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Shoe Fitting Tips

  1. Shoe Fitting Tips for Soft Shoes
  2. Shoe Fitting Tips for Hard Shoes

Shoe Fitting Tips for Soft Shoes

Ghillies, the Irish soft shoes, are tricky to fit. We highly recommend buying them at a store or competition where you can try them on first (and we would be happy to help advise you on what you should look for when buying your first pair of shoes). However, we do understand that it's not always possible to buy shoes in your area, so here are some pointers if you are buying your first pair of shoes online.

Irish sizing is different than American. With adults and older children, their Irish size is, on average, two numbers smaller than their American size (so, for instance, a woman who wears an American 8 will wear around an Irish 6, although it depends on the company making the ghillie).With young children, the Irish size averages about one number smaller than their American size.

Since each person's foot is different, however, we will be able to fit your ghillies best if you send us a tracing of each of the dancer's feet along with their American shoe size (or European size, if you are visiting us from outside America).

To make the tracing, have the dancer stand barefoot on a piece of paper with all his or her weight on that foot. Trace the outline of the foot onto the piece of paper with a pen or pencil (keep the pen vertical), making sure to trace EXACTLY around the outside of the foot without leaving any extra space. Repeat with the other foot. If you're faxing to us, draw a line on the outline from heel to big toe, and give us the measurement of the foot (a fax may change the image size slightly). Put the dancer's name, regular shoe size, and phone number/address on the piece of paper and mail it to us. This will help us find the best size ghillies for you.

You can fax the tracing to (720) 747-9353 or scan it and email it to IrishBflyStore@aol.com

Once you've gotten your ghillies, you will need to lace them if they're not laced already. Take the lace and thread it through the leather loop at the very top of the shoe. Then run the laces straight down through the next leather loops. After that, cross the laces over each time you thread them through the next set of loops, until you get to the last set. Once you've gotten the laces through the last set of leather loops, cross the laces over one more time, so that they make an X in front of the place where the dancer's foot will go. If the brand of shoes you've purchased have side loops, now run the laces through the elastic side loops. Then thread both laces through the leather loop at the back of the shoe. You're done lacing!

To put the shoe on, start by loosening the laces from the back of the shoe. Slip your foot into the shoe, making sure the laces cross in front of the ankle (making an X), and then tighten the laces starting from the toes and working backwards. If you tighten the shoes by pulling the laces at the back before tightening the front, you will not have as good a fit, and in addition you will soon have one lace much longer than the other (since most people pull harder with their dominant hand). When you're ready to take the shoe off, loosen the laces, starting from the back, before pulling your foot out.

Note: when ghillies are new, they do not have a right and left foot. Both shoes are exactly the same, so it doesn't matter which foot goes into which shoe. Once you've made sure the shoes fit, we highly recommend writing the dancer's name on the bottom of the shoe, on the arch, which doesn't touch the ground. We also recommend writing "R" for right and "L" for left, so that when you're breaking the shoes in (see below), your feet will stretch the shoes into a right and left. Black permanent markers are best for shoes with light-colored soles, and gel pens or silver or gold metallic markers are best for shoes with black soles.

Ghillies are made of soft 100% leather, so the right size is going to feel quite tight at first. New soft shoes stretch a lot, so if your ghillies feel very comfortable the first time you try them on, they are almost certainly too big.

Ghillies are exactly the right size if your big toe is all the way in the end of the shoe, with almost no room in the end of the shoe next to your little toes. If, when you point your toe, you can pinch a significant amount of loose leather between your fingers, or it looks loose, wrinkly, or floppy around the toe or heel, they're probably too big.

This is especially true for adults or teens whose feet are no longer growing, or for dancers competing at a high level. For young children (ages 8 and younger), especially those dancing in beginning level classes, there can be a little more room in the front of the shoe. However, it is important that there is not too much "growing room" left in any pair of soft shoes, since they stretch quite a lot.

Shoes that are too big will provide no support for the dancer's foot. They can also make the dancer's toe point look floppy and loose, which the teacher will probably comment on (and that's no fun for the dancer!).

Dancers should make their ghillies feel more comfortable by "breaking them in." Dancers should put their new ghillies on every day, not necessarily to dance in, but just to wear for ½ hour to 1 hour (while doing homework, watching TV, doing chores, etc). It's important that the shoes be put on the same foot each time so that they stretch into a right and left. You can also use leather lotion, available at leather goods stores, to help soften the leather and stretch it more quickly. Usually, it takes 1 to 2 weeks to break in a new pair of shoes, after which they should feel pretty comfortable.

Sometimes, even shoes that fit right and are broken in rub in the wrong places or stretch out too much. We recommend wearing band-aids or sports tape under your socks to protect any area that is rubbing raw. To help fill out any part of your shoe that is too loose, you can wear toe pads, lamb's wool, or Dr. Scholl's moleskin under your socks.

Have something else specific that's bothering you? Let us help—our dancers have had every shoe problem there is, and we can suggest ways to fix it. [top]

Shoe Fitting Tips for Hard Shoes

Irish hard shoes (or "jig" shoes) are tricky to fit, and not always comfortable even when fitted correctly. We highly recommend buying them at a store or competition where you can try them on first (and we would be happy to help advise you on what you should look for when buying your first pair of shoes). However, we do understand that it's not always possible to buy shoes in your area, so here are some pointers if you are buying your first pair of shoes online.

Irish sizing is different than American. With adults and older children, their Irish size is, on average, two numbers smaller than their American size (so, for instance, a woman who wears an American 8 will wear around an Irish 6, although it depends on the company making the jig shoe). With young children, the Irish size averages about one number smaller than their American size.

Since each person's foot is different, however, we will be able to fit your hard shoes best if you send us a tracing of each of the dancer's feet along with their American shoe size (or European size, if you are visiting us from outside America).

To make the tracing, have the dancer stand barefoot on a piece of paper with all his or her weight on that foot. Trace the outline of the foot onto the piece of paper with a pen or pencil (keep the pen vertical), making sure to trace EXACTLY around the outside of the foot without leaving any extra space. Repeat with the other foot. If you're faxing to us, draw a line on the outline from heel to big toe, and give us the measurement of the foot (a fax may change the image size slightly). Put the dancer's name, regular shoe size, and phone number/address on the piece of paper and mail it to us. This will help us find the best size hard shoes.

Once you've gotten your hard shoes, you will need to lace them if they're not laced already. Take the lace and thread it through the metal eyelets at the toe of the shoe. After that, cross the laces over each time you thread them through the next set of eyelets, until you get to the last set.

Hard shoes, even the right size, often feel heavy and awkward at first, and even the right size can cause blisters. If they are the right size, your big toe should be close to touching the end of the shoe, with just a bit of room in front of the little toes. There should be no gapping in the leather around the heel, and your heel should not slide up and down when you walk (although, if you have narrow feet and heels, this may happen even in the right size shoe-see below for some solutions).

It is especially important for adults, teens whose feet have stopped growing, and higher-level dancers to have shoes with little room in the front of the shoe. Young children (age 8 or younger), especially if they are beginner dancers, can afford to have a little more room in front of the toes. However, it is very important not to have too much "growing room" in any pair of shoes.

Hard shoes that are too big provide no support for the dancer's foot, and in fact can cause injury. Also, it is much harder to control the taps at the front of the shoe if it is too big, and that's frustrating for the dancer.

To help make the hard shoes feel more comfortable, dancers should "break them in." Dancers should put their new hard shoes on every day and either dance in them or walk around in them for 15 minutes to an hour. Then, if the hard shoes are very stiff and uncomfortable, the dancer can knead, push, and bend the leather of the shoe with his or her hands while watching TV, listening to the radio, etc. The kneading should be concentrated on the heels, toes, or whichever part of the shoe is stiffest. You can also use leather lotion, available at leather goods stores, to help soften the leather and stretch it more quickly. Usually, it takes 2-3 weeks to break in a new pair of hard shoes.

Sometimes, as we mentioned, even shoes that fit right and are broken in rub in the wrong places. We recommend wearing band-aids or sports tape under your socks to protect any area that is rubbing raw. If you have problems with the heels of your shoes fitting too loosely so that your heel rubs up and down, wear band-aids on your feet and put moleskin (a dancer's best friend--sold at most grocery and pharmacy stores, Dr. Scholl's is one name brand) directly on the inside of the back of the shoe to help fill it out. If you need to fill out or cushion the toe of the shoe, you can wear toe pads or lamb's wool under your socks.

Have something else specific that's bothering you? Let us help—our dancers have had every shoe problem there is, and we can suggest ways to fix it. [top]

 

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