Pointe Shoe Guide
Pointe Shoe Guide
A dancer’s love affair with her pointe shoes, though it may seem silly to an outsider, is very real. Every dancer’s reputation depends on her shoes never letting her down. They must help her balance and allow her to roll up with ease and down with control. In the decade since Pointe debuted, manufacturers have addressed many pointe shoe challenges. Now dancers can spend a little more time focusing on their technique instead of worrying about their shoes.
Challenge: So much time spent breaking in shoes
Solutions: Bloch has updated the paste they use in their Axis and B-Morph shoes with a formula called TMT technology. It accelerates the break-in process, allowing the dancer to mold the shoes to the contours of her foot. This spring, Capezio introduced Simone, which uses a new paste formula that forms to the foot quickly without sacrificing longevity.
Challenge: Short life span
Solutions: In 1993, Gaynor Minden began to explore how space-age technology could produce a longer-lasting shoe. In the past 10 years, the company has reformulated its elastomeric shanks and boxes to accommodate a greater range of foot types with more options like shank strength, vamp length and heel width.
The recently patented Flyte pointe shoe by Inspire has a shank made of polymer compounds of varying strengths, giving it both rigidity and flexibility. The use of polymers means that the shank will last up to five times longer than a traditional shoe. It is made of three separate components: box, shank and a removable outer shoe that can be replaced without the need for an entirely new pair.
Bloch’s Axis and B-Morph shoes have a curved composite insole, made of materials that make it virtually unbreakable.
Challenge: Finding the right fit
Solutions: The Heel Ovals Kit from Prima Soft includes hypoallergenic pads that can be used as heel grips or to prevent narrow heels from twisting in the shoe. Their Make It Fit Kit helps dancers who have one foot that is bigger than the other. Gaynor Minden has introduced wafer-thin removable urethane liners that expand and contract to prevent the dancer from sliding in the box. They also designed a Sleekfit option for feet that are broad at the metatarsal and narrow in the heel.
Challenge: Noisy shoes
Solutions: The new Jewels Collection by Russian Pointe uses less fabric, making the shoes lighter and quieter. Grishko’s new model, Miracle, has an insert that absorbs sound. The “Whisper-Toe” of Sansha’s Gloria 601 uses a piece of PORON, a high-quality shock-absorbing material that makes the shoe almost inaudible.
Challenge: Sweaty, blistered toes
Solutions: Grishko’s Miracle model has medicinal silver nanoparticles in the insole and box that act as natural antiseptics and protect the skin from injuries like blisters. Capezio’s Aria shoe has a So Suede lining that absorbs moisture, reducing foot odor and retarding mildew and fungus growth.
Challenge: Constantly changing needs
Solutions: Working closely with professional dancers, Freed of London tracks changes in choreography and shoe requirements. Their latest introduction, the Classic Pro, is handmade with the traditional “turn shoe” method (making the shoe from the inside out), but it also incorporates the latest techniques to create a truly modern shoe. The platform is banged out by hand, there is flexibility at the demi-pointe and a graduated insole.
Challenge: The difficulty of dancing on pointe!
Solutions: Prima Soft’s new En l’air is designed for dancers with tight ankles and feet. It has flexibility points that enable the dancer to roll through the shoe but also receive proper support.
Expectations for the Future
As choreographic and technical demands increase, pointe shoes must evolve to meet dancers’ needs. Considering the advances in the past 10 years, what will the next decade hold? A shoe that makes dancing effortless? One can only hope.
Janice Barringer is the author of The Pointe Book and On Pointe.
Pointe Shoe Evolution: In Search of the Magic Slippers
Since the pointe shoe first appeared, the idyllic image of a dancer perched on delicate slippers covered in pink satin has captivated audiences and tantalized young dancers. Though the pointe shoe’s image hasn’t changed much, the past decade alone has brought numerous advances. As Prima Soft Vice President Marlena Juniman notes, “There is no such thing as a magic shoe,” but with dancers demanding longer-lasting, better-fitting shoes, manufacturers have developed a host of alternatives to the original paste-and-cardboard creation. Check out these 21 pointe shoe manufacturers for their latest updates.
Capezio/Ballet Makers, Inc.
Freed of London, Ltd.
Principal Chan Hon Goh, Inc.
Break-in Tips and Techniques
By Rebecca Breau
Despite the leaps and bounds pointe shoe manufacturers have made in the past decade, most dancers still spend hours breaking in their shoes to fit the unique needs of their feet. There are many factors to consider, such as the size, shape, plus the strengths and weaknesses of the feet, as well as personal preferences. It can take a lot of trial and error to figure out which customizations work best. Some dancers end up finding their shoes don’t need any breaking in at all. Here is a look at the break-in rituals of three professionals.
Kansas City Ballet
Shoe: Freed of London Wing Block
Padding: Paper towel—it’s quick and convenient. And it’s consistent, because you always start with a fresh sheet.
Techniques: I step on the box and bend the shank. Next I hammer the shank right at the ball of the foot so that it shapes to my demi-pointe. Then I glue the shank there with Jet Glue.
How It Helps: I form my shoes specifically for each performance so that every shoe is customized to what I am doing at the time. For balancing and turning, like in a pas de deux, I need a harder shoe. Contemporary requires something more organic—the shoe should play less of a role and be softer.
Dream Shoe: A shoe that doesn’t hurt your toes would be great!
Anne Marie Melendez
Shoe: Sansha 202S
Padding: None. I just tape three toes on each foot and use a jelly toe cover when I bruise or crack a toenail.
Techniques: First I take the staples/nails out of the shank. Then I use a small amount of rubbing alcohol to soften the shank, and cut nearly half of it out. I cut the satin off the tip and scratch the bottom with a pair of scissors. I step on the box and put a little rubbing alcohol at the widest part. It dries quickly but helps the box mold to my wide feet.
How It Helps: My foot bends right in the middle, so if a shank is too high for me, it will eventually just buckle and bulge at the bottom. By cutting it so low, the remaining shank gives me more support in the long run.
Dream Shoe: I feel like Sansha and I have grown up together. We’ve seen each other through a lot of changes, a lot of ballets and a couple of shoe sizes. I just wish I could special-order some of my customizations.
Kansas City Ballet
Shoe: Freed of London J maker
Padding: I wear masking tape on most of my toes and thin lamb’s wool toe pads. Sometimes I wear spacers to help prevent corns.
Techniques: I lay them flat on the floor and stand on top of the box to flatten them out. Then I flip them and repeat this process. I take them to a corner or a barre and try to pop the shank close to the toe. My shoes come customized with a three-quarter shank, but I cut them down a little further. On the outside of the sole, I cut a little hole at the ball of the foot to help them curve better.
How It Helps: When I first began pointe work, I barely broke my shoes in—I just sort of bent them. As I became more exposed to different techniques, I worked out a method that was just right for me. Now the initial break-in process is the same no matter what.
Dream Shoe: It can be hard to find your balance just standing on flat-foot when you are wearing pointe shoes. If there were a way to have a very thin but very strong shank, so you could feel like you were standing on your whole foot, it would be very helpful.
You can pick and choose from these dancers’ tips, but the technique you use must be your own. Whether you bend, bind, darn, cut, shave, strip or super-glue, breaking in a new pair of pointe shoes is its own art, always molding itself to fit the next generation of dancers.