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 teach light shoe and heavy shoe separately when dancers start out, as there is so much to learn! Dancers choose one shoe type to learn or they can take class twice per week so they can learn both shoes simultaneously. 


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. A dancer will learn four dances in their light shoe class: 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 build strength and control while also teaching elegance and flow. Light shoe class will get your dancer jumping, moving, spinning, kicking, and learning how to control their body's movement.

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 class: 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, held 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 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. All the info is in our Handbook. Need vegan options? Our Irish shoe suppliers are in the process of creating vegan Irish shoes, but for now, the awesome local dance store The Leotard can help get you sized and sorted with vegan ballet, jazz, and/or tap shoes!