My last blog post was about making sure you were safe going onto pointe. Now I’m going to tell you how a pointe shoe should fit! There’s a lot behind going “en pointe” isn’t there?!
There are many many different shapes, widths, lengths and strengths of pointe shoes. This is to help suit all different types of feet. Some feet are very bendy and as such, they need more support. Some feet aren’t so bendy and need some help getting onto pointe so the shoe needs to be more flexible. Some dancers use pointe shoes for hours and hours every day, some dancers use them only for an hour per week. Because of all these different requirements, fitting pointe shoes can be a bit of a Cinderella type situation.
But first, let’s do some shoe anatomy.
Every part of a pointe shoe can be altered, changed and even personalised to suit your foot. It is so important that they fit correctly because if they don’t, they can cause blisters and bunions, pain in your toes and even put you off balance!
The “vamp” of the shoe helps keep the front of your foot upright. So for those with bendy feet, you would want a higher vamp so you don’t “fall” out of the front of the shoe. The “wing” is to help support your mid foot and to help distribute your body weight through the shoe so it’s not all falling on your toes. The higher the wings, the more support the foot has. The box is where most of your foot goes in. This changes the width of the shoe, so a wider box for wider feet. It can also be tapered for a slimmer foot or square shaped for wider, square type feet.
The “shank” determines how much “bend” is in the shoe. So again, for those with strong, super bendy feet you’d want a harder shank and for those that need a little more help, you may want a softer shank or even a 3⁄4 shank to help get you up onto the platform. There’s also a drawstring that runs around the shoe for a more secure fit.
Me personally, I have pretty bendy feet, high arches and would use my pointe shoes every day for a few hours at a time. This means I needed a stronger shank with a higher vamp and
to get the most out of my shoes, I would buy 2 pairs and rotate between them which would last me maybe 2-3 weeks. Pointe shoes are mostly made from wood and paper mache. So for those of you with sweaty feet and require your pointe shoes regularly, it’s best to get 2 pairs as the sweat can break down the glue if they aren’t dried out properly. Another tip dancer to dancer, DON’T LEAVE YOUR POINTE POUCHES IN YOUR SHOES. Pointe pouches look like the toe part of a sock and are a bit of padding you can put on your toes so going en pointe doesn’t hurt as much. Naturally, these become sweaty. Leaving them in your shoes can also cause the glue
to break down which can shorten the life of your pointe shoes, and for anyone that has bought pointe shoes, you know they aren’t cheap!
Now for the fitting!
When you go to get your pointe shoes fitted, the person fitting them should be qualified. As
you can imagine, there are a lot of variables to 1 pointe shoe alone. Here are some things
you should look for when you’re being fitted:
- When you do a plie (knee bend), the satin on the inside part of the shoe should not have any stretch or wrinkles in it. If there is a bit of puckering in the satin, it means the shoe is too short.
- You shouldn’t be able to put your fingers in the box of the shoe when in plie (knee bend). This means the box is too big and your foot is going to move around a lot
- When your foot is on the platform, the “shank” should be dead straight. There should be no twist in it. If there is a twist, it means the box is too narrow.
- There should be enough material in the back of the shoe around the drawstring for a slight pinch when your foot is on the platform. If there is no pinch, the shoe is too short and is going to really hurt your toes. Conversely, if there is too much of a pinch, the shoe is too long and you’ll be jamming your toes every time you go up onto the platform.
It is important to get fitted by a professional because if the shoe doesn’t fit properly, (like Cinderella’s sisters) it’s not going to be good for your feet!