Pointe Shoe Facts
- The first “pointe” shoes were thought to be developed in the early 1800s and worn by Marie Taglioni. These shoes did not have hard toe boxes, but were only padded with cotton and wool (Grant, 89). Some also believe that Taglioni’s shoes were also darned on the ends as well.
- Sometime around the mid 1800s, the shoes were darned (a type of sewing technique) on the ends of the toes and glue was added for a stiffer toe and more support. By the early 1900s shanks had been added to the shoes and the boxes became harder.
- Most pointe shoes today are made with layers of glue and material in the boxes and leather and satin in other parts of the shoe. No wood blocks are used for the toe ends (box).
- In the last several decades, new technology has been, and continues to be, developed for pointe shoe construction, such as Gaynor Minden’s flexible polymers and Bloch’s TMT technology. Now, special types of paste and certain types of plastics are becoming more common in both shank and box construction, and new stretch satin and ribbon are being incorporated into many shoe designs.
- Some reputable pointe shoe brands: Capezio, Bloch, Grishko, Sansha, Russian Pointe, Freed, Gaynor Minden
- Parts of a Pointe Shoe: Box, Shank, Vamp, Wing, Platform, Sole, Profile
- There is no exact age for when to begin pointe dancing. Dancers should only go on pointe once they have developed the muscle strength and the proper technique needed for pointe work. Allowing a student to go on pointe before proper muscles and technique are developed can cause permanent damage to growing bones and muscles in young dancers and lead to injury in dancers of any age.
- Proper fitting is the most important factor in selecting pointe shoes. It is extremely important that one never buys pointe shoes that are too big with the idea that a dancer can grow into them. This can cause permanent damage. Students should also not order pointe shoes online but be fitted by a knowledgeable, professional fitter.
- All feet are different, so there is no one perfect brand or style that works across the board for everyone. It can take a lot of trial and error to find the best shoe brand and style for your body type and muscle strength. Do not share pointe shoes or buy already used pointe for these same reasons.
- Pointe shoes are an expensive investment– unfortunately you will most likely buy pointe shoes that do not work for you after the first few classes. It is important that you do not keep wearing these shoes if they can cause harm to your feet. If you are unsure if your shoes are bad for your feet, talk with your teacher. If your teacher advises you to stop wearing a certain type of shoe because of injury risk, it is best to try another brand or style as soon as possible.
- Proper foot care is important. Wearing toe pads and toe spacers can help prevent bunions (displacement of the bones on the side of the foot) and other foot problems that can cause permanent damage and possibly even require surgery later in life.
- A dancer is not stronger, better, or more professional because they do not wear toe pads or other foot protection. This is a myth. Using newer technology in order to protect and preserve health does not make someone weaker or less of a dancer.
Main Reference: Gail Grant, Technical Manual Dictionary of Classical Ballet, 3rded. (New York, Dover Publications, Inc.), 1982.