Pointe shoes are still a mystery to most.
As a professional pointe shoe fitter, I found there are a lot of myths that float around in the dance world.
Here are 5 of the most common pointe shoe myths:
Stronger feet need harder shoes: The strength of the shoe is not always determined by the strength of the feet. If that were true, professionals wouldn’t wear super soft shoes, yet a lot of them do. The hardness of the shank can be determined by many different reasons: flexibility, stability, skill level, strength and longevity. It all depends on the individual dancer. We can put a dancer in a hard shank because they are unstable and need more support or because they have extremely flexible feet and need longevity. We can put a dancer in a soft shank because they’re strong and don’t have to rely much on the shoes or because they cannot get over the box of a hard box. So it all depends.
- Feet will be deformed after wearing pointe shoes: There are so many different types of pointe shoes and so many pointe shoe accessories, you can fit just about every dancer. If the shoes are properly fitted (you can check out the 5 reasons why you should be professionally fitted in this article), there should be no reason your feet should be deformed. That being said, you might still get a few blisters here and there. But there are many options now to avoid unnecessary injuries.
- You have to break your shoes before wearing them: We have all seen those memorizing videos of professionals prepping their shoes. However, unless you are ready to buy a new pair of pointe shoes every day, you shouldn’t follow suit. This is to make the shoes feel like they have been dancing on them for hours so they are performance ready. But then the shoes will do just that, last for a single performance. Gently bending the shoes at the arch or flattening them at the box to make it more comfortable is acceptable for dancers in training. But you should avoid breaking them on the door or any foreign objects. The best way is to allow the shoes to naturally break in with your feet.
- You have to be a certain age to start pointe: Dancers have to be at a certain maturity before going en pointe, but everyone is different. It is more accurate to determine when to go en pointe by how much control you have over your body and what level you are at rather than how old you are. Reputable ballet studios may have dancers that start earlier because the dancers have been trained properly and have good control over their bodies.
- Pointe shoes are excruciatingly painful: Dancing en pointe is not a walk in the park. But it shouldn’t be so painful that it makes you want to quit. If pointe shoes are fitted properly with appropriate toe pads, the shoes should protect the dancers from excessive pain. If something doesn’t feel right, make sure to tell your fitter.
Pointe shoes are evolving all the time. There is always more research, more technology and more models that arrive every year. Yet one thing remains the same: you have to work hard and earn your pointe shoes.