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Caring for Your Pointe Shoes

Every young dancer dreams of the time when they will finally be allowed to go up en pointe and with all of the excitement of getting your first pair of pointe shoes it can be easy to forget how important it is to take good care of them.

A dancer’s feet are the most important tool that a dancer has. Pointe shoes work hard to support the foot throughout dance class. So taking good care of your pointe shoe is a key part of taking care of your feet, while also ensuring that you are able to dance to your fullest potential.

Now depending on your level of experience in dance and how long you spend en pointe each week, a pair of pointe shoes can last anywhere between several hours, for some professionals, to several months. However, the length of time that your pointe shoes last can be significantly improved with proper care and treatment. So, if you are wanting to extend the life of your pointe shoes, we have compiled a list of tips for the best pointe shoe care to keep your shoes in peak conditions.

1 Air Out Your Pointe Shoes

One of the best things you can do in order to extend the life of your shoes is to air them out. This means that you are not leaving your freshly worn pointe shoes to be crammed inside of your bag right after dance class. By airing the pointe shoes out this ensures that the sweat and moisture dry out faster and lessens the likelihood of your pointe shoes getting soft. The longer your shoes are damp, the faster the shoe will break down and the shorter your shoe lifespan will be.

If you leave your pointe shoes inside your bag in between classes, then the glue that holds your pointe shoes together won’t get the chance to completely dry and harden again before the next wear and can compromise the strength of the shoe. This is what makes our mesh pointe shoe bags ideal, the light aerated fabric means that you can transport your shoes to and from class whilst still letting them cool down and air out.

Another important tip is if you wear any cushions in your shoes to be sure to remove them between wears as well. Pro pads and lambswool absorbs sweat, so leaving them inside the shoe after class extends the time it takes for the moisture to evaporate and quickens the shoe’s break-down time. You should also aim to wash pro pads every couple of wears, and replace lambswool after two to three classes. If you get into the habit of airing your shoes out straight after class it won’t take long before you start to notice a difference.  

2 Don’t Get Them Wet

Yes, sweat is water and while a little sweating in class is unavoidable and ultimately fine; in order to extend the life if your pointe shoes it is important to avoid getting them wet under any other circumstances. You can accomplish this by keeping your shoes in a separate spot away from your water bottle so that the condensation from the water bottle will have no chance of seeping into the shoes. You should also take your pointe shoes off as soon as you leave the classroom.

We all know that once you have your beautiful pair of pointe shoe you will want to keep them looking in perfect condition however no matter how tempting it might be to wash off a stain, it is best to stay away from liquids altogether. Not only will the moisture damage the integrity of the structure of the shoe, but it will also leave a big ugly stain on the satin that will probably be far worse than the original mark. You can use some talcum powder on the stain to make it less noticeable if you want.

3 Mixing it Up Can be a Good Thing

Now as with most things in dance this tip is all about preference. However, one way that is likely to lengthen the life of your shoe is to swap which shoe you wear on each foot between wears. This means that if you have pointe class on Mondays and Wednesdays, the shoe that you wore on your right foot on Monday will be on your left foot on Wednesday or vise versa. As pointe shoes have no assigned ‘left’ or ‘right’ foot, you can change the shoes from one foot to the other to work different parts of the shoe, particularly if you have one foot that is stronger than the other, which can cause the shoe to break down faster.

This method of switching the shoes can be a great way to get a little more dancing time out of each pair. However, some dancers do prefer to keep one shoe assigned to each foot so that the shoes can have a chance to mold to each foot’s unique shape. Either way is perfectly fine, and the choice is completely up to you, but if you’re after a longer lifespan for your shoes it’s worth experimenting and giving the shoe-swapping a chance.  

4 Before you Put Them On

No doubt you’re aware of the age-old tradition of ‘breaking’ your shoes in, which is a habit that developed out of the necessity for professional dancers to softening the box of pointe shoes before going on stage. Shoes that are a little worn become more comfortable, quieter and more flattering to the foot as they allow greater articulation through demi-pointe. The danger occurs when dancers think that ‘breaking in’ pointe shoes means literally breaking them. As in actually hammering them against walls, doors, and other inanimate objects.

Pointe shoes must have the unique combination of being both supply and incredibly strong in order to allow the dancer to perform. Due to the delicate balance between strength and flexibility that comes from the layers and layers of fabric and glue that support the box and shank your shoes will begin to ‘break’ and soften naturally the minute you put them on. Additionally, if you have been fitted correctly and work through your shoes there really isn’t a need or benefit in breaking your shoes in any other way than by dancing. Weakening the shoe by bending, hitting it or by standing on the box before you wear it is just going to greatly shorten the lifespan before you’ve even put your shoe on. As with the previous tip, this is a decision that is ultimately your choice alone. Just be prepared for a much shorter lifespan if you’re manipulating your shoes before wearing them.

5 Become the Disney Princess That You Are

One of the most-asked question from your friends when they see that you just got your first pair of pointe shoes or a new pair of pointe shoes is, “Can I try them on?!” This, of course, comes right after the customary “Does it hurt?”. Now we understand that it is hard to say no to friends. However, pointe shoes aren’t like your regular sneakers. In many cases these pointe shoes are more like Cinderella’s glass slippers then just a pair of shoes to wear. Some pointe shoe fittings can last upwards of 45 minutes to an hour just to find one pair that fits your foot just right. The reason for this long fitting time is because the fitter must determine the specifics of both the dancers’ feet and the style of the pointe shoe. In this sense, the fitter is trying to find the shoe that seems to be molded to the contours and shape of each dancer’s feet. With this in mind when you allow someone who has a wider, bigger or stronger foot than you try your shoes on, it can have an irreversible effect on the shape of your shoe.

With all of this, getting a pointe shoe is still an exciting time and we know that you and your friends are excited about the newness of pointe shoes so you can let them hold the shoes if they like, but when it comes to wearing them… they’ll have to find their own pair of glass slippers, because these pointe shoes are for your feet only, got it?

6 Fix the Fit

At the end of the day, the best insurance against prematurely worn shoes is by getting the correct fit. Nothing will make your pointe shoes deteriorate faster than having too weak of a shank, an ill-fitting box, the wrong shape of the shoe for your foot type, or any of the numerous other aspects that might make your shoe a poor fit. So being certain that you are getting the most out of your pointe shoes is the first step. We have a team of excellent pointe shoe fitters that have a wealth of knowledge about different styles and brands of pointe shoes that can help you find the perfect pair for your feet whether this is your first pair or your hundredth,

This means that if you are finding, after a while, that you’re going through your shoes quicker than average then it means that it might be time to come back into the store and have a chat with someone on our team. Feet often change over time by growing or by getting stronger so your ideal shoe may be slightly different than your last pair. In this case, we always recommend coming in to have a new fitting done with our expert and experienced fitters. This way we can assess your feet and determine what strength and brand are going to be ideal for your next pair of shoes. In this fitting, it is important to let them know what issues you’re facing this way we can help you get the best pair of pointe shoes for your feet.

Following the advice above will not only greatly increase the length of time that you will be able to wear your pointe shoes, but it will also keep them in better condition throughout every stage of their life. Remember that pointe shoes may be tough, but they are also delicate. So treat them with the love and care that they deserve.  

Last Minute Tips

Because foot care is essential to pointe shoe care it is also important to keep your feet pointe shoe ready by regularly trimming and filing your toenails. You might think that something is wrong with your pointe shoes when really your toenails are too long and are protruding beyond the tip of the toe. Also, ensure that your feet are clean and dry before putting your pointe shoes on as this will encourage the healing of abrasions and blisters. This will give you happier and healthier toes and enable you to dance as comfortably and effortlessly as possible.

 

Premier Dance Network: The Whole Dancer

Premier Dance is the only podcast that is one hundred percent dedicated to the world of dance. This growing network of shows provides the listener with a “one-stop shop” of online resources for all topics related to dance. Premier Dance Network programming ranges from real stories of young dancers just starting out, all the way to the fascinating lives of the top professional dancers in the world. Today we are going to be shining a light on their show The Whole Dancer.

The Whole Dancer

In the world of dance there is a huge need for the awareness of health, wellness and a balanced lifestyle. In the podcast, The Whole Dancer, Jess Spinner opens the dialogue about how dancers can tend to focus on what goes on in the studio and on stage so much that nothing else matters. This podcast focuses on the importance of finding balance and health in your life. The Whole Dancer podcast is a place for you to learn new skills in self-care, healthy eating, cross training, spirituality, and goal setting.

The topics that Jess discusses range from how to dance with energy even in the heat of summer to topics of how to deal with overeating and guilty eating. Dancers can become extremely single-minded in terms of their goals. This podcast helps to clear away the unimportant mess and help dancers focus on the important things such as their health and well being.

This podcast is a great resource for both dancers and parents of dancers to help them understand the importance of staying healthy and taking care of themselves.   

 

Pointe Shoe Myths

There are many myths floating around about pointe shoe. So to clear the air we have compiled a list of popular pointe shoe myths that have been floating around to try and let people know what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to pointe shoes.

1 If my friend and I have the same shoe size, we will wear the same pointe shoes 

This is a BIG myth. Not only that but it can be dangerous, painful, and could lead to injury if you try to wear a friends pointe shoe in class or for performance. Pointe shoes are not like regular shoes and Pointe Shoe fitters can spend hours with a dancer to try and find the perfect pair of pointe shoes for the dancers. So just because you have the same shoe size does not mean that you can wear the same shoe as a friend. Every foot is different so it is important to get the right shoe for you.  

2 You have to break your shoes before wearing them

Although professional dancers do tend to break their shoes in. It is not a good idea for a new dancer to break their shoes in before wearing them. Professional Dancers have had years of experience in wearing pointe shoes. They know exactly how they like their shoes to fit them when they are performing. However, as a new and inexperienced pointe dancer, you may not know how the shoe should fit. In this case, it is important to trust your teacher and let them help you break the shoes in during class, not before.   

3 You have to be a certain age to start pointe

While you don’t have to be a certain age to start pointe shoe training, you do have to take certain precautions before you start. You teacher will approve you for pointe shoe training before you go in for a fitting. Some teachers even like to go with their students to help explain how things will feel in the pointe shoe. Even though you may be excited about pointe shoe training it is important to wait for your teachers approval before wearing the pointe shoes. Before you are approved to go up on pointe your teacher is going to evaluate your foot strength and flexibility.

4 Pointe shoes are excruciatingly painful

While they do not feel like your foot is surrounded by clouds and unicorns, pointe shoes should not be excruciatingly painful. In the pointe shoe fitting your fitter will explain how the shoe should feel. And while the dancer should feel a certain amount of pressure in the fitting, excruciatingly painful shoes are an indicator that the shoe is not fitting correctly and therefore the dancer should let the fitter know. Communication is very important when getting a new pair of pointe shoes.

5 The tips are made out of wood

This is one we hear all the time when first fitting a dancer with their first pointe shoe. A lot of people think that because the box is hard that it is made out of wood, this, however, is not the case. The box of the pointe shoe is not made out of wood. The box is truly made up of layers of fabric and glue, that is molded carefully and precisely by a skilled cobbler to be supportive and smooth.

 

We hope this list has cleared up of common myths surrounding pointe shoes. And if you or your dancer are looking for new pointe shoe click here to make an appointment and come by the store. We have experienced pointe shoe fitters that can help you find the best pointe shoe for you with our massive pointe shoe collection.

 

When Am I Ready For Pointe? Insights From Capezio

Getting the first pair of pointe shoes for any dancer is a wonderful rite of passage. However, there are many factors that a student must consider when preparing for pointe work. Some of these factors are more technical such as strength, flexibility of feet and ankles, center of balance, posture, and alignment. Other factors include age, attitude, training, physique and proper pointe shoe fitting.

It is important to understand that pointe technique is the balance between the technical and artistic components of classical ballet. It involves body alignment, feet placement, weight distribution, and the transitions from demi-pointe to full pointe. Proper technique includes consistent application, mastery of leg rotation, alignment, aplomb (posture), placement, and épaulement (head and shoulders).

Strength

It is important for dancers to have the strength needed to be able to support themselves while en pointe. The muscles that need to be strong including the core muscle groups, back, rotators, quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles, feet, arches and insteps. All of these muscles need to work together when en pointe to ensure that the dancer does not injure themselves.

@jade_parker_ballet

Center of Balance

Centre of balance is extremely important for pointe preparation. A student must have the ability to find their center of balance while maintaining proper technique both by the barre and during center combinations. The student should also have an ability to balance on demi-pointe in various ballet positions such as relevé in first position, and passé in fifth position.

Posture and Alignment

Posture and alignment are when the body is held properly while maintaining correct placement both while standing as well as moving. What does this look like? Well, the student should be in a proper stance with core muscles held, shoulders down, chest lifted, rib cage closed, and a straight pelvis.

Flexibility

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The flexibility of feet and ankles are an important factor when en pointe. Sickled or pronation and winged or supination feet are indications that a student requires more strengthening and/or flexibility of the muscles in the feet. A Theraband may be used to strengthen and stretch muscles and ligaments. Ankles should be flexible enough so that when the foot is pointed, the toe, instep, and knee are all in alignment.

A good exercise to stretch the ankles is to sit on the floor with feet and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Have a teacher or parent hold your ankles down in a parallel position while you attempt to gently straighten your legs while moving the buttocks and shifting the body back a little at a time. Overstretched ankles and high insteps require special attention to build foot strength. A Theraband will aid students to build this strength by flexing and pointing the foot with the elasticized band.

“There is no reason to get a young dancer up on full pointe, if she cannot do anything when she gets up there.”- George Balanchine

When to Start Pointe

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It is very important that a young dancer not begin pointe work too soon. Pointe work usually begins when the student is 10 to 12 years old. The only exception may be if a dance teacher or a physician has determined that the bones in the feet have sufficiently developed. The student should have an ability to receive and apply corrections and work diligently to master proper technique. Furthermore, two to three years of serious ballet training is essential. This is the minimum time and preparation needed to develop sufficient technique and strength to prepare for pointe work.

The student’s individual physique must be carefully evaluated. She should have strong abdominal, pelvic, buttock, and back muscles which hold the torso in proper alignment.

Proper Pointe Shoe Fitting

Pointe shoe fittings are an absolute necessity to ensure the dancer receives a proper fit. When considering a pointe shoe fitting, always remember shape, support, style, and shank. The shape of a shoe must match the shape of the foot being fit just like the style of the shoe should complement the aesthetics of the student’s line and the natural extension of her foot and leg. The shank should provide ample support to the instep and conform to the arch.

Demi-pointes are suggested for pointe work preparation. They help to strengthen feet, familiarize the student with proper shape and fit, and aid in the transition to traditional pointe shoes.

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The team at DanceWear Corner are all trained and experienced Pointe Shoe Fitters. With the huge range of pointe shoe brands and styles available at the Orlando Superstore, you will surely find the perfect pointe shoe for you or your dancer. Our Pointe Shoe fitters are dedicated to taking the time to ensure that you get the right shoe for your foot, but be prepared as first-time fittings can take time so it is recommended that you call ahead and make an appointment.

Criteria for Pointe Work

Here are some criteria for knowing if you are ready. If you are ready for pointe you should:

  • Be able to correctly hold turnout while dancing.
  • Have a straight, pulled-up back while dancing, especially the lower back.
  • Maintain correct placement (alignment) and stability (aplomb) on flat and in demi-pointe.
  • Keep the heels forward toward big toe (no sickling) while on demi-pointe.
  • Keep the weight evenly distributed over the balls of the feet.
  • Be able to do continuous relevés in center-work without losing one’s balance.
  • Be able to hold a passé balance on demi- pointe.
  • Execute piqué passé with a straight leg.
  • Possess flexible ankles so that the knee, instep, and toe are aligned when the foot is pointed.
  • Relevé on one leg while maintaining balance and pulling up in the legs.
  • Maintain proper technique while performing center combinations.
  • A firm understanding of intermediate ballet.

Checklist

Now that was a lot of information to take in. So here is a little checklist to make it a little easier.

  1. The student should be at least age 10-12 to begin pointe work.
  2. It is recommended that the student have at least two years of classical ballet training.
  3. It is recommended that the student is taking a minimum of three classes a week consistently.

@jade_parker_ballet on Instagram

Moving to pointe is a huge step in any dancer’s career. The beauty and grace of a dancing en pointe is unsurpassed. You have to be ready though as it also places enormous strain on the feet and your body.

Because of this, we can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get the right shoe for you or your dancers’ feet.

Seek the expert help at DanceWear Corner and contact us today for assistance or to schedule your shoe fitting today.

 

*Information was provided by Capezio.

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