Buying new ghillies can be difficult, especially now that there are less feiseanna and there are restrictions on when you and your dancers can be in the venue. There are so many different brands and styles, and the sizing is so different that buying Irish Dance shoes online can be overwhelming. It can be hard to find the right ghillie for your dancer. Here are 5 pro tips for getting the right shoe for your dancer.
- Get sized in person. Hands down the best way to guarantee a perfect fit is with an in-person fitting by our trained and experienced shoe fitters. Options are at a feis, at your studio, or in the store. It can be stressful to get shoes at a feis because the lines are often long and the dancer is often distracted. If you can, try to get sized after your dancer has finished dancing for the day. If a feis isn’t an option, ask your teacher to schedule a studio visit by our Mobile Store. We’ll bring the shoes to you and fit you in person. If you are local, or up for a road trip, stop in at our retail store inHagerstown, MD for a personal fitting and a lot of one-on-one attention. With any of these in-person options, we will explain how the shoe needs to fit and let your dancer try on and test several options to see which fits best.
- Send a tracing. The next best option to a personal fitting is to send a tracing of your dancer’s foot to our experienced shoe fitters. Have your dancer stand on a piece of paper in socks. Trace around the foot. Measure the tracing toe to heel and write that measurement on the tracing. Measure the tracing across the ball of the foot at the widest point and write that measurement on the tracing. Add your name and contact information and email a picture of the tracing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can send the actual tracing by mail to 9722 Country Store Lane, Hagerstown, MD 21740. We will use the tracing and measurements to size your shoe. This isn’t 100% accurate, but we have a 90% success rate. IF the size is wrong, you can exchange them.
- Understand ghillie sizing. If you use your US street shoe size to order ghillies, they are going to be way too big. All of the quality ghillies are sized in Irish (UK) sizes. The US to Irish conversion is not consistent – it changes as you move into the small youth sizes – but a general rule of thumb is subtract 2 sizes from your US size to get your UK size. The UK size will sometimes be listed inside the tongue of your sneakers.
- Understand how ghillies should fit. We like to say that street shoes fit your feet like mittens fit your hands and ghillies should fit your feet like gloves fit your hands. Quality ghillies (the only type we sell), are made of leather which stretches when exposed to heat and moisture (think hot, sweaty dancing feet). If you don’t take stretching into account when purchasing your ghillies, you will soon have soft shoes that are too big. While a little growing room might be desirable in street shoes, it can be dangerous in dance shoes. Shoes that are too big can cause the dancer to trip or roll an ankle. Shoes that fit help avoid injury. When you get brand new ghillies, your toes should be touching the front of the shoe. When you point your toes there should be no visible gaps between the toes and the front of the shoe. It is not uncommon to have the big toe slightly bent in brand new ghillies. With just 10-15 minutes of wear a day, the shoes should fit perfectly in a week or two. You have a little leeway with young beginner dancers who are still growing rapidly and are not doing complicated dance steps yet, but half a size larger is the most you should ever consider. Don’t be surprised if your dancer’s ghillie size decreases as she improves. The better she points, the more her foot will draw up into an arch, and the smaller her ghillie will need to be. Dancers should NEVER wear ghillies that are so small that the joint between the big toes and foot is bent. This can cause serious injury.
- Put your ghillies on properly. How you put your ghillies on will affect the fit a lot! When you first get your ghillies, you will notice both shoes are exactly the same. You will need to mold them to your feet. Use a permanent marker on the insole of the shoe to mark and L and and R. Make sure you put each shoe on the same foot each time you wear them. Pretty soon you will be able to tell which ghillie goes on which foot by looking at them. While you’re at it, write your name inside each shoe. They all look the same at dance class and many stories can be told of dancers coming homw with extra or missing dance shoes. To put your ghillies on, loosen the laces a lot through the entire length of the shoe. Put your foot fully inside and adjust the shoe so the front inside tab is covering the knuckle of your big toe. Your shoes should be just slightly turned to the outside. (Pro Tip: This improves the appearance of the dancer’s turnout!) Hold the shoe in place at the sides and begin tightening the laces from the front to the back, one tab at a time. Resist the urge to just grab the ends of the laces and pull. That’s how tabs get torn. Make sure you use all of the tabs, loops, and eyelets. They each serve a purpose to keep the shoe pulled closely to the foot without gapping. Once the shoe laces are snug, tie a half knot on top your foor (like you are starting the bow on your sneaker laces). This will keep your laces snug. Next, wrap the extra length around your instep or ankle, or a combination. Your teacher may have a preference. Most schools leave it up to the dancer. The excess lace should just be smoothly wrapped. Do NOT pull the laces tightly around your instep. You could injure your tendons. Tie your laces in a bow or know. Make sure you don’t have big “rabbit ear” loops. They are distracting and can cause you to trip. You can tuck the bow under the laces or into the side or your shoe to secure it. With time and experimenting, you will find what works best for you.
If you need assistance with shoe sizing, or have more questions, email email@example.com or call 240-997-4583. We’ll be happy to help!