with CAITLIN BUCK, Feis America contributor

Last fall, I wrote about at-home exercises for Irish dancers who suffer from flat feet and low arches, and how tightly lacing your soft shoes can actually cause more harm than good to them.

Suffering from the same problem? Not only should you rethink the type of Irish dance shoes you buy, my doctor told me to just throw away my flip flops and steer clear of any footwear that had a flat bottom, replacing them with shoes, like good running sneakers, that support my arches.

This is a hard pill to swallow!  Most dancers are creative at heart, and enjoy fashion, shoes and accessories.  But if you want to dance for the rest of your life, or a good while longer, you have to take care of your feet.  No question.

Heather Robson from LiveStrong.com says: "When you have flat feet, you tend to put more stress on the insides of your feet. To compensate, you want to select a tennis shoe that offers some additional stability for the inside of the foot. You may also have good luck with a shoe that uses a mid-cut design. The higher ankle support can help compensate for your feet's tendency to roll to the inside."

Based on my conversation with other dancers of all ages, my doctor's advice and my own experience here are two main points:

First, wear supportive tennis shoes whenever possible when you dance--especially when doing repetitive leaps.  Let your dance teacher know you would like to wear dance sneakers in class for drills and steps whenever possible.  Save wearing your ghillies and hard shoes for critique time.  This becomes more important the more you are practicing weekly; if you have to add a class or hours to your practicing routine as a major competition or performance gets closer, moderate the time you actually spend in your Irish dance shoes.

Artist flats in a variety of colors are stylish, supportive
and for every pair purchased, Tom's donates a pair to a needy child.
Courtesy www.Toms.com

Second, wear supportive shoes daily to school or work. There are many tennis shoes out there with style! I’ve recently fallen in love with Toms. They are cute, offer support and work towards a good cause.
Read more:

Irish dancing through illness or injury

Neck stretches for Irish dancers - health tips and warm-ups

Motivation to practice Irish dance during the school year

So what kind of Irish dance shoes should you look into if you have flat feet and low arches? These leading vendors gave me their top recommendations.  Fay’s Shoes recommends Celtic Choice soft shoes. They have a built-in arch for superb points. Corr’s Irish Shoes recommends the Wild Irish Ghillie. It’s their new soft shoe with a modern design to emphasize the dancer’s arch in every way.
Rutherford Irish Dancing Shoes recommends the Cavan pump, a split sole that offers arch and toe point construction, and their black suede sole flexi for jig shoes.

What are your favorite pair of supportive Irish dancing shoes?  What have you found that is stylish and supportive for street shoes or sneakers?  Please share in the comments below.