Fitting Irish Dance Shoes
The preferred fit of Irish Dancing shoes is a very personal thing for an experienced dancer. However, for the less experienced I hope this will be useful.
Soft/Light Shoes (Often called pumps/pomps or ghillies);
Many dance teachers are advising parents to buy one or two sizes smaller than the dancer's regular shoe size. Whilst it is true that the leather stretches considerably with wear, this is an alarming mis-information, particularly for the very young. Whilst soft shoes DO need to be a snug fit, with NO extra room at the toes, the bones of children's feet are soft and shoes that are too tight could cause permanent damage.
Some brands come up small anyway so to buy a smaller size would be a waste of time and money.
*Do remember that new sellers may not have adequate experience to be able to offer the best advice*
The actual sizing does vary from brand to brand so it is always best to check with the seller (or someone you know to be experienced in this type of footwear), especially if you have not bought that brand before. It is also helpful to take a measurement of the dancer's feet fpr reference: Draw around BOTH feet, whilst wearing poodle socks and STANDING on a piece of paper. Measure the longest part of each foot from heel to the tip of the big toe. For soft shoes it is usually best to use the smaller foot's measurement (unless there is a BIG difference when you should choose shoes that measure somewhere between the two!). You can then either ask the seller for the measurement of the shoes you think you need or give them your measurements and ask them to tell you the correct size to order.
*The stretch in the leather will ultimately give the dancer their "growing room"*
Second hand soft shoes are likely to have stretched already so remember to check the measurements before purchase as in this case you may need a smaller size!
Hard/Heavy Shoes (often called Jig Shoes);
Again the sizing varies from brand to brand - and sometimes between styles from the same manufacturer. The measurements mentioned earlier will be useful here too. This time it is usually necessary to use the measurement from the larger foot.
Hard shoes need to fit properly to enable the dancer to execute their steps correctly and avoid unnecessary injury. Hard shoes that are too big will also result in agonizing blisters! The ball of the foot should sit comfortably in the "well" at the bottom of the arch, whilst there should be room to wiggle the toes but the foot should not move inside the shoe.
Unfortunately it is unwise to buy hard shoes with extra room at the toes for growth as they are VERY difficult to dance in! (plus the blisters again - ouch!). The good news is that heavy shoes have a good resale value if they are well looked after.
Second hand hard shoes are a popular choice as they are already broken in (although most brands these days need very little breaking in anyway), and of course are very good value! Usually the dancer will need the same size as in a brand new pair. However, older shoes may be more suitable for those with slightly wider feet due to having stretched over time.