IRISH DANCE SHOES
What you should know before you buy
Irish Dance Shoe Info
Welcome to the wonderful world of Irish Dance! Let’s get those feet ready for dancing! Getting a proper fit on Irish Dance shoes can be challenging, especially for those of us who do not get the opportunity to try them on first. Here we hope to offer you some guidance to help your dance shoe purchase go more smoothly.
Key Things To Note Before You Purchase Shoes:
- All Irish dance shoes are sized in UK sizing, not US sizes. The rough equivalent in UK is 2 sizes smaller than your US street shoe size. For example if you wear a US size 7 your UK street shoe size is roughly a 5.
- Street shoe size is NOT the same as dance shoe size. Dance shoes are intended to fit more snugly to your feet than street shoes. If your shoes are too loose you may get blisters, have a hard time getting a proper toe point or even find yourself tripping on the extra length in the shoe.
- Your dance shoes will stretch after you wear them. Some brands will stretch more than others and can stretch several full sizes. To account for this you will need to size down from your street shoe size from ½-2 sizes depending on the brand.
- Almost all of us purchase our shoes through Keilys.com mostly because they offer flat rate shipping to Hawaii. They also give our school a 10% discount! Ask your instructor for the discount code.
- Most manufacturers and vendors are very familiar with the sizing challenges and generally have no issues with exchanges as long as they have not been used beyond trying on
- Amazon does sell an Irish dance shoe, but the quality is maybe not the best. We encourage purchasing a professional Irish dance brand from a Irish Dance specific website.
- New dancers will primarily wear soft shoes so this should be the first shoes you invest in.
Shoe Size Chart
Soft shoes are used for ceili and step dancing and are the Irish equivalent to a ballet shoe. The are simple leather slippers with criss-crossed laces. I would recommend the split sole shoes vs the one piece sole.
I am a huge fan of Rutherford due to the comfort. I wear this brand in soft and hard shoe and I am so pleased with them. These Cavan Pumps have a soft leather that stretches a lot. I went a full size down from my street UK size, but pro dancers go down 2 or 3 sizes due to the amount that they stretch. I will update this over time, but as of now, 1 size down has been perfect for me.
I had a pair of Elite pumps, but the fit was not good for me. They recommend 1 full size down, but I found it to be way too small. If you go with this brand I would do ½ size down from your UK street size.
I have not tried this shoe personally, but this is their new top model. I assume sizing is similar to the Elite.
Hullachan is a top professional dance shoe brand and is worn by something like 80% of competitive dancers. These shoes have very stiff leather and they are hard to break in. If you purchase these do not go more than ½ size down.
I have no personal experience with Corr’s but many people swear by them to the heavens and back. My understanding is that they are quite stretchy so you should plan for sizing at least one size down.
Based on Fay’s size chart and sizing recommendation you would size down ½ to 1 full size. Based upon my reading on forums about these shoes, they are pretty stretchy and people suggest sizing way down. If you know that you really need space in a shoe to be comfortable go down ½ size, but they will likely stretch out over time. Size chart
Most champion dancers wear Hullachan shoes, but they are very, very stiff and hard to break in. They are high quality, nice thick leather, but sizing will be questionable. I would not size down or size down only ½ size. The wide size is only available through the Antonio Pacelli site
This is not a narrow specific shoe, the standard width just runs very narrow naturally and is the best choice for a narrow foot
There are a scad of “Generic” brands of Irish dance shoes sold on ebay. Many of these are Irish dance shoes from Ireland, but are not an established professional dance brand. That does not necessarily make them a bad choice and you can get a pair of shoes for an excellent price. As a new dancer getting something that will just get you started is appealing. My experience with these shoes (which is by no means a comprehensive study, there is probably a ton of variations between shoe makers) is that they use a leather that stretches a lot. Even when using the brand specific sizing charts and foot tracings I found I needed two sizes smaller than suggested after just 2 weeks of wear. If you are considering one of these that is not a known brand my overall advice would be to size down a lot.
Dance sneakers are a purpose built shoe that offer better dance performance with the benefit of additional foot support. For new dancers who are just building the muscles used in Irish dance, anyone with foot or toe issues or anyone who typically needs additional support should consider a pair of these. I often wear dance sneakers in practice or at events that where we dance on less than ideal surfaces (in a parades, uneven stone, rough concrete or any place where you need extra foot support and don’t want to ruin your good shoes.)
I am deeply in love with my Bloch dance sneakers. They make several similar styles, but this shoe with the split, lightweight sole is great for Irish dance. They have a couple of styles that look basically like this that would be just great, too. Some other dance shoes have a thick, cumbersome sole which I find to be less ideal for Irish dance.
Bloch Sizing: Bloch sizing is a little odd. It runs slightly small and slightly narrow. I purchased ½ size up and am very happy with the fit.
Most of the time we perform we will be in tights, but occasionally we will perform in socks, in which case there is a specific type of Irish dance sock! Of course there is. It has a few names, Bobble, Popcorn, Poodle or Parade socks but it is all the same nubbly white sock. It is good to have a pair in case you ever need them. I ordered a couple of pairs with my shoes so that I could combine shipping. For the moment we have no shows requiring them so it is not truly necessary.
The entire troupe is required to wear these specific black tights for all performances. Other tights that appear black actually have fewer or finer threads and they do show through. We have some performance photos which show us the problem that this truly is and therefore we now require this specific tight for maximum opacity. If you are between sizes please size up so that the tights will not need to stretch to the max to fit, which will reduce coverage.
120D Blackout Tights
Available at some Target stores or online here
Hard shoes are the Irish equivalent to tap shoes. They have leather uppers and fiberglass “taps” in the toe and heel. Hard shoes are expensive and many people wait to purchase these. Hard shoes are not quite as hard to size as soft shoes since you order them in your usual UK street size. I am a US 8M, I fit beautifully in a UK 6 Rutherford. Because you jump onto your toes in these, you don’t want your foot to be able to slide in the shoe and give you blisters, so ensure that you do not get a shoe that is too large. There is also a hot market for used hard shoes on ebay and you can often pick up a pair of lightly used shoes for a bargain if you watch carefully.
Most of us in the dance school wear the Rutherford brand. I absolutely love mine from the first moment I put them on. Flexible, extremely comfortable and never a blister. These are a great shoes.
This is the new model that I have not yet tried
Article compiled by Jodi Bearden for Hawaii Irish Dance