Zumba, like most physical activities, has its own special kind of shoe. In the beginning, I wasn't sure I would like Zumba well enough to want to invest in a pair. Dance fitness shoes are usually pretty light weight, have shallow tread, and what's called a pivot ball. The cost of a pair, depending on brand, typically starts at around $36 and I have seen pairs for as much as $75. You can understand, I think, why I didn't want to spend the money until I was sure. I made do with cross trainers the first four classes. To give you a frame of reference, the first four weeks I did Zumba would have been the month of January in 2010.
Waiting to make the purchase was the right thing to do at the time; intellectually, I do know that. However....if I'd had a crystal ball, and could see the future and how much I would come to love Zumba (and how many pairs of dance fitness shoes I would go through in three and a half years), I would have bought my first pair before I ever took my first class. In the week between class number four and class number five I checked every shoe store in the mall only to come up empty. The people at the Footlocker had no idea what kind of shoe I was even talking about! Some "experts" they turned out to be... Getting down to the wire and not expecting much considering my failure to find anything earlier that week, I made a foray into my local DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) with my husband and young son in tow (they were very patient with me). Lo and behold! They had many pairs by several different brands. Some you would expect, like Nike and Puma. Others not so much, like Coach (remember when I said $75? Yeah...). I tried on both the Nikes and the Pumas and decided on a pair of Pumas because they fit better and were lighter, plus I got lucky and found a clearance pair in my size. I also couldn't help but embarrass my family and do a little salsa right there in the store on the one piece of hard floor I could find. Well, I had to test the shoes didn't I?
**Side Note: If you check out the page, please know that the flip flops they sell are for fashion and not actual dance. No one really believes anybody can do Zumba in flip flops right? Nod your heads, there you go...**
I describe the shoes pictured as being retired and what this means is that they are worn out and continuing to wear them to class wouldn't be the best idea. I've learned from experience that these Pumas last for roughly 45 classes, give or take a couple, and I can always feel when the pair I'm using is getting close to "retirement age". After that, they really should be replaced or one begins noticing soreness in the shins and knees. This black pair is not the only pair of retirees, in fact I have six pairs of retired dance shoes in my closet at this moment. So why do I keep them? Good question.
The answer is that I still use them, just not to go to class in. After I had been doing Zumba for a year or so, there were many dances that I had learned that I could just do by myself without needing the guidance of the teacher. I use my retired pairs of shoes at home for practice (and Xbox) so that I don't wear out my current pair more quickly than necessary. And I suppose this then begs the question of why I can use them at home when I can't at class. Well, the answer to -that- would be that my dance space at home happens to be carpeted while classes are held on a hard floor. The extra cushioning in the carpeting makes up for what the shoes lack. What's that, another question I hear? How does one safely do Zumba on the carpet you ask? Well, you can buy something called "carpet gliders" from Zumba.com or you can do what I do instead and that's wrap plastic packing tape around the shoe down at the toe where the pivot ball is (shown below). That will get you sliding and gliding for considerably cheaper.
Now, as a warning about Pumas (and dance fitness shoes in general)... They have very little cushioning in the first place when you compare them to runners, walkers, or cross trainers. They also have next to no arch support. Essentially, they are the bigger and stronger sister to the ballet flat. These are the reasons I love Pumas and keep on buying pair after pair, but I have spoken to people who do Zumba that cannot wear shoes like this for these very same reasons.
Best advice: Save yourself from joint soreness and invest in proper footwear! If you're going to try Zumba, wait to buy shoes. If you're going to do Zumba long term, -definitely- buy some kind of shoe to use specifically for classes. If you're going to buy shoes, try on several different pairs of dance fitness shoes, as well as athletic shoes that have shallow tread, to find what works for you.