Having your pointe shoes fitted professionally can help prevent some of the nasty effects of pointe such as blisters, toenail issues, bunions, and even stress fractures.
There are many different brands and styles of pointe shoe. Some dance schools have a preferred brand, so it’s good to check with your teacher before your fitting. Each foot is a different shape and size, which will determine which style to wear.
What to wear
It’s important to try your shoes on with any padding you will be wearing with the shoe, for example taping, toe separators, ‘ouch pouches’ etc.
Knowing the anatomy of the pointe shoe will help you with the following checklist:
Fitting the shoe
Toes should be able to lie flat in the box of the shoe. The shoe should be tight enough that the toes feel snug, however the foot should not come over the top of the box. You should be able to just fit one finger into the shoe – any more than this and the shoe is probably too round for your foot.
Wings should come in line with the big toe joint. If you have long toes, you will need a longer box. If the box is too long it will be hard to move through demi pointe in the shoe.
The vamp is the length of the front of the shoe. If the vamp is too short you may feel like you’re ‘falling’ out the front of the shoe. If the vamp is too long it will make it difficult to move through the demi pointe.
The heel seam should just about reach the top of your heel bone. If the drawstring comes over the heel it can cause Achilles issues, if it is too low your shoe will fall off!
The shank should sit along the sole of the foot when en pointe. Twisting can come from the box of the shoe being too narrow.
To check this fold the heel seem underneath the shoe, and check the foot en pointe. The shank should be just short of the heel. Shoes that are too long can cause sagging of the back of the shoe. If the shank is too short the foot will not be as supported, which can cause the foot to wobble en pointe.
What positions to try
Plie in second:
This makes your foot longest and widest, so it is good to check that at the depth of your plie your toes don’t curl.
Check the fit of one shoe at a time by stepping up onto pointe holding a stable surface. The shoe should fit the foot snugly, with no particular pressure points. If the sides of the shoe gape you can try tightening the drawstring, or a narrower shoe may be required.
Need some more help?
Physiotherapist Annissa Harwood completes pointe shoe fittings and pre-pointe assessments. She has a lifelong passion performing and studying the art of dance and pointe related issues, and would love to answer your questions.
Lisa Howell: How do you fit pointe shoes correctly? 2015