As a teenager, I'd spend hours at a time trying on pointe shoes at San Francisco Dancewear. The search for the perfect fit felt as elusive as Ponce de León's Fountain of Youth. I really had no concrete idea what I was looking for, other than something that made my feet look good and didn't hurt—too much.
This Saturday I went to The School at Steps' Pointe Shoe Workshop (which Pointe sponsored), and I learned a ton of great information I wish I'd known back then. My favorite part was pointe shoe fitter Mary Carpenter's list of five things to look for in a shoe:
1. Box Shape
The shape of the box depends on the shape of your toes. If you have a "peasant foot" where your first three toes are all about the same length, you'll want a square box. If you have "Greek foot" with a long second toe, you'll want a moderately tapered box. And if you have an "Egyptian foot" with a long first toe, you'll want the most tapered box.
Your pointe shoe should fit like a snug cast. When you demi plié (the position in which your foot is at its longest), you want to feel your toes hit the tip of the shoe without the satin digging into your heel at the back. Bonus tip: Get fit later in the day, when your feet are slightly bigger.
When you put on a shoe, there should be a straight line from your hip bone to your knee to the center of the shoe's elastic. You don't want the skin to bulge over the elastic, but you also shouldn't be able to put two fingers inside in the front above your toes.
Your feet shouldn't sink in the shoes, nor do you want your arch to go over too far forwards. The shoe should stay on your foot the entire time when you elevé to pointe.
Lastly, because this is ballet, it has to be beautiful. The shoe should look like it's part of your body, not some bulky thing hanging off the ends of your feet.
Keep an eye out for The School at Steps' upcoming Healthy Body Workshop on January 28, sponsored by Dance Spirit. For more, see stepsnyc.com