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Pointe Shoe 101: Ask Our Pointe Shoe Experts

Do I need an appointment for a pointe shoe fitting?

No, you do not need an appointment for a pointe shoe fitting at the Dancewear Centre. There will always be a professionally trained pointe shoe fitter on hand to conduct the fitting. We do ask that you please arrive at least 30 minutes before closing to ensure enough time for a proper fitting, especially if it is your first fitting. Fitting times will vary in length but anticipate spending up to 30 minutes to ensure you find the right pair of pointe shoes.

What is the right age to begin pointe work?

It is important that dancers first develop the necessary strength to support themselves in pointe shoes. Without the necessary strength and technique, pointe shoes become quite dangerous. Most dancers who have been training since a young age do not start pointe work until the age of 10 – 12. Dancers who have started their training later may take longer to develop the proper technique and strength, and should be patient. Your teacher will always be the best source to determine if a dancer is ready for pointe work. Dancers also must have the technical ability to maintain proper alignment while working in pointe shoes. Attempting pointe work without proper strength and technique or before bones have fully formed can lead to many serious injuries and the development of bad habits. Demi pointe shoes and stretch bands are a great tool for young dancers to strengthen and develop the necessary muscles to progress into pointe work.

Are My Pointe Shoes Fitting Correctly?

It is important to make sure pointe shoes are always fitting correctly to ensure that you are supported and safe while dancing. Follow these simple steps to check the fit on your new shoes.

Getting Started

Find a place near a mirror where you can see your feet. Stand only on a clean surface to protect the satin of the shoes. Gently loosen the drawstring of the pointe shoes so it moves freely inside its casing. Put on your pointe shoes and adjust the drawstrings and tie them in a shoelace knot. Make sure to try your pointe shoes on with all of the padding products and dance tights that will be used while dancing in them. It will be best to try them on with the support of a barre, and easy access to a mirror to help see your feet.

Check Width & Profile

Standing in second position, take a deep plié. In plié make sure you can feel all your toes sitting flat in the shoes. Bending down, insert your finger into the top of the shoe over your toes. You should only be able to get the tip of your finger inside the shoe. If your finger goes in easily, the width and profile is too wide. If you can’t fit your finger in at all, and see your foot “puffing” up over the top of the shoe, the shoe is too narrow. It is important to have the correct width in order for the foot to sit properly in the shoe en pointe. It is also good to remember pointe shoes get wider as they break in. So it is important to have them as fitted as possible without being too tight.

Check the Wings

Drag your finger inside the top of shoe along to your pinky toe. Here you will be able to feel where the stiff wing of the shoe ends on your foot. For a proper wing fit, your pinky toe metatarsal should be entirely encased in the wing. If the wing is ending before or cutting into the pinky metatarsal joint, the wing is too short to support the foot properly.

Check the Length

From your pinky toe joint, continue dragging your finger, inside the shoe, along the outside of the foot towards your heel. In a proper length you should only be able to get your finger in the small space between your ankle joint and heel. If you are able to drag your finger all the way around your heel, the shoe is too long. Standing in second you should also feel your toes all the way to the end of the shoe and touching. Your toes should steel feel straight.

Check the Shank

Standing parallel with your feet together, press one foot up en pointe, making sure to press correctly through the ankle. Next roll the heel of the shoe down and off your foot, so your heel is exposed. Bend down and check that the shank (the end of the sole) is ending in line with or lower than your heel. If the shank extends pass your heel, the shoes are too long.

Check for Twisting

Now stepping up onto both feet, feel if the shank stays in line with the center of your foot, or if it twists off to one side. The right fit will stay centered and aligned with your foot. If the shank is twisting, this indicates you may need a wider fit or longer wings.

Check the Support

Standing parallel with your feet together, press up through both feet to en pointe. Carefully repeat this step in parallel and in first position being mindful of feeling for any movement in the shoes. You should feel lifted and supported on all sides on the shoe. There should be no sliding or “sinking” down into the shoe as you roll up onto pointe.

Show Your Dance Teacher

It is always a good idea to show your pointe shoes to your dance teacher for approval on fit before sewing ribbons and elastics.

Remember that pointe shoes are meant to be extremely fitted, and will become larger as they break in. Never sacrifice safety for comfort by wearing a shoe that is too large.

What should my new pointe shoes feel like?

Imagine Cinderella’s glass slipper, a perfect fit. Pointe shoes should feel snug and fitted all around your foot. The dancer should feel their toes touching the edge of the shoe, but still be able to wiggle their toes slightly inside the box. Standing in second position in demi-plie the big toe should feel all the way to the end, but not bent or curled in anyway. Remember pointe shoes will not feel roomy and comfortable like everyday street shoes. When en pointe, the dancer should feel lifted and supported. There should be no sliding or sinking down into the bottom of the shoe while en pointe. If the dancer is sliding or sinking down into their shoes, a check in the width and shape of the box may be needed.

Can I buy my pointe shoes with room to grow?

It is very dangerous for dancers to wear pointe shoes that are too big or have room for growth. In order for a dancer to work successfully in pointe shoes, they must be very fitted to the dancer's foot to support the foot properly. Any extra space allows the dancer's foot to shift and move inside the shoes. This movement can cause many injuries such as blisters, calluses, strained tendons and ligaments, bruised toenails and even broken bones. Also, a dancer in shoes that are too large will develop bad habits to compensate for insufficient support. Habits like these can take months or even years to correct, as the dancer has to retrain the muscle to the correct alignment.

Is there a left or right foot?

There is no designated left or right foot for new pointe shoes. Similar to soft ballet shoes, pointe shoes will gradually mold and shape to your feet, creating a left and right foot. It is important to label your shoes once worn to keep them on the correct foot.

How do I break in my new pointe shoes?

The absolute best way to break in your pointe shoes is by wearing them. You want your pointe shoes to break in to the exact shape of your foot, and not where it was bent with hands. Bending and breaking the shoes in the wrong spot will damage the shoe and not allow it to work properly. Improper ways of breaking in pointe shoes include, taking a hammer to them, slamming them in a door, and improperly bending them with your hands. If you are having a hard time breaking in the box, you can use a small amount of water or rubbing alcohol on a paper towel and dab it across the top of the box where the metatarsals bend. Depending on the dancer’s strength it can take a few classes for the shoes to fully break in. Talk with your teacher for other tips for breaking in new shoes.

How can I make my pointe shoes last longer?

Pointe shoes aren’t meant to last forever, and the life of a shoe greatly depends on the dancer using them. To get the most life out of a pair of pointe shoes it is very important to make sure to leave them somewhere they can dry thoroughly after each wear. Never place freshly worn shoes in any type of bag (mesh or not), and never leave any padding inside the shoe. This keeps the moisture in the shoes and allows the natural materials to break down faster. A great way to extend the life of your shoes is to have two pairs of shoes to alternate between for classes and rehearsals. This will allow the other pair to dry completely, therefore not forcing the materials to break down quite as fast. You can also purchase items like Jet Glue that help prolong the life of pointe shoes. But remember Jet Glue is not an everlasting fix for dead shoes, and new shoes should be purchased when necessary to prevent injury from insufficient support.

How do I protect my feet in my pointe shoes?

Having the proper padding and protection is very important when wearing your pointe shoes. Padding can significantly change the size needed in your shoes, therefore you should always be chosen before a fitting. Ideally you want to have as minimal padding as you are comfortable with. Too much padding fills up the box and does not allow you to feel the floor properly in your shoes. Another thing to keep in mind is excessive padding will become compressed as you dance, meaning the longer you dance, the more compressed the padding will become, creating extra space and movement in the shoe. It is not uncommon for excessive padding to cause more problems (such as blisters) then they fix. Toe pads come in a variety of styles including thin fabric covered gels, thick silicone, foam, and lamb's wool. We recommend dancers use the fabric covered gel pads or ouch pouches. These pads provide ample protection, but are not overly thick. There are also a number of accessories to help alleviate frequent sensitive or problem areas. If you are having problems with your padding or have questions we suggest you bring your shoes to the store or call in and talk with one our fitters to find the best solution for your feet.

How can I make my pointe shoes last longer?

Pointe shoes aren’t meant to last forever, and the life of a shoe greatly depends on the dancer using them. To get the most life out of a pair of pointe shoes it is very important to make sure to leave them somewhere they can dry thoroughly after each wear. Never place freshly worn shoes in any type of bag (mesh or not), and never leave any padding inside the shoe. This keeps the moisture in the shoes and allows the natural materials to break down faster. A great way to extend the life of your shoes is to have two pairs of shoes to alternate between for classes and rehearsals. This will allow the other pair to dry completely, therefore not forcing the materials to break down quite as fast. You can also purchase items like Jet Glue that help prolong the life of pointe shoes. But remember Jet Glue is not an everlasting fix for dead shoes, and new shoes should be purchased when necessary to prevent injury from insufficient support.

How do I know when its time for a new pair?

Unfortunately pointe shoes don’t last forever, and how long they last greatly depends on the dancer wearing them, but inevitably it will become time for a new pair. It is time for a new pair of shoes when you no longer feel supported in your shoes. You may feel your platform become soft and mushy and you may start “feeling the floor” under your toes a little bit more than you should. If you start falling too far over your shoe en pointe, and/or start feeling extra strain and tenderness in the muscles and ligaments on the top of your foot. Or finally if your shoe is as flat as a pancake on the floor, it may be time to purchase a new pair. Although wearing dead shoes may feel easier, and look appealing in the mirror, it is very unsafe and can cause serious injuries.

Should I always buy the same shoes?

No. As you grow, progress, and mature, so will your pointe shoe needs! A beginner student may need a more pliable shoe in order to start training and understand proper alignment, but as she becomes stronger she may require a different shoe entirely. Also as dancers tend to start pointe work in their preteen years, their feet are still growing and changing shape, and it’s important to keep your pointe shoe shape as close to your foot shape as possible. Finally, it’s never bad to try something new! Companies are constantly creating new styles and upgrading old ones. Our fitters are always happy to show you new styles in-store or answer any questions you may have about styles over the phone.