How to Find the Right Pair of Ballet Shoes

If you have the luxury of being fitted a pair by your teacher or an experienced salesperson (not one who merely wants to get rid of their stocks or push for a popular brand), then go for it. But for some others who may not be as blessed, I have made an attempt here to help alleviate your woes. As you can also find out many more articles out there in cyberspace, what I’ll attempt to do here is to single out those “tougher” issues that most students ask.

Ballet Slippers

Ballet slippers should fit like a glove –> Not too loose (big) and not too tight.

Too loose, your feet will “swim” in it and difficult to maintain any position.

Too tight restricts blood circulation causing dancing in it excruciatingly painful and unbearable.

To test for tightness lengthwise, stand with feet together in parallel. Bend your knees without lifting your heels. This will cause your feet to elongate slightly. Does any of your toes feel scrunched up at the tip of the shoe? If it does, then, it’s too tight. If there’s still space, then it’s too big.

To test for tightness widthwise, the toes and feet should feel comfortably flat inside the shoe but not too comfortable enough that you can wriggle your toes. Not too tight until your arches are forced upwards.

If you are unsure of the fit, you can always bring it to your teacher for his/her opinion. (Make payment for the shoe first and let shop know you are getting your teacher’s opinion.) If it is not the correct fit, you can always bring it back to the shop from where you purchased it and ask for an exchange.

Note: Exchanges are available only if you…

  1. Did Not sew anything on the shoe
  2. Did Not dirty it (anywhere!)
  3. Did Not pull the drawstring until it cannot get back to original position
  4. Did Not write anything on the shoe which renders it personal and un-resaleable.

Pointe Shoes

(As pointe shoes are very expensive compared to slippers, a rule of the thumb is if you are a beginner, seek the advice of your teacher.)

Pointe shoes are very personal and intimate for your feet. No two feet are alike. So, you’ll have to experiment some to find out the best brand, make and model for your feet. As your feet grow, it will affect all your previous decisions you made on your current shoe. Sometimes, you may even have to change the brand. As you become more experienced, you’ll know what shoe fits best.

In addition to the above pointers, too big a pointe shoe will cause blisters to form. Too tight will cause bunion to form.

There are now so many different brands and models of pointe shoes that students are now spoilt for choice. However, this poses a problem, too, for many.

The style or model of shoe should basically follow the shape of your feet. If your feet are tapered, then get a pair that has a tapered block. If it’s broad, get one with a broad block.

However, one of the most important factor to consider is what happens when you go on demi-pointe. You are not going to dance on pointe all the time, you know. You’ll have to roll-down or roll-up thru’ the pointe some time, jump by using your legs and pushing off from your toes, etc. So, does your big toe get squeezed to one side inside the block when you go on demi-pointe? If so, then the block is too narrow. Continually dancing in it will cause bunion. You must go for comfort and safety for your feet (and dancing!) and NOT by the look. Although a tapered shoe looks better, that is not the way to choose a shoe! It may shorten your dancing career.

Strength of the Shank

A strong shank will cause the feet to work harder on pointe thus strengthening the feet at the same time. This type of shoe is usually recommended for beginners on pointe. However, those who are gifted with beautiful arched feet will benefit from it. Others not so will find it difficult to get onto the box let alone work the feet. Hence, a medium shank may be a better choice. (Again, if you are a beginner, let your teacher make that decision.)

How to Break-In a Pair of Pointe Shoe

As a beginner, DO NOT perform this yourself unless you are prepared to have a “white elephant” in your possession. Again….. yes, ask your teacher.

It is best NOT to break-in a pair from the middle where it is the weakest. ‘Cos once broken-in, it is at the point of no-return.

If you have a high arch, you can start by bending the shank at the back to 3/4s of the way. If you bought a 3/4 shank shoe, then forget this section!

If you have a low arch, start by bending it from the front. Now, this is really a tough one to do. You may need a stronger brother or boyfriend to do it for you. A rough gauge would probably be where your shoe bends at demi-pointe. By doing so, it would help you get onto the box easier.

For those with strong feet, the best shank material to get is the redboard. It is strong but pliable and so last longer. Again, this may just be a personal preference. You’ll have to try it to see.

If you have a favourite pair which fits just lovely but the shank is too hard and you have strong feet, you can try to remove one of the nail at the heel area of the sole. For that, you’ll have to remove the cotton lining inside the shoe, exposing the leather or cardboard upper shank. Pull it apart from the sole until you expose the nail. Use a plier and with strong hands, you can pull that out. The shoe would now have been “converted” into a 3/4 shank. Again this is for strong feet. If your feet is not strong enough, the shoe may become too “soft”.

Basically, you have to break-in where your arch “bends”. If you break-in at the correct spot, when on pointe, you should feel lifted and supported. But as the shank wears down, you may no longer feel it. Hence, in short, you’ll still need strong feet to go on pointe.