Top Tips For Making Pointe Pain-Free

by Danielle Hernandez on August 13, 2018


From correcting your technique to assessing your shoes for the best fit, here are 7 tips to making Pointe work more manageable and pain-free.

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.

Female Ballet dancers often have problems with their feet because of the Pointe work that they execute. Dancers train for many years to strengthen their ankles and legs so they are capable of withstanding the strain of balancing their entire weight on their toes but it does cause damage to dancers' feet, and more so to professional dancers. 

From black nails to corns to blisters, to fallen arches and strained muscles and ligaments, professional dancers endure a lot to be in their Pointe shoes. While Ballet companies provide their dancers with access to physiotherapists, podiatrists, and masseurs to deal with the various problems, dancers don't always follow the advice of medical professionals. Dancers attempt to treat themselves through techniques such as wrapping their feet and shoving old tights into the bottoms of their shoes. Others try bizarre harmful strategies that will get them through what they deem as urgent situations.

Making Pointe Work Less Painful

This article’s main contention is that it is possible for Pointe to be a manageable situation and make it relatively pain-free, especially for the beginner. With the following list of 7 ways to making Pointe pain-free, there is hope for all who are suffering while doing their Pointe work and for all those who are dreading beginning Pointe work!

1. Finding the Perfect Shoes

Finding the Perfect Pointe Shoes

Once your feet have stopped growing or developing, and you have found a shoe that is best suited for your needs, you have won half the battle. For all those who are considering buying Pointe shoes online, getting a perfect fit could be more critical than the convenience of shopping online. If you are still growing and developing, ensure you visit a specialty dancewear store and meet an experienced Pointe shoe fitter, who has access to a wide range of styles.

If you are strong, have well-fitting shoes, and are sensible with how long you are in the shoes, the pain will not be a handicap.

1) Shoes too tight / narrow - A properly fitted shoe will be firm around the front part of the foot, but not snug that it is squashing your toes in together too much.

2) Box too wide - on the other side, an excessively wide box will allow the foot to slide down into the box while en Pointe. This will put too much pressure on the toes.

3) Box too short - Too short a box can cut in under the big toe joint causing the formation of bunions. Ensuring the wings come up to the level of your big toe is essential.

4) Feet too weak -  Before starting Pointe work younger students need to learn how to correctly position the foot in the shoe, and control the line of the toes while in the shoe. Starting too soon can cause premature pain and damage to the growing and developing feet.

5) Rubbing of the box on your skin - Friction between your skin and the canvas of the lining of the shoe could result in blisters on the toes. Keep some sort of protection on any areas of pressure as soon as they begin, to avoid large blisters.

6) Shoes getting too soft - Padding in the shoe which is dampened with sweat should be taken out and shoes dried thoroughly between each use. The sweat may soften the glue of the box and soften it too much. This results in the foot not getting enough support and sturdiness and sinking down too far in the shoe and taking the strain in other areas. Hot Stuff or Jet Glue helps re-stiffen the middle of the shank to extend its life.

2. Get Yourself a Pre Pointe Assessment

Get Yourself a Pre Pointe Assessment

A pre-Pointe assessment with a qualified practitioner is crucial to the health of dancers starting Pointe work. Experts such as physical therapists who specialize in dance or experienced dance teachers will do the correct assessment and tell you if you have required range and strength to do Pointe work.

3. Strengthen Gradually

A structured program is required to improve your Pointe gradually. With a program that enables a graduated rise and controlled lowering will be able to improve your strength and technique and prevent injuries.

4. Right Shoe for Your Level

Your shoes should be appropriate for your level of Pointe work. Beginners just starting work at the barre will benefit from softer shoes that help in learning to articulate the foot correctly in the shoe. When the dancers move into doing multiple turns in the center, a stronger, more rigid shoe may be more appropriate. Advanced and professional dancers have several different types - a supple one for doing barre work and romantic solos; and a stronger, more stable one for center work, or stronger variations that involve multiple hops en Pointe.

5. Look After Your Feet.

Look After Your Feet While Using Pointe Shoes

While all dancers know how important foot hygiene is some tend not to give it the due attention it needs. Foot hygiene is crucial, yet often neglected - and blisters, ingrown toenails, and fungal infections could be the result of this. Toe pads or ouch pouches need to be removed from shoes and washed frequently. Cover any blisters before you go in for a class, so the raw skin does not rub against the inside of your Pointe shoes.  

6. Use Appropriate Padding

The biggest issue with pain en Pointe is usually due to the toes clawing in the shoe, and the knuckles rubbing on the underside of the box. Look for padding with minimal fabric as otherwise, it can interfere with the placement and working of the feet. And it is always better to go to the source of the clawing problem - which is an incorrect articulation of the foot and not enough strength to correct muscles to keep the toes long in the shoe. Address these issues, and you may want minimal padding only for extra comfort. 

7. Preparing Your Pointe Shoes

Preparing Your Pointe Shoes

'Breaking in' or pre-weakening your new shoes in the areas you want it to weaken will help to prevent it from breaking in the middle of the shank. While dancers earlier used to cut the shank, heat it or wet it, these techniques are not relevant anymore. Pre-weaken the shank in the demi-pointe area a little so that you can rise through it correctly, and also soften in underneath the heel so that the shank can sit in close to the arch when you are en Pointe. 

Finally, it's just as important to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the challenge of Pointe as it is to be physically strong. From discipline and commitment to not being afraid to ask questions and telling your teacher openly when it hurts will make this journey (and it is one!) manageable and you will be able to find joy in it. 



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