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.