Dance Shoes - En Pointe !

by Danielle Hernandez on March 13, 2018

A Brief History of Pointe

If there is one thing that is iconic and representative of the ballet dance form, it is the en pointe technique.

Pointe technique, a part of classical ballet technique that concerns pointe work, is a technique in which a ballet dancer supports all body weight on the tips of fully extended feet.

A fully extended vertical foot that is not bearing weight is also said to be en pointe when touching the floor.

Everything About Pointe Shoes

Pointe technique came into being as female dancers wanted to appear weightless and sylph-like, almost magical. Pointe work is most often performed by women although both men and women are both capable of pointe work.

The en pointe technique requires extensive training and practice as strength and technique are prerequisites. Factors such as age, experience, mechanical strength, and alignment are considered when deciding whether to allow a dancer to begin pointe work.

Pointe Shoes - A Fine Balance Between Delicate Design And Complex Engineering

Pointe work is performed while wearing pointe shoes, which employ structural reinforcing to distribute the dancer's weight load throughout the foot, thus reducing the load on the toes enough to enable the dancer to support all body weight on fully vertical feet.

A ballerina’s relationship with her shoes is very personal. Just as no two dancers are identical, no two pairs of pointe shoes are alike. Every dancer has different feet, with variations that include toe length and shape, arch flexibility, and mechanical strength and to cater to this, the process of making pointe shoes is intricate and involved. Read on to understand the different parts of a pointe shoe.

Parts of a Pointe Shoe

Pointe shoes are available in many different shapes and styles and cater to different types of feet. Even though many variations exist between each pair of pointe shoes, the basic construction remains similar. Here is a quick view of the parts of the pointe shoe.

Box - Making up the front part of the shoe, the box encases the dancer's toes. Being flat, it forms a platform for the dancer to stand and balance. Usually made of layers of paper and fabrics stiffened with glue(the box of some brands are made of plastic) it's exterior is usually encased in fabric like satin.

Parts of Pointe Shoes

ShankSupporting the dancer's foot area is the shank. It brings to the sole a degree of stiffness that helps create the perfect arch. Stiffer shanks are worn by dancers with weaker feet while dancers with stronger feet wear shoes with softer shanks.

Vamp - The part of the pointe shoe that covers the top of the toes is the vamp. Extending from the drawstring to the platform of the box, the length of the vamp is critical in obtaining perfect fitting pointe shoes. Usually, the length of the dancer's toes determines the vamp length.

Platform - The flat tip of the box that the dancer balances all of her weight on is known as the platform. The size of the platform depends on individual dancers' preferences.  The platform is sometimes darned to protect the satin tips and also provide more traction.

SoleThe sole is at the bottom of the shoe; a narrow piece of leather which is pasted on and then stitched around the edges for additional strength. To keep it out of sight, the sole is cut thinner than the bottom of the shoe. Some dancers create extra traction by scoring the soles with sharp instruments. 

HeelEncasing the back of the dancer's foot, the heel ensures the shoe remains on the dancer's foot. The heel should not be so high that the satin of the heel wrinkles.

Getting a Custom Fit

Depending on a dancer's experience and skill level, a pointe shoe can last between two to 12 hours of rigorous training. A professional ballerina, for instance, goes through 100 and 120 pointe shoes per year. To eliminate the risk of injury, it is imperative that the shoes fit precisely.

Since every dancer's feet are unique, and there are other factors like the style of dance, dancer's experience level that make a difference to how a shoe should fit,  finding the perfect pointe shoes could mean some trial and error initially. Pointe shoes fitted professionally will eliminate the risk of injury while maximizing your potential as a dancer.

Custom Fit Pointe Shoes

The selection of shoes is subject to various factors such as need and preferences and where possible, a shop or a boutique offering custom fits and expert advice should always be availed and especially so for beginner pointe ballet dancers.

In a fitting, the fitter will determine the shape of your and make notes of the height and width of your feet, the arch etc. The dancer will be asked to try on several pairs of shoes and also show simple positions like eleve and plie. These positions will show how the feet are faring in the shoes and enable course correction.

Preparing your feet is just as important as having custom fitted pointe shoes. Dancers use a variety of accessories such as toe tape, toe wraps, toe stabilizers, lamb's wool, space packs and gel pads to keep their toes from getting damaged. Pointe shoe pads come in the form of gel pads and lamb’s wool among others. I consider lamb’s wool to be the perfect padding because it can be shaped and molded to each individual dancer’s foot.

Caring for Your Pointe Shoes

Most pointe shoes cost between 85-100$ and require a lot of love, care, and attention to ensure their longevity. Here are few tips to extend the life of your pointe shoes.

Keep pointe shoes dry - Humidity and dampness are a pointe shoe's worst enemies so a dancer should always remove any protection or padding from inside their pointe shoes after wear. Instead of stuffing sweaty pointe shoes deep into your dance bag after class, try tying them to the outside of the bag instead or even placing them in a mesh bag for air circulation.

Care Tips for Pointe Shoes

Apply pointe shoe hardener - Dancers can apply thin coats of pointe shoe hardener or other liquids like shellac to moisture absorption. Cover the outside and inside of the toe box, both sides of the shank and the pleats and seams with the shoe hardener. Pointe shoes should be allowed to dry completely before wearing them.

Alternate pointe shoes - Purchasing two pairs of pointe shoes will extend the life of both pairs. Wear them alternately and allow each pair time to dry. If you wear pointe shoes that are even slightly damp, the glue will never get a chance to dry completely, causing the shoe to disintegrate much more quickly. Also, where a dancer has a tendency to roll or if one foot is more flexible or stronger than the other, moving the pair of shoes from one foot to the other can help in an even wearing out.

Clean regularly - To clean your pointe shoes and eliminate visible stains, use a wet cloth and rub gently. Remember to regularly waterproof your pointe shoes to avoid getting them dirty

Revive dead shoes - Considering the cost of ballet pointe shoes, it makes sense to revive a pair that seems like it can be discarded. Use a pointe shoe glue like Daniel's pointe shoe glue which is specially designed to repair, restore, and renew dead pointe shoes. This extremely strong yet light and flexible glue immediately repairs and hardens a weakened area of the shoe.

The Latest on Pointe Shoes

The basic design of pointe shoes has remained the same over the past 200 years. Thanks to recent technological advances, dancers now have options (in both shoes and associated accessories) that do a brilliant job of protecting a dancer's feet- her most valuable asset.

One of the most significant changes in the pointe shoe is a revolutionary innovation of the shank designed by Gaynor Minden. The shoes come with a lifetime guarantee as the manufacturer was so confident in their flexible patent technology.

Latest Information on Pointe Shoes

Grishko's most popular model, 2007 is a Russian-made pointe shoe and has the amazing ability to fit a variety of feet. With a beautiful, sleek appearance, its anatomical form is designed to relieve pressure on the big toe joint, based on targeted studies of foot shape and pointework dynamics. 2007 is lightweight, supportive and comfortable, with a somewhat tapered box and medium platform, supportive yet non-constrictive

In the recent past, Bloch has produced a beautiful pointe shoe, called the Bloch European Balance Pointe Shoe. The heel seam cushion reduces material creasing and maintains the perfect line of the foot when en pointe. The wide toe box acts as a strong platform for balancing while a low profile gives the ideal continuation of the leg line and elastic binding for improved fit.

For a wide range of pointe shoes, pointe shoe accessories and professional pointe shoe fitting, contact the experienced team at On 1 Dancewear store. You can even book a shoe or dancewear fitting appointment by filling out the contact form online.


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