Pointe Shoes: Finding the Perfect Shoe For You

Let's talk pointe shoes! They are beautiful, but they can be high-maintenance, painful little monsters. Josephine, an expert pointe shoe fitter from Southern California created The Pointe Shop, a mobile pointe shoe store that comes to you and finds the perfect shoe for your foot. Josephine, who trained in classical ballet herself, saw there was a need to find proper shoes for ballerinas.

"I see a lot of dancers stop pointe work because they get frustrated with their shoes, but it doesn’t have to be the case," Josephine said. "If the dancer is in the right shoes, they will be able to dance more beautifully, safely and easily. The dancer should be able to focus on improving their dancing abilities without worrying about their shoes. That’s our job!"

Photo: Josephine, who learned how to fit pointe shoes from her mother, is trained in ballet, pointe, jazz, hip hop and tap.

Josephine has fitted thousands of dancers, helping them find their perfect shoe. She currently fits around 50 dancers a month. "I saw how many girls were dancing in the wrong shoes. I saw injuries that could have been prevented."

Today, Josephine's The Pointe Shop has a team of two fitters, two master fitters and one manager. "All our members are former dancers! We all have 10+ years of dance experience and 5+ years of pointe experience. Both our fitters are currently dancing en pointe."

We talked with Josephine about fitting pointe shoes because we know it's not always easy to find the perfect shoe (we've been there!)

What are the TOP 5 most important things to consider when fitting a pointe shoe?

- Shape (Which toes are longer? Greek? Egyptian? Square?)

- Natural arch of the foot (High? Low?)

- Strength

- Flexibility

- Compressibility

What are the most common problems you see with dancers in pointe shoes?

Dancers have more injuries than any other athlete. But besides injuries, I see a lot of dancers struggle to get over their platform either because the shank is too hard or the shape is wrong.

Since most dancers don't have individual makers, how can you find the best shoe for your foot?

There are so many brands and models now days, you almost don’t need individual makers anymore. There is a shape, size and shank that will accommodate most feet. You just need a fitter that carries the selection and has the knowledge!

What brands would you suggest for...

..... a high arched foot?

Once these lucky girls develop strength they will be going through shoes very quickly. They need a workhorse shoe (Russian Pointe) that will give them longevity and flatter their beautiful feet.

..... a flat foot?

Dancers with flat feet will often times need a little bit of help to get all the way over the platform because they have less stretch at the top of their feet. A pre-arched shoe like the Mirella Whisper will be helpful.

..... a wide foot?

Depends on if they are wide in their toes (in which they will need a wider platform such as the Bloch European Balance) or wide in their metatarsals (wider width at the ball of the foot such as the Suffolk Stellars).

What have you learned while fitting pointe shoes for dancers around the U.S.?

I can analyze their shape, size, strength, flexibility and stability to the best of my knowledge, but the best way to determine their perfect shoe is to try them on. Sometimes I will try a shoe that doesn’t make sense for their feet, but it somehow looks, fits and feels perfect! You never know until you try them!

Why are pointe shoe fittings often times difficult?

There are a variety of reasons: the dancer may not be strong or flexible enough to get all the way over their pointe shoes, the shank twists in every shoe they try on, they’re too flexible for the shoe so their feet “shrink” in the pointe shoes and there is a lot of material left in the heel. But ultimately, pointe shoes are symmetrical and feet are not. We try to find a fit that is the closest to the shape of the dancer’s feet, but it is difficult for some to find that perfect shape.

What should dancers know about pointe shoe fitting if they're going into their local dance store?

Selection is the biggest indicator of how serious the store is about fitting pointe shoes, because a bigger selection means a wider distribution. The store should carry at least 7 or 8 brands (Grishko, Bloch, Suffolk, etc.) and around 20 models (Grishko 2007, Bloch Heritage, Suffolk Prequel, etc.)

What are some cool facts about pointe shoes?

The famous ballerina Marie Taglioni was the first to dance a full-length ballet en pointe in 1832.

Video: Josephine fitting pointe shoes.

How does a dancer know when their pointe shoe is "dead?"

When the pointe shoe cannot support her any longer; she won’t feel stable or supported any longer.

What if their pointe shoe feels too slippery when dancing?

Rosin is the quickest and easiest way, but there are other options. Dancers can darn their pointe shoes with embroidery thread and dip just the tip in coca-cola (or any sugary drink) or get rubber put on the tip to create more traction.

There are a lot of "tricks" that dancers do to pointe shoes (cutting them, gluing them, etc.) How do you feel about those tricks? Are they helpful or do they shorten the life of a shoe?

It depends on the dancer. If the dancer knows certain tricks to personalize their shoe for them (darning: creates stability, jet glue: longevity, cutting the tip: traction), go for it! However, there are so many different models of pointe shoes, personalization may not be necessary. Back in the days, there were only a few models, so dancers had to personalize their shoes so they can fit their feet better, but now there are hundreds of them!

Get in touch with The Pointe Shop!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thepointeshop

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thepointeshop

Instagram: http://instagram.com/thepointeshop



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