Pointe Shoes Buying Guide

Pointe shoes , or toe shoes , are a special type of footwear designed for ballet dancers for pointework. They give ballet  dancers the appearance of being weightless and mythical by having the ballerina dance on the very tips of her toes. Traditionally, females wear pointe shoes, although certain roles may call for a male to wear pointe shoes. 

Some Pointers

  • Do not buy your first pair of pointe shoes online. You absolutely need to find a shoe that fits you perfectly, or you risk serious injuries. Once you find the perfect style and size for your foot, feel free to enjoy the lower prices you'll find online.
  • Make sure you fully understand what starting pointework means. Not only will you be practicing for hours every day, but it is necessary to enroll in a pointe class. Pointe shoes are also on the pricey side, and beginners usually need to replace their pointe shoes every one to three months, while professionals may find their pointe shoes lasting only 20 minutes! Know that you are starting a very difficult area of dancing that will require extensive effort and a hefty wallet.
  • Talk to your pointe instructor. Every instructor will teach their classes slightly differently, so talk to your teacher to find out what type of pointe shoe she (or he) recommends.
  • Do your research first. Make sure you know how a pointe shoe should fit before blindly going to a fitting as if you were just buying sneakers .
  • Do some barre  exercises before buying any shoe. Sure, you think that pointe shoe feels comfortable, but will it give you enough support? Try doing some basic barre exercises and a few jumps before making your purchase.

Your Pointe Shoe Fitting

Try to get your teacher or an older, experienced ballet dancer to come to the fitting with you. If your teacher cannot come, ask him or her to recommend a fitter. Always ask what style of pointe shoe the teacher would recommend for her class. Ask how she would like the shoe to fit and what type of padding  to use. Make sure your nails are trimmed, but do not trim them the day of the fitting. Trim your nails a few days prior to your fitting. Expect your fitting to take a few hours, so go during a time when you won't be in a rush.

The Perfect Fit

Pointe shoes should fit on the tight side, but they shouldn't feel so tight that your toes are jammed into the box. Make sure you don't have lots of excess space to the sides of your toes either. If the shoe gapes on the sides when your feet are flat on the floor, they are probably too wide for your feet. If the box creases, however, then the shoe is most likely too narrow for your foot. Make sure your toes are not overlapping either. Since most ballet dancers are young, parents might encourage to buy a shoe a bit larger to allow room to grow. With pointe shoes, however, this is a major mistake. The shoes should fit perfectly, or the student will risk serious injuries.

The next step to ensuring you buy a the perfect fit is to go into second position and do a plie. The tips of your toes should barely touch the inside of the box. Then put one foot up in a pointe position (as if going up on pointe) with the other foot still flat on the floor and no weight on the pointed foot. If the pointed foot slides too much into the shoe, the shoe is too wide for your foot. If the foot seems to be arching out of the shoe, then look into a shoe with a higher vamp.

The final step is to select the colour of the pointe shoes and the ribbons . Your teacher will probably have a specific colour in mind, so make sure you ask her prior to the fitting. Thicker ribbons are best because they offer more support, but often the thickest sizes look ridiculous on young dancers with small feet and legs. Thin ribbons usually make feet appear smaller and more graceful, so look for the a ribbon that is thin enough to add grace to your feet but thick enough to give you plenty of support. If your teacher recommends it, also select your elastic . Make sure enough of the elastic is cut. Sometimes, in shoes that do not have a drawstring, it is necessary to cross the elastics, meaning you'll need more. If the elastic is to be placed across the top of the foot, buy a wide elastic. If the elastic is to be sewn on the heel of the shoe, you'll need a thin elastic.

Before you practice, wear in or sew anything on your shoes, take them in to your teacher and make sure she approves! Pointe shoes can usually be returned (though it be best to ask about this at the store before making your purchase) if there are no signs of the shoes being worn or customized in any way. Teachers are known to be quite picky about the type of pointe shoes needed in their class, so make sure you try on the shoes in front of your teacher and she approves of the style, size and fit of the shoes.

Features to Consider

  • Shank Strength
    • Unless you have very strong feet, a medium shank will suffice.
    • For practice and class always go for a lighter shank so that you can practice rolling through your feet and feeling the floor.
    • For rehearsal, get a strong shank so that it holds up longer.
  • Vamp Shape and Length
    • Shape is usually coined as U- or V-styles.
    • This is a matter of comfort, personal preference and aesthetics.
    • People with shorter toes will usually want 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 will probably prefer split-soles because they hug the arch of the foot to create a more aesthetically pleasing line.
    • Split-soles are much more flexible and allow for more 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 to comfort.
  • Canvas or Satin
    • Satin shoes  are the most common.
    • Satin is shiny and pretty and can be powdered to reduce sheen for performance, if needed.
    • Usually satin is very slippery so you may want to cut off the material on the toe for practice and rehearsal.
    • Canvas shoes  are less common and usually not good for performance (the costume department or the ballet mistress will let you know of course).
    • Canvas is good for rehearsal and practice.
    • A typically canvas brand is Sansha .

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