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The Shoes
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How often should you replace your hard shoes?

If your hard shoes are wearing out too quickly, what could be the problem? Is it you, the floor, or the shoes? We posed this question to Irish dance shoe expert Adrian Gavigan of Antonio Pacelli, and his response had us chuckling – “You are probably practising too much and therefore will end up a championship dancer!”

That might be true, and we love Adrian for saying that, but when you’re paying a pretty penny for jig shoes, you can’t be replacing them every couple of months. Thankfully Gavigan had a serious answer for us, saying that every dancer will wear out a pair of jigs shoes differently.

According to Gavigan, “there is a current trend towards more flexible dance shoes straight out of the box, and this does affect the life span of the shoe. Twenty years ago an Irish dance shoe was much more solid than today’s versions. They were very difficult to break in (ask your dance teacher about them!) but once they broke in they would last years and give great support. However today’s dancers do not want to endure the discomfort of breaking them in, hence the evolution of the dance shoe to current styles. The closest style to this hard wearing version is the Superflexi. It does have a more flexible sole than the style we were making years ago but still has a great balance of support, flexibility and value for money.”

Something Gavigan really wanted to highlight was the dangers of dancers putting tips on the Capezio Boys reel shoes as a way of avoiding breaking in hard shoes. Gavigan said that his team have been asked to do this by several dancers and they have refused. He says, “the Capezio reel shoe is not designed for tips and putting tips on a shoe which has NO structure is an accident waiting to happen. We have frequent conversations with dancers who have broken ankles and sustained long term injuries from wearing these types of shoes.” He goes on to note that some Irish dance organisations are banning them from next year.

If you’re a champ dancer who is hard on your shoes, it is worth considering going for a less flexible sole and spending the time breaking them in if you find that you are burning through flexi shoes quickly. Something else Gavigan advises is not dancing outside on concrete or on non dance floor surfaces. “If you perform regularly then keep an old pair for outdoor performances and exhibitions.”

In terms of the physical structure of the shoe, and how it wears out, how often should they be replaced? Gavigan says, “The best advice I can give, is to first listen to your body. When the shoe starts to break down it’s not supporting and protecting your foot, or the rest of your body, as well as it was when you first started. How do you know when breakdown is occurring in a shoe? Easy. Your body will tell you.”

“Nagging little niggles in the form of sore arches, shin pain, achy knees or other small annoyances will start to manifest themselves when you’re not getting the support and protection you once were from your shoes. These aren’t full-blown injuries, but rather persistent enough aches or pains that could very well turn into a larger problem if something (in many/most cases, footwear) isn’t addressed.”

If the structure of your shoe is still strong and comfortable but your tips are wearing down, Gavigan notes “Don’t forget that the major manufacturers also offer a repair and retipping service. So if your tips are wearing out or you need a small patch on the sole then you can increase the life of the shoe by returning it for repair.

How often do you replace your hard shoes? Do you have any advice for keeping them in good condition and lasting longer?

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