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Complementary Yet Unique

Irish Dance traditionally encompasses two shoe styles: light shoe and heavy shoe (also called soft shoe and hard shoe). Each style is complementary, yet unique. At OIDA, we start students off learning a little bit of both shoe styles, and then students can choose to focus on one or both, depending on what catches their interest most!


Light Shoe and Heavy Shoe


Light Shoe is an elegant but energetic style of Irish dance with big lifts, kicks, and jumps that require strength and control. It is often compared to ballet as it makes no sound and trains similar technique such as turn out, crossing, extension, and pointing. Over time, a dancer learns four dances in their light shoe: Reel, Single Jig, Light Jig, and Slip Jig. Each dance has its own tempo and rhythm and a different set of moves and patterns. Light shoe will builds strength and control, teaches elegance and flow, and will get your dancer jumping, moving, spinning, and kicking!

Heavy Shoe is a powerful, percussive style of Irish dance made up of intricate rhythm and explosive, athletic movements. Often compared to tap dance, it makes sound with the shoe's tip and heel and has much of the same technique. A dancer learns 4 dances in their heavy shoe: Treble Reel, Hornpipe, Heavy Jig, and a Traditional Set. Each dance has its own tempo and rhythm and a different set of moves and patterns. Heavy shoe builds speed, power, precision, and control which explains why Michael Flatley, the most famous Irish dancer of all time, holds the Guinness World Record for taps at 35 taps per second!

Choose Light Shoe, Heavy Shoe, or Both!

It is up to you! Our program is designed so that a dancer can start out learning light shoe, heavy shoe, or both at once, and whatever they decide, our curriculum provides dancers with an equally beneficial start to Irish dancing. If your dancer has time in their weekly schedule, consider taking class twice per week! Attending twice a week provides more chances to learn and improve, aka even more fun!

Does my dancer need special Irish shoes?

No, we do not require the special Irish shoes. You can do your first few classes in just socks to get started, but then students need some kind of dance shoe, as the padding between the foot and floor will protect the foot from the repeated impact of all the jumps that come with dancing. If you already have ballet flats or jazz shoes at home, those work great to start learning light shoe, and if you already have tap shoes, those are great for learning heavy shoe.

Where do we buy dance shoes?

If you are looking to buy the Irish shoes, we require certain brands. First check with us to see if we have a used pair available for sale in your size in the studio. If we don't have your dancer's size, we'll help you order a new pair.  Need vegan options? We don't currently know of any vegan Irish dance shoes, but we have heard that some Irish shoe suppliers do hope to create vegan Irish shoes in the future. For now, the awesome local dance store The Leotard can help get you sized and sorted with vegan ballet, jazz, and/or tap shoes!

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