In general, US Junior sizes are very similar to UK sizes so you will probably only need to check on the size if your dancer has wide feet. The table shows the conversion of US Adult sizes and Continental sizes to UK sizing:
Child UK/Continental Sizes:
FITTING IRISH DANCING SHOES
The preferred fit for an experienced dancer is a very personal thing. However, for the less experienced I have put together this general guide…………………………
Often called pumps/pomps or ghillies;
Many dance teachers are advising parents to buy one to two sizes smaller than their child’s normal shoe size. Although it is true that the leather stretches with wear, this is not necessarily the case, particularly for the very young. Whilst soft shoes DO need to be a snug fit, with NO extra room at the toes, the bones in children’s feet are soft and shoes that are too tight could cause permanent damage. However, if a shoe is not snug enough a dancer won't have their feet supported adequately during all that high-impact training so getting the balance right is very important!
Some brands actually come up small anyway, so to buy a smaller size would be a waste of time and money.
The actual sizing does vary from brand to brand, so it is always best to check with the seller, especially if you have not bought that brand before. It is also helpful to take a measurement from the dancer’s feet for reference: Draw around BOTH feet, wearing poodle socks, whilst standing on a piece of paper. Measure the longest part of each foot from heel to 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 either ask the seller for the measurement of the shoe size you think you need, or give them your measurements and ask them to tell you the correct size to order. This will only work if the tracings are accurate! If the dancer already has a pair of soft shoes that still fit or have just gotten too tight, it may be more helpful to measure the INSIDE of those as well. Your new pair will need to be the same measurement as the old pair to allow for the shoes to stretch. If soft shoes are too big after stretching they will become baggy at the toes, making it difficult for teachers and adjudicators to see those lovely points and they will not support the foot properly which could result in injury. If a shoe stretches too much in the heel area it will slip off. Therefore it is important to make sure soft shoes are slightly uncomfortable when brand new but not curling the toes under. They will become much more comfortable once they have been worn a few times. Many girls like to wear their shoes around the house for a few days before taking them to class, and some like to wear them to bed to allow the body heat to help stretch the leather (this can often mean they are able to go an extra half a size smaller, eliminating that baggy toe when they get old!). We are here to guide but ultimately an experienced dancer will have their own preferences for the fit of both soft and hard shoes.
In general, soft shoes need to fit the foot snugly, a bit like a glove, with no extra room at the toes or heels. Do not be tempted to buy a larger size than needed as not only are shoes that are too big difficult to dance in, they can even be dangerous - particularly if the toes can poke through the gaps in the laces.
The stretch in the leather will ultimately give the dancer their “growing room”! With regular wear (and barring any MAJOR, sudden growth spurts!) soft shoes can stretch up to two whole sizes. I recommend dancers wear their soft shoes when practicing at home as well as at class to ensure they grow with their feet!
BOYS also need to have a snug fit for their shoes I'm afraid!
I deal mainly in Boyne Walk, Fays, Hullachan and Antonio Pacelli shoes. Most dancers will find that they need a different size according to the style of shoes and the shape of their feet. For example, two dancers who normally wear different sizes in their street shoes may find they wear the same size in their hard shoes and girls with very long big toes but short smaller toes may need to go much smaller than they would like in their soft shoes so that they fit properly once they have stretched and moulded to their feet.
Brigadun Regular and Flexi soft shoes are a popular choice for beginners but do come up a little large. Many dancers will need half to one size smaller than their regular shoe size unless they have wide feet, when their regular shoe size will usually be fine.
Gazelle pumps are also popular with beginners. A comfortable shoe, these do come up quite large, most dancers will need at LEAST one size smaller than in normal shoes, more often 1.5 to 2 sizes smaller.
Reel Comfort pumps are a very comfortable all round soft shoe. These also come up a little big so most dancers will need at least half a size smaller. Go as tight as you can stand because these will stretch well and quickly!
Hullachan Pro AP Pumps are best suited to experienced dancers and are not recommended for beginners. These shoes have a pre-formed arch which hugs the foot and gives a beautiful line. However, this means that these shoes will feel extremely uncomfortable with the feet flat on the floor as the pump is fitted to a pointed foot which is actually shorter. Dancers who wear these in too large a size will not benefit from the unique fit and would effectively be wasting their money (if a dancer wearing these looks flat-footed, chances are her shoes are too big!). These pumps come in three width fittings but all do come up a little narrow. In general most dancers will need half to one size smaller than their normal UK shoe size but of course every dancer is different and will have her own preference! The very young dancers are likely to want a similar size in these to that of their regular, street shoes. If these shoes DON'T feel like they are pulling the toes under at least a little bit (especially when brand new), they are too big! Correctly fitted these shoes will give unparralelled support and will enhance the dancer's foot-line.
Celtic Choice Pumps are a similar fit to the Hullachans but do come up a little large and stretch very quickly and a LOT. Therefore most dancers will find they need them extremely tight at first (usually 1.5 sizes smaller than their regular shoes) but will find they become comfortable very quickly.
Second hand soft shoes are likely to have stretched already, so remember to check the measurements before purchasing as in this case you MAY need to buy slightly smaller sizes! Be aware that shoes that are designed to have superior support such as Hullachans may lose this benefit when well worn so it is best to buy these new or nearly new unless you are only needing them for a very short time.
Often referred to as Jig shoes;
Again, the sizing varies from brand to brand – and sometimes even 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 to avoid unnecessary injury. 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 not too much!!
Unfortunately, it is unwise to buy hard shoes with extra room at the toes for growth as they are VERY difficult to dance in! (And potential toe-work is virtually impossible!). The good news is that hard shoes have a good re-sale value if they are well looked after.
Second hand hard shoes are very popular as they are already broken in and, of course, are often very good value! Usually a 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.
The Different Types of Soles on Hard Shoes
Some people are understandably confused as to the meaning of some of the terms used to describe hard shoes. I will try to clear some of these up here, but do contact me if you are still unsure!
Traditional; this refers to the rigid sole used traditionally in making Irish hard shoes. The leather is usually very stiff and there is the addition of a thin metal shank running the length of the sole. No amount of bending will make these shoes more flexible! Many manufacturers have stopped making these as they are not very popular any more. Most suitable for the beginner, they can still be bought second hand – usually in very good condition as the leather sole hardly seems to show any wear!
Flexi or Super-Flexi; the most popular type of shoe currently on the market, particularly favoured by younger and novice to intermediate dancers. The leather sole is much softer and the metal shank is not present making the sole more flexible, and ultimately more comfortable! Most brands offer this type of sole as standard these days.
Ultra Flexi or Suede Soled; suede is used for the sole as it is even more flexible than the leather used in regular flexi/super-flexi shoes. Most often black, the seamless look is favoured by many intermediate, open and championship dancers. The superior flexibility makes for easier toe-work.
Split-Sole; Particularly suited to narrow footed dancers, this style of shoe has had the sole completely removed at the arch. This allows the most flexibility of all, giving beautifully defined points and smooth toe-work. The down side to this style is that there is often little or no support for the arch of the foot, so is not recommended for beginners or those with fallen arches or flat feet. The newer styles of split-soled heavies are based on a jazz shoe and have been banned in some organisations. We do not currently offer split-soled jig shoes.
I hope this has helped some of you. Don’t forget: - if in doubt ASK!!
ABOVE ALL – ENJOY THE DANCE!