Ok one big question when people are starting off is what kind of shoes should I wear? This is a big one and I have what might be some unconventional opinions. First a little background about my experience. I used to work in a resort in the Caribbean (I know awesome right) and that is where I first learned about salsa dancing. During my breaks I would go to the salsa class which happened everyday at the same time. Over months and months I got the hang of the basics and learned some moves from the guys teaching. Most of the time the lessons were in the outdoor club and we danced in bare feet, sandals, runners or whatever. Socially we danced on sidewalks, clubs, beaches or wherever. I mention this because I am a firm believer that you do not need special shoes to dance. Salsa was (is) first and foremost a street dance, not a classical formal dance requiring equipment. Normally when I have partners who have a hard time following it has nothing to do with their shoes and more with experience.
Now here is one caveat. Modern dancing involves lots of double, triple and more spins and for this reason a pair of dance shoes can make turning much easier and avoid injury. This of course is only something you will do once you have been dancing for a while. If you are just learning how to dance I would wear something comfortable with a smooth bottom, that ought to do it.
Examples for leaders would be:
non-marking dress shoesrunners without gripExamples for followers would be:flats (like the heel style without the heel)1 or 2 inch heeled shoes
For ladies I would stay away from a high since after a few dancers they will probably kill your feel. The important thing for me and something that should always be part of the equation is something that looks nice. I now that some of you are thinking "no duh" but it still needs to be said. This is a social scene you are meeting, impressing, flirting, talking, etc with people and how we look is (whether you like it or not) important. We are not only learning how to salsa, but also how to dance with someone else.
Here is a note for leaders. If the person you are dancing with is not wearing good shoes for spinning or if you are not on a dance floor adjust your dancing. In other words don't try double/triple spins. This is a big complaint from many followers. Followers don't be afraid to let the guys know. As a leader we sometimes don't think about that kind of stuff and a little:
"lets stick to singles spins, this sidewalk is kinda hard to spin in" is totally OK.
Salsa dancing, is a social dance and you can't have social without communication. You salsa dance skills should not be effected by what shoes you wear, but which of those skills you use should be tempered by the floor and your partner. Pay attention to both.
Ivan Wan is a dancer and teacher in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He has been dancing for almost 10 years around the world. He also has a blog called salsame on Tumblr and operates his own dance school in Vancouver. For questions, article ideas and feedback you can contact Ivan through his website.