“Breaking in” your first pointe shoes is often very misunderstood. My firm belief is if you are genuinely strong enough to be en pointe and you have purchased a pair of pointe shoes specifically designed for a beginner en pointe, then you should only need to soften in the heel of the shoe very gently, rather than “breaking in” the shank.
Your first pair of pointe shoes should be of a style that is constructed especially for a beginner en pointe. Generally this shoe will have a graded shank (the rigid material that stiffens the sole to provide support, generally made of leather, plastic or cardstock, made in various thicknesses to provide varying strengths), making it relatively easy for the beginner to roll up on to pointe, a wide box (the hardened enclosure at the front end of the shoe that provides support for the dancer’s toes), which will reduce the pressure on individual metatarsals and a wide platform (the part of the pointe shoe you stand on when en pointe), for ease of balance and a sense of stability.
However, pre weakening the shank just under your heel can help to extend the life of the shoe. If you find the most prominent part of your arch and the matching place on your shoe, you can give the shank a few very gentle bends in both directions, to encourage the shank to hug the arch and heel giving a really nice supported feeling en pointe. Please do not attack your shoes with scalpels, or bend them in the middle of the shank as this will weaken them prematurely.
However, having mentioned the above, I strongly believe that if all the necessary procedures are in place, and the correct preparation has been adhered to, the progression onto pointe should be seamless. The ‘My Beginner Pointe’ series of DVD’s and CD covers all of the necessary pre-strengthening and a pointe program that involves three tiers of progression that truly provides a seamless elevation to going en pointe! An absolute must for all beginners en pointe and their teachers!!
Written by; Vicki Attard