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Irish Dance in the Real World, Uncategorized

Irish Dance in the “Real World” – Leather shoe stretching

A lot of the time we use real world fashions inspires Irish dance and is incorporated into our fashions. But the most exciting times for me are when we can use Irish dance in real world fashions! Whether it’s wearing ghillie inspired shoes or putting a flower in my hair, I love taking little bits from Irish dance and incorporating them into my daytime fashion.

This weekend I found a fantastically useful tidbit from Irish dance for my normal fashion – stretching out shoes! I managed to snag cute high heel sandals online for half price because they were almost sold out. Sadly, when they arrived they were a bit too small – enough to make it uncomfortable.

Luckily, like most Irish dancers, I always bought my soft shoes super small and stretched them out so they fit like a glove. I knew how to fix my cute shoes! I was prepared for a week of blisters and sore feet – all in the name of fashion.

Here’s a thread on dance.net about things people have tried to stretch Irish dance shoes. Most of it is directed towards hard shoes, but it works for soft shoes too! And, conveniently for me, it also works on high heel sandals!

The common methods:

1. Hot glove (following the directions on the can!) or baby oil to soften the leather.

2. Soaking shoes in water and wearing them around.

3. Using a blowdrier to warm up the leather and then manually stretching them.

And the most painful, but the most effective (in my opinion): 4. Just wear them with vigor. Constant toe stands, releves, anything to stretch out those shoes.

Because I wasn’t sure how the leather would react to more of the chemical methods (can’t just polish these shoes like my soft shoes!), I went with a combination of the blowdrying method and the wearing method. First, I blow dried the shoes with the hot setting and got the leather very hot. Then I stretched out the leather – forcefully but carefully, making sure not to damage the connections with the sole of the shoe. Because soft shoes are all one big piece of leather, essentially, being careful of the sole connections is a crucial difference between stretching out soft shoes and stretching normal shoes.  Getting the leather hot really did help the shoe stretch! I spent about five minutes blow drying and ten minutes stretching.

Then I tried on my shoes and, to my surprise, they really did fit much, much better. My arch didn’t murder me and my feet actually slid into the shoe! I walked around in them while the leather was still warm to really reinforce the stretch. I made sure to go up and down on my toe to break in that leather – just like I was stretching a pair of soft shoes. Rolling ankles, pulling my foot from side to side, other various foot movements to really emphasize that stretch.

After a day, the leather had unstretched a little bit, so I repeated the process and they fit better still. Slowly, but surely, it was working! I repeated it one more time for good luck on the third day and voila! Fit like a glove.

If the blowdrying method isn’t working for you, I’d take a stab at the water method. Instead of soaking the shoes completely in water, try dampening the inside of the leather. Then wear them for a bit to stretch them out! Make sure to test it out on a discrete area first just to make sure it doesn’t ruin the finish. Here’s a website and video to give you some more ideas on how to successfully stretch out a new pair of shoes without damaging them.

As for the shoes, here they are! Obsessed. Can’t wait to wear them this weekend! Thank god for painful years of breaking in shoes! I knew it would come in handy one day.

Have you ever used Irish dance stretching techniques on real shoes? How’d it work? How do you stretch out your soft shoes?

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