If the Shoe Fits: A Quick Guide to Pointe Shoes

This week we’re looking at one of the focal points of ballet, pointe shoes.
One: How do I find the right pair of shoes?
This is a difficult question and one that many dancers toil with throughout their careers. Personally, I have tried 5 different brands of shoes and worn out close to 300 separate pairs of pointe shoes.

Pointe shoes are an essential ingredient to ballet. (Photo by Ballet Zaida)
Pointe shoes are an essential ingredient to ballet. (Photo by Ballet Zaida)

And while this might not be the case for every dancer, the answer to the questions can be found within in it. As your feet grow in strength and flexibility, they require different amounts of support, something that differs from brand to brand and from style to style within  brands.
Some of the best advice I was given was to keep trying new styles until I found a particular shoe that not only lasts for a long time, but that also completments the anatomy of my feet. Everyone is unique, so go into your local dance and ask for a pointe shoe fitting. This way you will be able to get a better picture of all of the options you have.

Two: How do I prep my shoes the right way?
There are roughly a million different ways to prepare pointe shoes, whether for rehearsals or shows and these are mainly techniques developed by individual dancers as they discover does and does not work for them. However, here are the methods that have proven most successful for me.
1) Details matter: Measure out you elastic and ribbons with your feet in your shoes. This will prevent a lot of headaches over re-sewing due to an error caused by sewing on too little elastic or setting up your ribbons in the wrong spot.
2) Sparks Fly: After measuring out and cutting your ribbon, use a lighter to melt the ends slightly to prevent fraying from occurring
3) Minty Fresh: Use dental floss instead of regular thread. It holds better and is cheaper than pre-packaged stitch kits.
4) Be Flexible: Try out Elastorib, this particular type of ribbon relieves achielles tendon tension.

Preparing your pointe shoes is just as important as finding the correct pair. (Photo by Jaclyn Younger
Preparing your pointe shoes is just as important as finding the correct pair. (Photo by Jaclyn Younger)

5) Be Supportive: If you have high arches (like me) try sewing on an additional piece of elastic that will run across the top of your foot. It takes a little bit longer to sew, but it worth it in the long run
6) Pattern Play: Sew your elastics in a box pattern and your ribbons in a straight line across the shoe. Both of these will prevent your sewing from coming undone.
7) Sticky Situation: Try putting jet glue (pointe shoe glue) in your shoes prior to dancing in them to increase longevity.
8) Double Check: Try on your shoes again after sewing them to make sure that everything fits as it should.

Remember to keep trying new shoes and techniques until something really works for you!
Check out this video on pointe shoes from the Austrailian Ballet!

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