Your first pointe shoe fitting is quite possibly the most important part of going en pointe. It goes without saying that you should be fitted by an experienced shoe fitter, and I recommend you make a prior appointment to ensure there is ample time. There are many options available and it is important to have a fitter with enough time and patience to care for you and your feet.
Once you have been cleared by your teacher or physiotherapist to go en pointe, it is a good idea to contact your local dance shop. The reason for this is if the dance shop is a small business with limited stock, they may need to order some pointe shoes in your size.
If you would like to use padding in your shoe, there are quite a few different types to choose from, and this decision needs to be made before you start trying on shoes. This is a personal choice, as each ballerina will have her own preference. I have seen many things stuffed down the end of a pointe shoe like – chux cloth, paper towel, acrylic pillow stuffing, lambs wool or layers of plastic shopping bag!
It is most important that the fitter you see is experienced, as she will look at the shoes en pointe in a parallel position, turned out and most importantly in plié as this is where your foot is it’s longest. Sometimes there is an apparent difference between the length of your two feet, and if this is the case, the remedy is to buy two pairs of shoes to ensure the comfort of both feet.
Once the fitter has ascertained your correct size, she will look at the width of your foot, length of your metatarsal, height of your instep and the transverse arch (your arch from a diagonal point of view).
The areas that pointe shoes differ between styles are;
1. The last – which is the foot shaped mold on which the pointe shoe is manufactured around.
2. The vamp – which is the front part of your shoe that encases the box and platform.
3. The platform – which is the flattened toe area that enables you to dance en pointe.
4. The paste – which is the special glue used to harden the box and toe area which comes in different strengths.
5. The shank – The backbone of the pointe shoe which provides the support for the dancer. Shanks are all developed with different profiles and varying levels of flexibility.
6. The style – Each ‘brand’ of pointe shoe has many different types of pointe shoe to cater for the young beginner through to the professional dancer.
(Note; When you arrive at your first pointe shoe fitting, be sure to wear your ballet tights, and if you intend on wearing toe pads, be sure to take them to your fitting and put them on whilst trying on your shoes as it will make quite a difference to the fit.)
It may take you quite a few pairs to find the ‘right’ pointe shoes, and I always recommend taking your old pointe shoes to your next fitting to explain to the fitter how they have broken down, what problems you may have had with them, and what you would like to try out in your next pair of pointe shoes.
It is not imperative that you know the correct terminology of a pointe shoe, however, if you are able to understand the fitter’s language, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision.
Written by; Vicki Attard