By Marlena Juniman, President Footloose Dancewear Inc. dba/Prima Soft
Get The Pointe
Every 'trade' has its own tools. A sculptor has his Draw Knife and Dremel, the pianist, a beautifully tuned key board and the ballerina must have correct fitting pointe shoes that contribute to her getting to full pointe, achieve good placement and balance and be appropriate to her expertise. Even if you are not new to pointe you should know what to expect when going for your fitting. How will you know that the shoe you are trying is going be the best 'tool' for you?
Even if the shoe 'fits' it may not be the 'correct' shoe for you. Line up a dozen pairs of pointe shoes and they look pretty much alike. Try them on and you will feel that each style is uniquely different. So many choices can be confusing but there is the ONE shoe that will be perfect for you
Your pointe shoes should be fit by someone with knowledge and experience and should not be purchased with the idea that buying them big will give you time to 'grow into them'. Make an appointment if possible so that you are sure that there will be an experienced fitter on the premises to help you. Allow enough time for your fitting to try on as many shoes as necessary to find your perfect shoe.
Think 'IN THE BOX'
Pointe shoes should fit snuggly and yet be comfortable enough to stand with the toes stretched flat and not crunched. They should feel comfortable at the heel with no pressure from the binding or draw string. When rising to half or demi pointe the shoes should not flip off. When standing on full pointe the heels shoes should not twist off of the heels and the shank of the shoes should follow the line of the arch of the foot.
A pointe shoe that is fit too long and too narrow may 'fit the foot' but it will not work with the foot. Think of it as standing on the pointed end of a triangle -- not very conducive to achieving balance or placement. The foot must be IN THE BOX. This means that the dancer should not be dancing ON the shoes but IN them with the widest part of the dancer’s foot as close to the floor or toe platform as possible. If the shoes are stretched out up at the 'throat' of the shoe (where the knot of the draw string would be tied) the shoes are not accommodating this particular shape foot. The dancer’s toes are pressing into the vamp of the shoe and not going straight down to the toe platform. The dancer will not be dancing IN the toe box but will be dancing ON it.
If the dancer is in an incorrect style of shoe for her foot or the shoe is not correctly sized, the foot will not be correctly placed in the toe box and the shank may pull away from the arch. When the shoe is new and not 'broken in' she will feel propped up on her shoes but when the toe box softens she will then begin to 'knuckle over' into the shoes. This will cause the shoe to feel like it is no longer supporting the dancer. She will either go over the box too much with her toes knuckling under her instep or she could be thrown back onto the pleats under the toe box. When this happens the dancer often feels that she needs a stronger shank. This is not always the case. All she may need is to find a shoe that fits her foot correctly, getting the widest part of her foot correctly into the toe box.
Pointe shoes fit too wide will cause the foot to 'sink' into the toe box and gap at the sides. Standing en pointe will be painful and blistering may occur.
When Less is More
Toe padding contributes to the comfort of the dancer while wearing pointe shoes. Some dancers prefer no padding while others tend to use too much. Is there a happy medium? If the pointe shoes have been fit correctly the dancer will blister less and have more comfort while on pointe. Toe padding should be used to prevent friction between the skin and the material of the shoe. Toe pads should not necessitate that the shoes be fit longer and wider to accommodate them. Putting bulky or too much padding in the shoes will place the foot above the toe box and interfere with the dancers placement, balance and ability to correctly 'roll through' her shoes.
Tying It All Up
Choosing and placing the ribbon and elastic for pointe shoes is unique to each dancer. Some dancers prefer to sew their ribbons in the fold of the heel toward the back of the shoe. Others will place it at the area where the arch breaks more toward the middle of her shoe. You may need to experiment with placement to find the best support for your needs. Sewing the ribbon as close to the sole of the shoe is preferable so that when the ribbon is pulled across the instep the material of the shoe is pulled in close to the foot. This will contribute to a feeling of more support of the shoe.
The ribbon should be knotted just under the ankle bone on the inside of the foot to protect pressure at the Achilles tendon. Using a stretch ribbon will also help relieve pressure on this tendon and help the dancer release her heels when coming off pointe. Elastic sewn on the heel area of the pointe shoe is particularly helpful to dancers with narrow heels. Elastic should never be sewn on in a loop behind the Achilles tendon but sewn on the outside of the shoe so that it circles the dancers instep. Sewing the elastic close to the sole of the shoe will help the pointe shoes to stay on the heels when the foot is moving through full pointe, demi pointe to flat.
Maria Taglioni is said to be the first ballerina to dance en pointe in the early 1830s. We can only imagine how she would feel to be dancing in the many choices available to the ballerinas of today. By seeking out your perfect style and best fitting shoes will help you experience the perfection and technique you work so hard to achieve.
President Footloose Dancewear Inc. dba/Prima Soft