Help with Pointe Shoes

Buying Your Pointe Shoes
Sewing on Ribbons and Elastic
Tying Your Pointe Shoes
Breaking In Your Shoes
Preparing For Pointe
Being On Pointe
When to Buy New Pointe Shoes
What Teachers Look For

Make sure you visit my ballet links page as well, because there are good sites listed that have tons of info.

Buying Your Pointe Shoes

It's very important to buy your pointe shoes at a dance store where there are people who know a lot about the shoes and how they should fit. Each pair is slightly different because they are handmade, so even within a particular style there could be variations. Always have the type of toe padding you will be using with you because some are more bulky than others and it can affect the fit. A shoe should not be baggy when standing flat. There may be slight gaps when on pointe, but nothing major. A good way to know if the length is right is to stand in second position (flat) and grande plie. Your toes should just touch the front of the box. It is no fun dancing in pointe shoes that are too short. The shoe digs into your heel and it's very painful to roll through. A shoe that is too big is also bad, because when you go on pointe, your foot slides down into the box, which can cause a lot of foot problems. The heel also slips off when you dance. If you go to the right store, I'm sure you'll get a good fit.

Sewing on Ribbons and Elastic

Ribbons and elastic are very important, but just like shoe laces, a few people don't have them. I don't suggest leaving off ribbons, because they are what support your ankles when you go up on pointe. To find out where to sew them, fold the heel forward. Where the crease ends is about where they should go. I usually sew them without any angle, just straight up and down, but some people angel them towards their ankle slighlty. Pin the ribbons to your shoe first and tie them to see if it works. Elastic is usually sewn at the heel, making a loop at the ankle. I sew each side about an inch to either side of the back seam so the elastic doesn't irritate my achilles tendon. I angle it away from the heel. Make sure to pin it on and try it out before you start sewing! This helps keep the shoe on your heel, although some people don't need it.

Tying Your Pointe Shoes

Some people tie their pointe shoes while their foot is on pointe. I tie them with my foot flat, slightly flexed, so when I'm flat, they don't cut off my circulation. Never wrap your ribbons above your ankles. Keep them close together around your ankle for support. Try and get out the wrinkles and bumps as best you can. You don't want anything major. Always tie the knot on the inside of your ankle, not at the back. It won't be putting pressure on your tendon this way.


There are many types of padding for pointe. Loose lambs wool is my least favorite because you have to form it yourself and if you leave a thin spot, when you dance in your pointe shoes, your toes seem to work their way through them. It is good for extra protection along with other types of padding though. I like lambs wool toe pads. I use Pillows for Pointe because they don't have a seam along the edge like other brands, which really bothers me. I put them over my bare toes and then pull my tights on over them. This help prevent shifting while I dance. This is where those tights with the hole in the foot come in very handy. I also just got the Pillows for Pointe foam rubber pads. They're the pink ones. I use them with a little extra loose lambs wool around my big toes. I put the lambs wool under my tights and the toes pad over. They're good because your toes don't move around a lot which helps stop blisters from forming. In addition, I also put small strips of tape over parts of my feet that are prone to blisters. Everyone gets them in different places. I don't like the pads with gel in them because they're plastic and when your feet sweat, blisters form easily. Everyone has their own preferences. Experiment everytime you get a new style of dance shoes as far as what kind of padding to use and whether or not to put it under or over your tights. You can find stuff around the house to use with store-bought or make your own. Socks, cotton balls, sponges, band-aids; these are all things I have seen around my studio.

Breaking In Your Shoes

Everytime you wear your shoes they break down a little, especially if your feet are hot or sweaty. Every time you work in your shoes helps to break them in. In new shoes you need to pointe your foot extra hard during class. Usually some breaking in is done at home so your first class in them isn't as painful. I usually wear them on my feet for about half an hour around the house. I put socks over my shoes to warm them up faster and also protect the satin from getting dirty. Your shoes may warm up faster. You want to have warm, slightly sweaty feet. Then I do a few releves in first position taking extra time to slowly roll through them, pausing at demi-pointe and going over the arch after reaching full pointe. The key here is the slowly part. When I take them off, I bend the shank with my hands as much as I can. Because I already worked in them a bit, I can pretty much can see and feel where I want it to arch. Some people use alcohol on the wings or vamp of the pointe shoes to soften them up if they are uncomfortable, but I like to keep them hard for as long as I can.

Preparing for Pointe

To be successful on pointe, it is important to have strong ankles. I suggest doing an exercise my ballet teacher has my class do everyday: Standing in first position, do 16 relevés (begin and end in plie) and then 16 elevés (begin and end with straight legs). Next, standing on your right foot, coupe you left foot in back. Keeping this position do 8 relevés and then 8 elevés. Repeat on the left foot. Try not to do them too fast, or else you will start to build endurance, not strength. It may be hard at first to get through, but after a while it gets easier and soon you will be able to do the whole thing twice through! This has really strengthened my feet and ankles this year, improving not only my pointe work, but also my arabesques and turns.

Being on Pointe

Always remember, that your toes are not made to support your weight in the pointe position. You need to support this weight by pulling up and out of your shoes with the rest of your body. Always keep your knees straight and pulled up. Keep your back straight and pulled up also. Your chest should be lifted and slighlty forward (remember...shoulders down) Your lower back does a lot of the supporting. By holding the muscles in your legs, butt, and back, you can make pointe a whole lot easier on yourself. Also, something my teacher says a lot, "When you are on going up onto pointe push at where the ribbons cross". This helps to keep your feet from rolling in or out on pointe, which is very dangerous! It also helps you achieve a better pointe.

When to Buy New Pointe Shoes

I gradually feel a loss of support. The boxes of my pointe shoes get softer and it gets real easy to push and bend them with my fingers. When I go up on pointe, it's harder to stay stable because the boxes bend and shift. The shank also starts to lose support and it's harder to roll up and stay on pointe. I double checked with my teacher for my first few pairs. She took a look at my shoes and I told her how they felt when I danced. Together we made a decision. After a while, you will deffinitley be able to tell.

Top 10 Reasons Teachers Don't Let Students Start Pointe
  1. Improper placement
  2. Too young
  3. Not pulled up in body or feet
  4. Feet not arched enough
  5. Overweight
  6. Lack of strength in torso
  7. Weak knees
  8. Weak ankles
  9. Basic stance on demi-pointe not strong and correct
  10. Taking too few classes per week

I found this list in The Pointe Book: Shoes Training and Technique by Janice Barringer and Sarah Schlesinger

Click HERE to see one academy's requirements for pointe. It's a very complete list!


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