Did you know? How do I choose the right pointe shoes?

Wear Moi has come up with a handy guide to help you pick the right pointe shoes for you. Without further ado, let's look at each of things you should consider when shopping for pointe shoes and selecting the perfect pointe shoe...

The size

The first step is usually the easiest: finding the right size. You don't have to be an expert here - your regular shoe size will give you a pretty good idea. But be careful! Pointe shoe sizes aren't always the same as the sizes of sneakers. What's more, you may need to wear foam or silicone toe pads with pointe shoes, which means you'll have to pick a bigger size (usually ½ size larger).

How will you know if the size is right? Pointe shoes aren't sneakers - they may feel comfortable when you slide them on, but you'll need to dig a little deeper. Try them while standing up, with your feet parallel to each other. There are three possibilities:

  • Your toes are squeezed against the tip of the shoe: the size is too short...
  • You can move your toes freely and the shoe slips off your heel when you lift your foot (please note that heels may also fall off without attached ribbons and elastics): the size is too big...
  • Your toes are nice and flat, touch the tip of the shoe, and do not feel painful or uncomfortable: you've got the size right! 

Now, a couple of extra steps in making sure you've got it absolutely right. 

  • In second position, in plie, the fabric should not wrinkle at the heel. 
  • When standing "en pointe" you should be able to pinch a bit of fabric at the back of the shoe right below the binding. 

You've found the ideal size

The shape of your foot

All feet are different, so you need to start by determining the shape of your own:

  • Greek foot: easy to recognize, as the second toe is longer than the others. In general, Greek feet are quite narrow (especially the forefoot). However, this isn't always true. 
  • Egyptian: the most common type of foot, characterized by perfectly tapered toes, with the hallux (big toe) the longest.
  • Roman foot (or square foot): the ideal shape for pointe work, but also the rarest (only 9% of all feet!).  With Roman feet, the first three toes are the same length. 

The shape and width of the box

Once you know your foot type, it will be easier to choose the right box. Square boxes are ideal for dancers with a wider forefront. They are usually suitable for square Roman or Egyptian feet. Tapered (or cone-shaped) boxes are best suited for narrower feet, such as cone-shaped Greek or Egyptian feet. 

Appearances can be deceiving! Don't be fooled by what you see on the outside - the box inside a pointe shoe can be quite different than it seems. 

To check a shape, simply stand on your toes and see how they feel. If your big toe hurts (as if it were supporting your full weight), then the box is too square and will not properly hug all your toes. Conversely, if your toes feel squeezed in, then the box is too tapered.

As for the width, most boxes come in "narrow," "medium," or "wide." However, some manufacturers offer many more options! Once again, the fitting is vital for determining the right width. Stand on your toes and see how they feel. Your toes should be held without hurting, and your feet should not spread out while you're "en pointe." Preferably, your outer toes will be touching the shoes. A good width will hold the ball of the foot so that your total weight is not felt on your toes. 

The hardness and length of the shank

Pointe shoes are made with reinforced soles (called "shanks") which allow you to stand "en pointe". Shanks come in varying levels of hardness, ranging from extremely soft to extremely hard. As a result, each dancer can find the perfect shoe for their feet! 

Soft shanks are intended for dancers with tight ligaments in the arch. Little by little, these dancers strengthen their ankle and instep. This doesn't mean all beginners will choose a softer shank: it all depends on the strength of their feet. 

Here are some tips for choosing the right shank... When standing "en pointe", you should feel the shank bend slightly to fit the shape of the arch under your foot. If it bends too easily, it will be too soft for you and quickly lose its support. On the other hand, if it doesn't bend at all, then it's too rigid. Your pointe work - and your feet! - will suffer. 

The length of the vamp

The vamp is the part of the shoe that extends from the top of the toes to the bend in your foot when in a "demi-pointe" position. The length of the vamp should be adapted to the length of your toes. 

Choosing the right length is easy - simply use your fingers when trying on the shoes. Make sure the vamp covers the full length of all your toes. When "en pointe," it will be easy to tell if the vamp is the right length. 

If you're having trouble getting "en pointe" (immediately or from the "demi-pointe" position), then the vamp is too long. Conversely, if you notice that the base of the toes is sticking out of the shoe, then this means the vamp is too short. This can be dangerous when doing pointe work and is also a faux pas from an esthetic point of view. 

Before we go, we've got one more (extremely important) tip for you... Don't rush when shopping for pointe shoes! Take your time and feel free to try different models. When it comes to pointe work, the right shoes are essential. Make sure you pick shoes that are supportive and won't hurt your feet, whether you're in the flat, "demi-pointe," or "en pointe" position. 

Moreover, dancing can be outright dangerous if you don't have the right shoes. Pay close attention to the above-mentioned considerations during your fittings as even the slightest oversight can have a serious impact on the health of your feet. We recommend making use of experienced "fitters" who can help you during the entire fitting process to choose the safest and most appropriate pointe shoes. 

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