Pointe Shoes are a right of passage in the ballet world. As young dancers, we all strive for the moment when our instructor tells us our feet and ankles are strong enough to start our pointe work and training! But pointe shoes are expensive, and if you’re dancing multiple times a week you might find that you’re going through them at a rate your wallet can’t keep up with! Here are some tips for increasing the life of your pointe shoes…and some overall good practices for pointe shoe care.
1. Get the Right Fit
When you go for your first pointe shoe fitting, getting the right fit and brand is imperative to the way your shoe looks, lasts, and works with your feet while you dance. But proper fitting shouldn’t stop after the first time. Most dancers will switch brands throughout the years, searching for their perfect shoe, and when they do, they need to be refitted since pointe shoes are made by hand and each brand varies in size and feel. Having the right fit will increase the life of your shoes and improve your dance performance and comfort.
2. Avoid Extreme Break-In Methods
Although the tradition of “breaking in” a new pair of pointe shoes is widely practiced in the dance world, be cautious about how much you actually break them. Although shoes that have some wear are more comfortable and flattering to the foot, there’s danger in completely breaking the shank, or weakening it to the point that months of wear would. Pointe shoes must have a delicate balance of strength and flexibility, and if you over-break your shoes before ever putting them on your feet, you’ll notice a far shorter lifespan.
3. Don’t Share
Whether you just got pointe shoes, or you’ve been wearing them for years, you’ll more than likely hear this question; “Can I try them on?”. Although it can be difficult to turn down a friend, and you might think it’s harmless to let them try it, the answer should always be ‘no’. Pointe shoes are designed to form to your feet, allowing someone else to put them on and dance in them can cause irreparable damage to the shoe’s shape. So hang on to your shoes, they shouldn’t be on anyone’s feet but yours.
4. Air Them Out
After a long class where your feet are sweating in your shoes, it’s a bad idea to stuff them in your dance bag straight away. Airing them out before storing them will help them dry faster, preventing premature softness in the box. The longer they stay damp, the quicker they break down. We recommend getting a dance bag with a mesh pocket or a separate mesh pointe shoe bag so your pointe shoes can breathe after class. Plus, airing your shoes out can help avoid the dreaded smell of sweat!
5. Switch It Up
If you can afford it, purchase two pair of pointe shoes and rotate them out every week or so. By giving them a chance to firm up, you’ll increase the life of both pairs. Plus, if you’re trying out two different brands, this gives your teachers the opportunity to compare how your feet work and look in both brands of shoes. With your instructor’s input, along with the knowledge of how the shoes feel on your feet, you can eliminate shoes you dislike and narrow down the perfect shoes for you!
It’s always a good idea to talk with your dance instructors when it comes to questions you have about your pointe shoes. The ballet instructors at JSDA are ready to discuss fit, care, and pointe shoe tips whenever you need some guidance—because at JSDA, we live and breathe dance!