Friday, February 15, 2013

Contra Footwear

I created a website years ago that was named Crafts, Cavies and Contras; I filled it with pages of the things that I enjoy.  Rob eventually convinced me to pick up blogging, so I created this blog and transferred the content here.  I hadn't realized when I moved to a blog format that I would rarely write about contra dancing.  It is so much fun, but I have a terrible time describing it to any kind of audience and I'm too busy to take photos.  So contra remains part of the URL, but it tends to be the silent partner.

Then I changed the blog name to include confections, thinking I might write occasional posts about cookies and candies.  I was short sighted:  I got hooked on several food blogs and now write about the all new dishes I've tried, not just sweets.  So I've tweaked the name again.  At least I guessed right with the crafts and the cavies (I promise I will write more guinea pig stories soon).

But I digress...

Half-sole sandals
When I started contra dancing, I soon had issues with overheated feet.  I tried dancing barefoot once, but the blisters convinced me not to do that again.  At NEFFA I discovered a few people wearing small leather sandals, called sandasols (a classification of jazz/lyrical shoes).  I bought my first pair in 2006 and was instantly hooked.  The suede on the ball of my foot allows me to slide and spin, and the bare toes and heels give me traction.  Barefoot, without the blisters.

I get questions about them all the time:  are they comfortable?  (Yes.)  Are they expensive? (Nope - about $15.)  Do they offer any protection when I get stepped on?  (No, but getting stepped on is rare, and shoes don't protect kicks to the ankle or Achilles tendon, which is far more common.)  My most frequent injury is stubbed toes, which wouldn't be so problematic if I stopped trying to occupy the same space as my partner's feet.

Over the years I've owned several brands of sandasoles:  Capezio, Leo's, Theatricals.  I like Danshuz' design, but haven't had a chance to try them out.  Brand new sandasoles are almost painfully tight, but the leather stretches quite a bit, and if you buy them too large, they'll fall right off your feet.  I have hand-washed them, which will shrink and stiffen them up a bit, but they will stretch out again pretty quickly.  One of the brands I tried had some kind of synthetic insole that eventually shredded and was terribly uncomfortable.  The ones that have worn best are all leather, inside and out.

I have found that the stitching on the sole wears out.  I've restitched mine together a number of times.  I eventually replaced my first two pairs of sandasols, but the two pairs I have now are still wearing well after years of use. 

Neoprene half-soles
While looking for a new pair of black sandasols, I caught sight of a pair of Danshuz neoprene half-soles (they also come in wild prints and bling).  They're about the same price as sandasoles.  I love the snug fit, and they have a bit more padding on the bottom.  They don't stretch out with use.  I also like that they can be thrown into the washing machine if they get too dirty or smelly.

However, I've had issues with them staying on my feet (I had to alter mine).  Similar to the sandasols, the stitching on the leather wears out.  Worse, the leather pad is smaller than where my foot makes contact with the floor, so I've worn through the neoprene on one side.  It hasn't worn completely through, yet, but it makes the sole feel lumpy.  I've danced in them only a year, and I've already bought replacements.  It's kind of a bummer, because these are my current favorites to dance in.  I would like them to last a bit longer.  On the other hand, maybe it's just a good excuse to get a pair of pink half-soles with rhinestones?  I could be so stylin'!


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