I am very happy to say that I am a novice student and have been dancing for a little over a month and just graduated to Bronze level! I have so completely fallen in love with ballroom dance and I am so excited to learn, progress, and really want to compete!
However, my question is this - what can a beginner reasonably expect, physically? I'm 5'11, Female, ~190lbs, and not out of shape but certainly not slim (hoping to get there soon!). I have bought some Very Fine CD3026 shoes with a 3in heel (http://discountsalsashoes.com/cd3026-black/) that I've been wearing for lessons and group classes for about 3 weeks (~3 or 4 times a week), however, I'm getting a numbing sensation in my toes at times, and my feet are hurting from about mid-arch through the tips of my toes.
- What is considered a reasonable amount of "growing pains" and discomfort, and what are some warning signs that I should look out for? - Also, approx. by when do feet usually get used to dancing and the discomfort go away? - Are there ball-of-foot pads I can buy to help with this? - Is it a good idea to have multiple pairs of shoes with different straps for when feet hurt?
I would stop wearing three inch heels immediately and get 2.5 inch heels and a good pair of low heel (1.5 or 2 inch) practice shoes. No one I know dances 3 or 4 times a week in such high heels. Save the 3 inch for performances or competition. You could try gel insoles, they can help with the numbness. There are so many things that can go wrong with the feet and it is terrible if you have a lot of pain at the beginning. I think women's feet always hurt to a certain degree in heels but you don't want an injury. I have danced for over ten years. The highest heel I wore was a 2.75 for competition only. Socially, I wear 2.5 in both latin and standard. I have 2 inch standard shoes for competition. I wear practice shoes for almost all lessons. I have never had a problem with my feet until recently when I was diagnosed with an inflamed nerve in my foot. I got special orthotics which help a great deal. Don't go for sexy at this point and don't buy shoes unless they are comfortable right when you put them on. Don't be fooled by sales people who tell you they will stretch or you'll get use to the discomfort.
As pointed out by O.K., there are two type of shoes and it is important to wear the correct shoe depending on the style of dance. A court shoe is worn when dancing the standard and smooth dances. Court shoes look like pumps. The whole shoe is designed to support the whole foot so the foot bed is wider and the heels are lower.Theya re a sturdier shoe and have none of the floppiness of a latin shoe. Shoes for smooth often have a separate toe box and a separate heel box. They bend more which suits the open style of smooth better. Latin shoes look like sandals. They are designed so the toes slightly hang over the foot bed. They are extremely flexible so you can point your toes while dancing. There is no support along the sides of the shoe which makes them less than ideal for standard dances. I can't dance standard in latin shoes anymore. My steps are too big and I need the support of a court shoe for control. Shoes are so important and I don't think the brand matters as much as comfort. The biggest mistake beginners make is buying three inch heels to start. Balance and control has to mastered right from the beginning. There is enough to think about without being distracted by your sore feet.
As the others have said, get out of the 3" heels and go into 2 1/5 heels. NOT all dance shoes are created equal! You get what you pay for, meaning if you go inexpensive you can end up with pretty social dance shoes and no padding! Very Fine is pretty much if you are a tight budget, make sure you buy the CD versions. This is their competition dance shoes with more padding.
Leather shoes WILL steach out so you need to buy these on the snug fit side. Satin strap shoes do not streach much at all. Buy these so they feel comfortable on your foot!
You really should go to a store that specializes in dance shoes. Make SURE you are getting the proper fit. Not all styles of dance shoes fit everyone the same way. Even sizes can vary a bit in the same brand. IF you dont have a dance shoe store locally I can recommend Karizmah Dance Shoes and Boots in Dallas. They also have a web site where you can order from. IF the shoes dont fit and IF you have not danced in them, you can return them. You might also want to call them and talk to shoe fitter to be guided to the best fitting shoe.
I always get their KB shoes. They are sprinkled through out the shoe page listing so have fun looking at all the pretty shoes. These have 2nd best padding. The VERY best padding in dance shoes is the Diamont brand of shoes. BUT at this time they don't carry real strappy shoes in the tan satin. These shoes ARE made in Germany and are well worth the money.
As far as "growing pains." If you talking about muscle fatigue. Yes you are going to feel it as you build muscle holding a proper dance frame. Gym time building lat muscles helps! Learning to pull up and hold your core. Core is EVERYTHING in dancing. Gym time helps! Your calf muscles will feel it as you when you work bolero & your smooth - holding the rise and then sliding your working leg out. Doing toe rises during the day helps build calf muscles. Waiting for elevators, standing in line at the grocery store, pumping gas in your car etc - all great times to work on these. Tango you need to work on builing your quads. Staying low in the bent knee position takes power in the knees too. That is going to take some gym work.