Pointe Shoe Fitting
Have you ever wondered how the ballet dancers in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker tiptoe so gracefully?
Pointe shoes are possibly the most essential part of a professional ballerina’s wardrobe. But what are pointe shoes, and how can you get fitted for them?
Take a read of our buyer’s guide to find out everything you need to know about wearing, buying and dancing in pointe shoes.
A brief bit of history
Believe it or not, ballet dancers would traditionally wear heels when performing. As ballet became more technically advanced, dancers and choreographers began to incorporate the ‘en pointe’ (standing on your toes) element into their work.
In the latter part of the 19th century, dancers began to modify their shoes by flattening the tops and padding them out with material, enabling them to move more freely on their toes. Thus, the pointe shoe was born. It would later be popularised by the hugely influential Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
Getting fitted for pointe shoes
Allow us to ‘pointe’ you in the right direction. Be in no doubt, pointe shoes are tricky to get right and can be confusing for beginners and first time wearers. If you have a dance teacher, we recommend seeking their advice and expertise.
However, not every teacher has the time to advise you on your first pair of pointe shoes. Many are often left to navigate the minefield that is choosing a pair of pointe shoes ourselves, but that’s where we come in.
First things first
It’s important to note than an ill-fitting pair of pointe shoes can seriously injure or damage your foot. Dancing en pointe can be very uncomfortable for beginners and extremely hard to master, but you shouldn’t feel intense pain every time you dance in your shoes.
Feet come in all shapes and sizes, big and small, wide or narrow. There are a number of types of toe configuration. Use our below guide to work out, which foot type most applies to you.
Egyptian – your toes tend to taper or angle down after your big toe
Square – your toes are more flat and do not angle to one side
Greek-tapered toe – your second toe is often slightly longer than your big toe, your toes then taper off.
If you’re having trouble working out your toe shape, consult a biology book of the human anatomy, or check out this brilliant guide.
If the shoes fits
Tapered, slightly tapered and square are the three main types of box (the end of the shoe) that manufacturers produce. Your toe and foot shape will determine which box you should go for. If your feet taper off, opt for a tapered box. If the tops of your feet are quite flat or straight, choose a square box. If you’re somewhere in the middle, choose a slightly tapered box.
You’ll hear a lot of jargon and terms you may not understand when it comes to pointe shoes. Here are a few simple definitions to the terms you may encounter…
Shank – the shank is the stiff piece of rigid material that supports the arch of your foot when you’re on your tiptoes.
Vamp – this is the front of the shoe. You should al ways make sure your feet fit snug in your pointe shoes, there shouldn’t be too much room between your foot and the top part of the shoe.
Width/length – when you tiptoe or dance en pointe, your foot naturally compresses and becomes narrower, whilst seemingly extending or getting longer. You should make sure that there is at least a ½ inch of material when pinching the heel end of your shoe to accommodate this.
When to buy a new pair
How often should I buy new pointe shoes? Is a question that regularly pops up. It really depends on your skill level and how often you wear your shoes. Professional dancers can wear at a pointe shoe quicker than you can say A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
The rule is to change your footwear before they become too soft and worn. Your shank shouldn’t lose its rigidity. If you can do, check with your dance teacher who will be able to advise you.
Where to buy
Here at dancewearcentral.co.uk, we stock products from both Grishko and Capezio, two well known and reputable manufactures of pointe shoes. Our range starts from £44.95 and can be viewed here, which makes things quick and simple when you already know your size. We strongly recommend you purchase your first pair of pointe shoes from a certified fitter in specialist dancewear shops. Contact them to make an appointment and check out their credentials.
Alternatively, if you’re just starting out and haven’t quite got started dancing en pointe, check out our brilliant range of ballet shoes and slippers.