Looking for Irish dance shoes? Want to know about all the different varieties of dance shoes available? Read our guide for more information on choosing the right shoes for you…
The Irish step dance is characterized by rapid footwork with the arms and body being largely rigid or stationary. Competitive Irish dances are solo performances. The solo Irish step dance displays very quick movements of the feet that are precise with an upper body that is controlled. These solo dances are performed in Irish dance shoes, which are either ‘soft shoes’ or ‘hard shoes’.
Irish dance shoes can be hard or soft depending on the type of dance routine being performed. Hard dance shoes are quite bulky and resemble tap dance shoes. However, they differ significantly by having shoe heels and tips made from fiber glass instead of metal. Originally, these hard dance shoes were made from wood. The taps of the shoes were either wooden or made from leather with metal nails. With time, these leather and wooden taps were changed to fiberglass to make it lighter and to improve the sound.
Irish dance shoes that are soft are known as ‘ghillies’. This dance shoe looks like a ballet shoe and is made from supple leather. Leather laces criss-cross the upper part of the foot. The laces are tied together at the ankle. The sole of the shoe is also made from leather and stretches the entire length of the base of the foot. Soft Irish dance shoes are black although other colors such as green and red are available. Girl dancers only wear these shoes.
Boys wear Irish dance shoes called a reel shoe, which is a black leather shoe that resembles a hard heeled, black jazz shoe. These soft shoes are designed in such a manner that you can audibly hear the clicks of the heels. Soft shoes are very often hand made for championships.
Handmade Irish Dance Shoes
There are specialty stores in Ireland that craft Irish dance shoes by hand. 100% calf leather is normally used for the shoes as this leather is soft and supple. The malleability of the leather permits the shoes to be extremely flexible, which is essential in Irish dancing.
Irish dance shoes are either soft or hard. The former is made from soft leather and is called ‘ghillies’, which are dance shoes for girls. Hard shoes have fiber glass taps for the distinctive clatter of the astounding rhythm of Irish dance.