don't buy a brand just because everyone else seems to wear them. Buy a shoe that is the most comfortable. You don't want to be thinking about the pain in your feet when you are competing. I have Dance Naturals and they are my least favourite shoe. They just don't seem to fit my instep right. I love my Ballroom USA shoes. I go for comfort first, brand name later. If they are a cheaper shoe, they might fall apart quicker but at least they felt good. As Belle said, your shoes have to be shorter than normal. For gripping the floor and because when you point your toe, your foot gets smaller and you don't want a lot of the sole of the shoe showing.
I have a pair of Blizzards and they are really comfortable. I wear them for practice and I know people who really like them in Competition. I didn't have to break them in either. They aren't as stable as the Carmen but they are nice. If they seem right for you go for it.
I wear a size 11 street shoe and I wear a size 11 ballroom shoe as well. MOST dance shoe companies ONLY go to 10 or 10.5. I dance in a 2.5" heel. I've tried 3" heels and I just do not have the coordination to manage the extra 1/2". Also this shoe puts me a 6' 1" - my instructor is 5' 11, I really don't need to tower much more over him.
My first prs of dance shoes were Werner Kerns. As expensive as they are my feet were killing me after a few hours because there is very little padding. I prefer the less expensive Souldancer Dance shoes! I can dance all day long in them. They have wonderful padding, it feels like I'm walking on a cloud. The only style numbers I would suggest to stay away from are 2311 & 2334. As pretty as the crystals fob is over the toes, the mettle back will rub you raw.
I've progressed now where I'm dragging the toes through the neutral zone and the lip of a size 11 shoe is just a tad too long. I got a 10.5 shoe and LOVE the length, but the toe box is a tad too tight. Put some good blisters over my toes. I had these shoes put on the stretchers for 3 weeks. I will be trying them in practice to see if they are workable now. If that does not work I will have to have my 11's cut back a bit at the toes.
I notice that there are several references to brands of shoes, none of which mention 'Very Fine Shoes'. I currently sell this brand exclusively, and have been with them for several years. I wonder what brand would be as good/better to add to my inventory with a great reputation. Any input?
Something that hasn`t been mentioned is that a Professional Competitor and teacher who wear a 3 inch heel do not teach in those shoes. There are various training shoes that are better suited for being on their feet teaching for several hours each day.
I just wanted to let you all know that I ended up buying a pair of Monsoons by Ray Rose yesterday and I absolutely LOVE them. I actually purchased them in a size 5.5, two sizes down from my street shoe size, and they fit like a glove. I love the style because they grip my feet very well and provide a lot of stability. I tried on the Blizzard, which is a beautiful shoe, but it doesn't seem to provide as much support. Also, since the front straps are made from pure satin instead of leather, I was told that the Blizzards stretch out quite a bit and do not last as long as other professional shoes. Thanks again for all the feedback!
Just a word for those whose shoes hurt. You can stretch them out yourself by cramming the toe box with paper/socks/anything to fill out the space. Leave them for a few days and put the padding back in after you've used them. This helps ease the tightness of wearing a close-fitting shoe.
If the heel box hurts you you can be a bit more aggressive by pounding a bit with a hammer. Yes, I know it sounds brutal, but it some cases you will never wear down the hard heel box unless you take matters into your own hands. I don't get blisters, and my feet are more important to me than any shoe.