Pointe Shoe Musings …. Part 1 of 3
These are the descriptions I use in the store, and I hope it makes sense for you, dear reader! Parts 1 & 2 are geared towards the first time and new pointe shoe students (within the first two years of pointe work). Part 3 will be geared towards more experienced dancers. But all the parts are good refreshers for all abilities!
So, you’ve been approved for pointe work?
First of all—congratulations! Starting pointe is a major event in your life. After all, you’ll only ever have one “first pair” of pointe shoes! Now you’re probably wondering what you should expect at your first fitting (regardless of if you’re a parent or dancer)!
When I fit first time students in the store, I like to sit down and talk about what he/she should expect to feel while in a pointe shoe. Why do I do this? Simple—pointe shoes are different from just about EVERY other shoe out there. They’re just different ducks to put it simply. Pointe shoes, unlike your street shoes, have to fit snugly. Most fitters will use a glove analogy, but I actually prefer to use a different one—M&Ms. Pointe shoes and the feet are like an M&M candy shell and the delicious chocolate interior (don’t laugh—a 3 year old little brother gave me the idea). I prefer this analogy for several reasons:
- Pointe shoes are hard, like the candy coating on the M&M.
- Just like the candy coating, there is very little, if any air space in an M&M.
- The purpose of the candy coating is to protect the chocolate inside (just like the purpose of the pointe shoe should be to protect the foot).
There are very few “hard” rules I make in pointe shoe fitting, but I do have some.
- I can’t fit with growing room in a pointe shoe. I CAN however, try to fit with a little “bonus” room. Yes, there is a difference.
- Why? Pointe shoes, in order to protect the foot properly, need to be a TOOL that helps the foot, not a HINDRANCE to what the foot needs to do. (Yes, I’ll get to this later). The pointe shoe is designed to support the foot on flat, en pointe, and the full 90 degree range of motion in between. It can’t do that if it’s too big.
- Toes can NEVER be scrunched, crunched, mashed, crossed, or put into awkward positions within the shoe. Usually, this means that the shoe is too tapered, too short, or just not the right shape for the foot.
- Pain is BAD. Pressure is GOOD.
- I do expect some pain, particularly from first time students. HOWEVER, it should be on the level of a bee sting, scraped knee, paper cut with lemon juice of pain (more of a sting than “OWWWW”). There are times, however, that I will tolerate a little bit more than this. I’ll talk about that later.
- I also expect pain when the shoe is “dead” and lacks support.
See? Not too difficult, so far.
Now—you make it sound simple, so why can’t I just go online and order any particular pair of pointe shoes?
Several reasons—and yes, full disclosure. I do sell shoes, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been there, done that. Yes—pointe work IS expensive (hey—I was going through 5-6 pairs of pointe shoes a month growing up and they weren’t the cheap ones either).
First reason: 95% of pointe shoes are handmade. Even with the highest level of quality control, it’s highly unlikely that two shoes will be *exactly* alike. Yes, it stinks.
Second reason: It’s actually really hard to trouble-shoot why a shoe isn’t working like it should/did/could by yourself. You really need a trained spotter to see what’s going on with the shoes from the outside.
Third reason: Get the wrong size, and you’ve most likely already paid more in shoes, shipping, and your time/effort than what you would have at your local dance store (and yes, they should appreciate your business!).
Fourth reason: Every brand runs different (in both shape, size, and price), and usually models within the same brand run different too. This is where a fitter’s expertise really comes in handy!
Okay—so what am I looking at cost-wise for pointe shoes?
Toe pads–$8-$30 (however, you shouldn’t NEED to buy new ones, particularly gel ones, every time you get shoes… so average this cost over at least a few months)
Spacers (if needed)–$5-$15 (these are one of those, you buy once and then you only lose them. Or the dog chews them up, etc. Don’t ever really outgrow or out use these guys…)
Pointe Shoes–$60-$130 (There are such a wide variety of brands, styles, models, etc on the market that there is no real “price point” for shoes.) Average price is around $85-$95 per pair.
Ribbons/Elastics–$3-$6 per set.
Fitting Fee, Sales Tax/Shipping, random other stuff–varies
Total investment: easily $80-$180.
Now—notice I gave a range of prices for all the above? Yeah—not only is every brand/model generally priced differently, but also every store. When people come into my store—I tell them to expect to spend between $130 and $150 for a first time. It’s usually NOT THAT HIGH… but it’s easier/better to err on the side of caution than anything else. Also—in our store, I don’t charge for fitting if shoes are purchased from us, ribbons/elastics, OR the sewing of shoes. My logic behind that is that you don’t go to the shoe store to buy sneakers and pay separately for shoe laces. It’s a personal philosophy more than anything else.
How long does a first pair of shoes last?
This is always one of those *fun* questions—because the answer really is “it depends”. But I do have a general guideline…
If the feet are still growing (yes, even a half size)—then I will usually see a dancer outgrow the shoes, not out wear their first pair.
If the feet aren’t still growing—I’ll almost always see the shoes out worn. How quick this is depends on the physical stature of the dancer, how often the shoes are being danced in, if proper care is taken with the shoes, if the dog doesn’t get them, etc.
I really wish I could give a definitive answer, but I really can’t.
What are some factors that determine whether or not I am ready for pointe?
There are definitely some physical factors that determine pointe work readiness.
- Ankle and foot strength within the metatarsals and tendons (including the ankle)
- Ankle and foot flexibility within the metatarsals and tendons (including the ankle.
……Until next time!
Part 2: Preview
Why should we wait until our daughter turns at least 10 or 12 before starting pointe? What is a pointe shoe supposed to feel like on? What other things should I know for my first time? What are some questions you think/wish I should ask?