It is known that some ballet teachers prefer their students not to wear pointe shoe padding for a number of reasons, some of which I will discuss further. I am of the opinion that these types of decisions need to be made by the student herself through a series of trial and error.
I’m not sure that not wearing padding in pointe shoes has anything to do with toughening your feet at all. What I am sure of is that you should use whatever padding makes dancing en pointe as comfortable as possible. I spent more than 20 years en pointe and went through a variety of types of padding depending on my workload at that particular time. We (as human beings) are not designed to dance on our toes, and in this day and age of technical advancement and progressive thinking, there is a wide variety of products to alleviate the pain, so why not use them?
Some teachers are of the opinion that wearing padding in your shoes prohibits strengthening, but if the dancer is working incorrectly due to pain in her feet and toes, then she will more than likely develop bad habits from the outset, which will be extremely difficult to correct over time. It is all about personal preference and the particular type of foot. Trial and error is the key.
There is also the opinion that if the shoe fits correctly there shouldn’t be any need for padding, however, young dancers are simply not able to purchase custom made shoes, although there are many different styles on the market today. So, the chances of getting a perfectly fitting shoe is possible, but not always likely.
There is also a theory out there amongst some teachers that certain toe pads can require the dancer to go up 1/2 a size in length and an extra X in width, and that once the shoe has warmed and has that little give, this then means that the foot slides down the box. However, wouldn’t this problem occur without the extra padding?
Some thirty or so years ago, the most readily available padding came in the form of lambs wool, which is still used today. However, with advancement across the board, we have seen many new products come onto the market. Some of them include;
- Foam toe pads
- Cotton toe pads
- Gel toe pads
- Lambs wool toe pads
- Ouch pouches
Other types of protection include;
- Second skin
- Toe spacers
- Individual silicone toe sleeves
The amount of friction and pain the dancer experiences en pointe, and the level of pain tolerance is individual. For instance, some dancers suffer with blisters, bunions, hammertoes or corns which can make pointe work excruciating.
Dancing free of pain certainly looks and feels a whole lot better than dancing in pain!