When you think of ballet, you likely picture a beautiful swan princess balancing delicately on her toes. Professional ballerinas make it look so easy, it is no wonder that many young dancers are surprised by the amount of preparation and training they must go through before graduating to pointe. Then one day, after all that hard work, it happens. The dancer's dedication finally pays off and they get their instructor's blessing to try pointe at last! Next step - getting those shoes. But buying that first pair can be a surprise as well. Vamp shape? Shank strength? Toe box size? What is the right for a beginner and your individual foot? There are so many factors to consider and so many choices. Check out this guide for an introduction to finding the pointe shoe that fits.
"Pointers" for Beginners
* Children should not start working ''en pointe'' until at least age 11 because their feet have yet to stop growing.
* Before beginning pointe, a dancer must develop appropriate balance and strength in their legs and core to avoid injury.
* Undeveloped foot muscles and limited or improper technique can add to a dancer's chance of injury.
* So until they are ready, your child should stick to pairing ballet slippers with their tights and leotard.
* Putting extra pressure on sensitive foot bones can damage the bone structure and deform the foot.
* '''Never''' buy or wear pointe shoes until an instructor says it is time.
* Consult with the ballet instructor about what shoes would be best, if this is your first pair.
* '''Never''' buy shoes without trying them on first, and don't forget to have tights on hand when testing out different pairs.
The Right Fit for You
Pointe shoes, like the feet you put them on, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. With so many styles to choose from, the best idea is to get yourself into a store that offers a range of different pointe shoes by different manufacturers, before making any online purchases. While you're in the store try out different forms of padding as well, such as toe gels, foam pads, and wool. Be sure to wear tights when trying these various types of padding because some have a tendency to slip and move around when paired with tights, making them uncomfortable and causing you more pain than relief.
Ultimately you won't really know what works for you until you test them out. With a barre, try some ''relevés, élevés, échappés'', and a few small jumps. See which shoes are the easiest to roll through and balance on, which ones pinch, and which ones adapt most comfortably to the length of your toes versus the length of your foot. If you are a beginner think about buying a few different types of pointe shoes and testing them at various ballet classes, to see what you like best. Additionally, if you are a novice, as your feet change and grow and your technique develops, you will want to experiment with different features.
Features to Consider
* '''Shank Strength'''
** A soft shank may feel comfortable at first, but it won't sufficiently support a beginner's arch.
** Unless you have very strong feet, a medium shank will suffice.
** For class go for a lighter shank so that you can practice rolling through your feet and feeling the floor.
** For rehearsal and performance, get a strong shank so that it holds up longer.
* '''Vamp Shape and Length'''
** Shape is usually divided into U- or V-styles.
** This is a matter of comfort, personal preference and aesthetics.
** People with shorter toes tend to prefer a shorter vamp.
** Wide feet are slenderized with V-shaped vamps, but they may prove to be uncomfortable.
** U-shaped vamps are comfy especially if you have bunions.
* '''Full and Split-Sole Styles'''
** Split-sole pointe shoes are particularly new to the pointe shoe market.
** Advanced dancers often prefer split-soles because they hug the foot's arch to create a more aesthetically pleasing line.
** Split-soles are much more flexible and allow for increased control when rolling through the toes.
* '''Platform and Toe Box Size '''
** If you are a beginner, chances are that you will want a larger platform for balance.
** Toe box size varies from brand to brand. Choose according to the width of your foot (at the toes) and comfort.
* '''Canvas or Satin'''
** The most common, satin is shiny and pretty and can be powdered to reduce sheen for a performance.
** Usually satin is very slippery so you may want to cut off the material at the toe for practice and rehearsal.
** Canvas shoes are less common; they are good for rehearsal and practice, but less so for performance.
** A typically canvas brand is Sansha.