Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."
The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.
We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:
Roe says that the biggest complaint she hears from dancers when they try on stock shoes is that they get baggy around the heel when they go en pointe (also called a "disappearing heel"). Everyone's foot shortens a bit when you go up en pointe, but the more arched your feet are, the more bagginess there can be. "The stretch shoe allows the dancer to wear a stock shoe, put it on and go, and there is no bagginess," says Roe. And for dancers who wear toe pads, the fit of the Stretch Pointe makes it so that you won't have to compromise the fit in the heel to accommodate the pad with a slightly larger shoe.
Master teacher and shoe fitter Mary Carpenter says that Stretch Pointe fabric changes the way that you can fit the shoe. "They are fitting the shoe for how it looks en pointe and then the satin stretches when you come down to flat when the foot gets longer," she says.
The Stretch Pointe fabric gives your foot the cleanest line possible. "I love how streamlined the Stretch Pointe is," says Boylston. "It really molds to the silhouette of my foot and is super light." The tagline for Boylston's campaign—"All you. Powered by Stretch Pointe"—speaks to the shoe's unique ability to highlight the shape of the dancer's foot, while giving them unparalleled strength and support.
Three of the Stretch Pointe shoes feature the revolutionary relevéase shank, which contain laser precision scores, allowing the shank to flex so the dancer can access their strength to roll through demi pointe onto pointe seamlessly. "It's ingenious what they did," says Carpenter. "Mechanically it makes great sense." Once you're en pointe, the shank locks into place, offering full stability and support.
Plus, the shank is disconnected from the shoe at the heel to allow the insole and outsole to move independently from one another, giving the dancer even more mobility.
The suede heel
"Dancers often complain of the heels of their pointe shoes slipping off, and then they use rosin on their heels and start getting heel blisters," says Roe. The Stretch Pointe shoes come with a suede inner heel so that the material grips the heel better than a slippery muslin or jersey fabric would. The heel is also shock-absorbing, with extra padding to absorb impact.
The Stretch fabric also helps eliminate heel slipping because it allows the shoe to mold to the natural shape of the dancer's foot. "These shoes would be really good for a dancer with a narrow heel," says Carpenter. "They might be an E in the front and a C in the heel and there is just nothing that you can do about that."
The split outsole
Most Stretch Pointe shoes are designed with a split outsole. Carpenter explains that this is to allow the fabric to stretch correctly and really hug the shoe to the arch of the foot. "It doesn't affect the integrity of the shank," she says. "It gives a nice bend. It's not a break, but a cupping sensation under your arch."
Traditionalists may initially baulk at a split outsole, but the function it provides can't be beat. "You can't tell the difference on stage at all," says Roe.
For those dancers or teachers who feel strongly about a full outsole, Bloch developed a shoe with the Stretch Pointe technology and a full sole called Synthesis.
Want a chance to win a free pair? Dancers who get fitted for Stretch Pointe at their local pointe shoe retailer or the BLOCH flagship store and purchase a pair of shoes can post about them using the hashtag #StretchPointeWin to be entered to win another pair!