There are two types of Irish Dance shoes: soft shoes (aka “light shoes”) and hard shoes (aka “heavies”). Soft shoes are also called “ghillies” for ladies, or “reel shoes” for gents.
Soft shoes are required for all Irish dance classes (except Tiny Toes). If you are a new beginner and do not yet own Irish soft shoes, you may dance the first three classes of a session barefoot. However, all students are asked to please have the appropriate footwear by the third class of a session.
In addition to soft shoes, hard shoes are required of all students in Level 2 and all subsequent levels. Students in Level 1 classes will be informed midyear by their instructor when to shop for hard shoes, based on the class’ progress.
A few helpful tips to consider....
First, have you checked the Shoes for Sale page yet? Always a good option for buying and selling!
For new shoes, Teelin highly recommends purchasing directly from an Irish dance shoe vendor. Vendors are available at most feiseanna, or online (see below for links). Fit and functionality are very important, and the companies that sell only Irish dance shoes know their craft. It’s worth going to the specialists instead of to a general dance supply store (who will likely charge more, and may sell inappropriate knock-offs).
Different shoes fit different feet differently. Therefore, there are many different opinions of “the best” brand of Irish dance shoes. The shoe that a dancer feels is most comfortable will be that dancer’s definition of “the best”. Flexibility in a shoe is important because it allows a dancer to point as sharply as possible. This is true for both soft shoes and hard shoes. Shoes with suede soles tend to be more flexible than those with the tan leather sole.
Here are a few ways to check comfort, fit, and functionality when trying on a new pair of shoes. These tips work for both soft shoes and hard shoes:
- Walk around on tip toes, as high on the balls of your feet as possible. This will help check the flexibility of the sole, the comfort across the width, and the fit on the back of the heel.
- Stand on one foot and point the other foot in front of you. This is a good way to check fit in the toe and across the arch.
Brand new shoes should fit snuggly so that the dancer’s foot may show a clear point without a lot of extra material sagging in the toe or across the arch of the foot. All new shoes WILL stretch.
Irish dance shoes use UK sizing. Most Irish dance shoe vendors offer a size conversion chart online.
Have new ghillies? Read this document for lacing and tying instructions…
Some helpful resources...
Maureen Berry recommends Fays Irish Dancing Shoes. Her preferred ghillies are the “Soft Shoes – Platinum Suede Soles”, and her preferred hard shoes are the “Ultra Flexi” shoes with black suede soles and high tech tips and heels (squared tips, if ordering the Super Flexi).
That said, students are of course free to shop for shoes from any reputable vendor. When purchasing hard shoes, Teelin recommends either the Concord tips and heels or the “high tech” tips and heels.
The following links are some popular Irish dance shoemakers and suppliers. Sizing and fit vary across the brand names. If a dancer has a particularly wide or narrow foot, talk to the instructors and other parents of more experienced dancers who may have experienced pros and cons of the various brands for those “tough to fit” feet.
Although Teelin is not currently able to offer Clogging lessons on a regular basis, occasional workshops are offered, and the Teelin Irish Dance Company regularly performs some clogging routines.
Note: Clogging is not Irish dancing, but it does have roots in Irish step dancing. Clogging evolved in the Appalachian mountains, which was a melting pot of English, German, Scotch and Irish settlers. Each culture brought its own unique style of jigs and step dances, which merged into this uniquely American percussive dance.
Teelin dancers wear white clogging shoes with Buck Taps. To begin learning clogging, dancers may wear their hard shoes, but the feel of a clogging shoe is very different (much lower heel), so either tap shoes or other hard sole shoes are better.
When ready to purchase clogging shoes, the website below is a good choice. Most of our cloggers wear the “Dance Class” style shoe. Advanced dancers may prefer the split sole shoe. Remember to purchase white clogging shoes with the buck taps already installed.
We do not currently know of any local stores that carry clogging shoes. If you learn of one, please email the webmaster!