Finding the right pair of pointe shoes is synonymous with finding the right partner. The right support helps you in times of need and allows you to thrive and become a better person. The same is with the perfect pair of pointe shoes; they help you feel secure and make your dancing come alive. While we know this, why is finding the right pair still so problematic?
With retired shoemakers, delayed deliveries, and a messed-up supply chain, finding the right fit for dancers in 2022 continues to be even more complex and challenging than ever before.
In this series of Finding The Right Fit, we follow the pointe shoe journey of three professional dancers: Suzan Sittig, Cécile Kaltenbach, and Sarah Irmatova. From their first fittings to their transition from student to company life, we explore the many facets and demands of a dancer, and ultimately, what one looks for in finding the right fit—and the consequences for not wearing the right ones.
No. of pointe shoe brands worn: 3
No. of pointe shoe models worn: 3
My first pointe shoe fitting
I may have been 11 years of age at the time before I was granted permission and was old enough to start pointe work at school. My fitting was at a ballet shop, where I tried a few typical brands and models that would typically fit young students, like Merlet, Sansha, Gamba, and maybe Repetto.
What was it like training in my first pair of pointe shoes?
It was a dream come true, plus many blisters. I could finally dance in my very-own pointe, and not the big old shoes of my aunt at my grandparents!
What was I looking for in a shoe when I was at school?
I wanted a pair that would fit size-wise, have a nice line, and cover my feet properly, as well as last longer, so not break so easily.
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A SHOE AS A PROFESSIONAL DANCER IN A BALLET COMPANY
A nice lined box that hugs the foot properly (no banana effect on the side), a stable platform, follows the foot line and breaks in nicely. I want a pointe shoe that compliments my overall line, so a continuation of the foot line, not a big block on the end of my foot.
2. Perfect Fit (foot not swimming)
The fit needs to be comfortable and not take too much time to break in, like the cinderella feeling when you wear them! The box should cover parts like bunions and support the foot, while the sole shouldn't be too hard in the middle foot area but strong at the bottom. There shouldn't be much fabric on the side or by the heel en pointe. Overall, the sole should be stable and not too wobbly. Wow, I guess I have a lot of criteria!
My ideal pointe shoes should last a few weeks or at least one week of wearing the same pair.
4. Flexibilty & Stability
I need a soft sole that bends enough when I point my foot or jump, but I also need a harder box to support my feet. Half of the sole should be hard enough to support my feet, with the top end being very soft.
I need a stable box that is hard enough to hold the foot properly, but not so much that it hurts the bones and toes.
6. Delivery Time
The most difficult thing is trying different customizations without knowing if it would work, plus the delivery time. It would be a dream to have my pointe shoes within 1-3 months; however, mine usually take a year minimum. Sometimes your customizations don't work, and then the shoes are unusable. One size too big can be too much, or even half a size. A harder box might mean that you can't go on pointe anymore.
7. Heel slipping off
A heel pin is a solution (it is an extra bit of fabric by the heel) making it almost 1/4size bigger.
Pointe shoes shouldn't be too painful on the feet, toes, and bunions. The box should adapt to the foot properly and not create extra pressure points.
My dream would be to have very quiet pointe shoes, but it's almost impossible.
10. Preparation Time
I would love for it to take 10 minutes or less to prepare my pointe shoes! With all the sewing, darning, and breaking in time, my pointe shoe prep amounts to an average of an hour per pair.
With all that said we are in 2022. There has to be a better solution to pointe shoes. We MUST move forward and innovate upon antiquated inventions to help the dancers of today and future generations. It's time for the ballet world to catch up with the rest of the industries outside the dance bubble in research and development.