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Finding the Correct Size of Irish Dance Shoes

Updated on December 5, 2016
Midnight Muse profile image

The Midnight Muse has been involved in the Irish dancing community for many years and has two children who were competitive dancers.

Irish Dance Ghillies
Irish Dance Ghillies

Different Sizes: US vs. UK

Many individuals often encounter difficulty in determining the correct shoe size when purchasing their Irish dance shoes. Irish dance shoes are most commonly available in UK shoe sizes and therefore finding the correct shoe size for an American Irish dancer can some times be quite difficult. All of the shoes are also based on a women's shoe sizes including event the reel shoes that are used by boys and men for light, or soft shoe, dancing.

In some cases, the shoes will be sold using European sizes that typically range from a 28 to a 45. This shoe size guide will focus on finding your UK size as this is the most common conversion that must be made while purchasing Irish dance shoes.


Types of Irish Dance Shoes

Typically, Irish dance shoes come in three different types:

  • Soft Shoes / Reel Shoes (Female)
  • Reel Shoes (Male)
  • Hard Shoes / Jig Shoes (Unisex)


The Perfect Fitting Shoe

One of the easiest ways to determine your correct UK shoe size is to go to a store and try on a pair of formal/dress shoes and then look on the side of the box where the shoe size is listed. Conveniently, most shoe boxes also show the equivalent UK shoe size of American shoes in a nice comparison table that you can use as a basic point of reference. Please keep in mind that Irish dance shoes are based on formal/dress shoe sizes which is an important factor when trying to determine your correct size.

Most people like shoes that fit comfortably and have plenty of wiggle room. Your Irish dance shoes should fit very tight and snug. There shouldn't be any extra space. For example, when you wear a new pair of Irish dance soft shoes, they should tightly compress the toes together and fit to the end of the shoes. The toes should not buckle. Therefore, when trying to compare a pair of street shoes for sizing, you should make sure that they fit as tightly and uncomfortably as possible so that you get the best measurement. Otherwise, your Irish dance teacher will reject the shoes because they are too big and do not fit properly. Ideally, your Irish dance shoes should fit your feet like a tightly stretched gloved. Sometimes an extra pair of poodle socks can also help to take up any extra room, but there is only so much that can be done for a shoe that is too big. Many children complain of the tight fit of Irish dance shoes, but over time they will learn that it helps them dance better and will actually find the tightness to be comforting and even feel good on their feet.

Also, if you are new to the world of Irish dance, then you do not want to forget about poodle socks. These are the standard socks that are worn with Irish dance shoes. Even a beginner will need at least three pairs of poodle socks when they start. The first pair is for class, then second pair is for practice, and the third pair is used only for competitions. If you take more than one class a week, such as soft shoe and hard shoe, then you will need to increase how many pairs of socks that you will need.


Irish Dance Poodle Socks

Irish Dance Championship Length Poodle Socks Regular (Medium)
Irish Dance Championship Length Poodle Socks Regular (Medium)

These white poodle socks are considered to be integral to Irish dance and are usually required during classes, practices, and during feis competitions. Most dancers need a minimum of three pairs, or more, for dancing. Remember to purchase new clean socks that can be used specifically for feiseanna so that your appearance is always its best.

 

Shoes Made of Leather Will Stretch

Leather shoes will stretch through normal wear and use. Both hard and soft shoes will typically stretch approximately 1/2 shoe size because of normal wear. It usually takes hard shoes a bit longer to stretch but they will do so after being broken in by the dancer. I have also found that if a pair of soft shoes no longer fit then you can take them and submerse them in water and let them dry on the dancer's feet. Because soft shoes are made of very soft leather and have an open lacing structure you can sometimes gain and additional 1 to 2 shoe sizes using this technique. This technique also works really well on the smaller sizes where little feet can grow a lot in a very short amount of time.

Irish Dance Shoes Fit Like a Glove

Irish dance shoes should fit tightly to the dancer's feet. They should be comfortable but will be a bit tighter than other kinds of shoes. In the case of soft shoes, the dancer's toes will fit to the end of the shoes which allows for proper pointing. also, many soft shoes do not have a right or left shoe. Instead, the dancer will need to mark the right and left shoes (normally on the sole) and through normal wear and use the shoes will then conform to the dancer's feet accordingly.

Irish Dance Soft Shoes

Ryan and Odonnell Girls Soft Gel Black Leather Irish Dance Pumps 3 Uk - With FREE Drawstring Bag -
Ryan and Odonnell Girls Soft Gel Black Leather Irish Dance Pumps 3 Uk - With FREE Drawstring Bag -

These ghillies are available in both youth and adult sizes and feature a split sole and gel cushion which is perfect for the long hours of practice that are required prior to competing at a feis.

 

Standard Shoe Size Conversions

Now, on to the good stuff. The following is a basic guideline for determining the correct Irish dance shoe size. Please note that the size comparison table is an approximate guide to determining the correct shoe size. It is strongly suggested that you always consult your Irish dance instructor before purchasing your Irish dance shoes as they will be able to offer a great deal of guidance. Also, sometimes there are other dancers who will let you try on their shoes to see if a size is too large or too small. There are always variances in each particular brand of shoes, however, this is a good way to purchase a new pair of Irish dance shoes with confidence that they will fit.

How to Convert Shoe Sizes

The following US to UK shoe size conversion charts for Irish dance shoes are intended for soft shoes and hard shoes and use women's shoe sizes. Usually, the shoes are sold using female sizes and therefore men must convert their hard sizes accordingly.

Youth (Child) Conversion Chart for US and UK Shoes Sizes

US Size
UK Size
11
11.5
11.5
12
12
12.5
12.5
13
13
13.5
13.5
1
1
1
1.5
1.5
2
1.5
2.5
2
3
2
3.5
2.5
4
3
4.5
3
5
3.5
5.5
4

Adult Conversion Chart for US and UK Shoes Sizes

US Size
UK Size
6
4.5
6.5
5
7
5.5
7.5
6
8
6.5
8.5
7
9
7.5
9.5
8
10
8.5
10.5
9
11
9.5
11.5
10

Irish Dance Hard Shoes

Please note that sizes for children's hard shoes, sometimes also called heavy shoes,are sometimes be a little larger than their soft shoes counterparts; therefore, you will need to use an extra pair of socks, inserts, or foam to take up any extra space. Keep in mind that younger children's feet grow fast and therefore this will add the proverbial "growing room" that many parents try to anticipate with children's shoes. Hard shoes should fit snug, but as any dancer (or parent of a dancer) knows, sometimes it takes a little bit of work to get the perfect fit. Just think of it as a personal customization process.


Irish Dance Hard Shoes

Fay's Women's Leather Ultra-Flexi Irish Dance Hard Shoe
Fay's Women's Leather Ultra-Flexi Irish Dance Hard Shoe

The Fays ultra-flexi hard shoes are recommended by many Irish dance teachers because they provide an excellent point and good sound. In some Irish dance schools, Fays are required for class and even mandated by instructors for use during feisanna.

 

Soft Reel Shoes for Male Dancers

The sizes for men's reel shoes are often based on women's shoe sizes. Therefore, American boys and men must increase two sizes above their normal street shoes size when using the US to UK conversion chart. For example, a man who has a US street shoe size of 8 would convert to a US woman's shoe size of 10 and then would need a UK shoe size of 8.5.

© 2016 Midnight Muse

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