Why Women Like Shoes

There is no question about it – We love  shoes. There are even women who cannot drive past a shoe store without dropping in to buy a brand new pair of women shoes. Have you ever driven past a shoe store when there was a sale going on? The parking lot is packed, and the way women walk out with boxes piled high, you would think that they were giving the shoes away!

If you open the door of any average woman’s closet, you will be able to tell quite a bit about her – by checking out her shoes. That scuffed up pair are her favorites. Those sneakers with the mud caked on them are an indication that she may be a runner – or possibly a gardener. If you see cowboy boots, she may ride horses, but if the boots are in excellent condition – with no dirt, scuffs or dust – she is probably into country and western dance. (I love my Gringos!) 

Patricia Cantwell, loves black shoes…last count I think was 68 pairs.

Our shoes tell other people quite a bit about us – more than most people realize. Tom Hanks, in Forest Gump said “Mama always said you could tell an awful lot about a person by the kind of shoes they wear.” And his Mama was right! ! A woman’s shoes really go a long way towards telling you who she is, what she is like, and what she does with her life.  Well the same is true with the ballerina’s shoes. !  Check out Melody Staples as she walks into class with at least 15 pairs dangling from her dance bag.

So you are getting your point shoes? First of all, Congratulations!!! You’re making such an important step in your dance career! They are the very foundation of advanced ballet technique for women.  Pointe shoes are the essential tool of the ballerina’s career. Without them, ballet would have a completely different look and feel. An arabesque, with the leg lifted high behind, arms outstretched, is a lovely attitude, and would be with the foot flat or even on demi-pointe – what we call standing on tiptoe – but en pointe, it transcends itself as the ballerina seems to defy gravity. Pointe shoes allow her to achieve this beauty

Structure Makes a Difference – Pointe shoes consist of many different parts, all of which are fundamental in how the shoe fits. When trying to find the right pointe shoe, consider these very important terms in making your choice

Box: the front, wide part of the pointe shoe

The box can be either wide or tapered. A tapered box is narrower toward the tip of the shoe and gets wider as it approaches the drawstring. Shoes with a tapered box are good for dancers whose toes decrease in length from the big toe to the pinky toe. Shoes with a wider box are great for dancers whose toes are all close to the same length.

•Vamp: the top part of the pointe shoe, which is a continuation of the box

Vamps can either be “V” shaped or “U” shaped. “V” shaped vamps are usually longer, which gives the foot a little extra support.

•Shank: the “spine” of the pointe shoe

The shank is the part of the shoe that must be “broken in.” The shank provides arch support in the shoe. Shanks come in different strengths: hard, medium, and soft. Most beginner pointe dancers should get medium or hard shanks to build strength in their arches.

•Platform: the flat end of the box that you relevee onto

•Throat: the open area where the foot fits into the shoe

Now .. make sure they fit you and that they’re completely comfortable. Dancers now use satin pointe shoes with a hard but pliable shank and a box made up of layers of cardboard. Dancers must break in their shoes by dancing in them using the proper techniques. Often, dancers improve their shoes by manipulating them. In today’s world of pointe shoes, there are many different companies that offer a myriad of pointe shoe styles and shapes. This variety of shoes allows dancers to find a perfect pair.

There are many different ways of breaking in pointe shoes, such as pounding the shoes against cement, hitting them with blunt objects, wetting the box then wearing them to class and bending them on door frames.

Even ten years ago, the selection of shoes was limited, and many dancers were forced to independently “customize” their pointe shoes to avoid injury. Though it is said that it is not now necessary, in practice, most dancers do still break their shoes in by the methods described above. Some manufacturers try to curb the practice by actually employing the wetting of the box method by suggesting the dancer to do a one-two hour barre work (to make the box wet by sweat and mold to the feet) then wait until the shoe gets dry and apply shellac inside the box, to keep it dry in the future.

Seasoned dancers select new pairs of pointe shoes carefully, checking that they are even and balanced. Usually, they have a favorite brand, model, and even maker. In the pointe shoe world the general consensus is that the best shoe is not one brand or another but the one that fits the dancer’s feet the best. There are many different types of pointe shoes, and each fits the dancer in a different way. Some dancers use different brands or models depending on the actual piece they perform; some shoes are better suited for lots of groundwork while others are better in dances with lots of jumps, and hops. The pointe shoe should be tight, with only a pinch of cloth at the heel when the pointe shoe is en pointe. Two ribbons wrap around the dancer’s ankle, one over the other as to form as cross at the front. The ends are then tied in a knot (not a bow which will look lumpy on the ankle and may come undone unexpectedly) which is tucked into the inside of the ankle so it is not visible.

When you set out to purchase new shoes, make sure that you are wearing the right type of tights  that you will wear with the shoes that you purchase. This is important, tights will change the way the shoe fits When you try on the shoes, stand on one foot at a time, allowing all of your weight to be on that one foot The shoes should bend where your foot bends. Next, think about the width of the shoe. At the widest part of your foot, does the shoe feel comfortable when standing on one foot, when standing normally on two feet, and when walking? Don’t just take a few steps, walk ten or twenty feet and then back to get a good sense of what the shoe will feel like when walking. It needs to be tight

 An elastic band is wrapped around the ankle to keep the heel pocket of the shoe in place when the dancer is en pointe. Dancers no longer attach the elastic through a loop on the heel as this has been shown to cause achilles tendinitis in many dancers and is no longer recommended. Because exact placement of the ribbons varies with the dancer’s feet, the ribbons do not come attached to the pointe shoes. The dancer must sew the ribbons and elastic on by herself after purchasing the shoe. Exact placement is imperative. Some stores will sew the elastic and ribbon on after the shoe is purchased. A good fitter will at least mark where the elastic and ribbon should be placed. Incorrectly placed elastic or ribbon can cause the shoe not to fit properly. Elastic and ribbon should be sewn on with the correct thread. Most professionals recommend embroidery thread. It comes in 6-string strands, but usually using 3-strands is sufficient. Some dancers also use dental floss, though embroidery thread works better.

The shank of the shoe comes in two different sizes, 3/4 and full shank. The full shank is traditionally for the dancer who has a strong arch, and needs more support than the 3/4 can offer. The full shank was used in the original pointe shoe. The 3/4 is shorter, and helps dancers go up en pointe with more facility. Very often dancers cut the shank to their own specific foot to provide just the amount of support they prefer. This is known as “shanking” the shoe. There is a wide variety of pointe shoes that have different attributes and longevity. The choreography will often dictate the type of shoe required: the supple, lyrical style of the white swan, for instance, requires a softer shoe, while the black swan’s dazzling turns are best done in a hard, stiff shoe.

Pointe shoes are usually made in light pink colors varying from peachy-pink to rosy-pink, to very pale pink.. At dance supply stores, pointe shoes retail for anywhere between $35 and $120. Students usually pay between $40 and $80 for one pair of shoes, which will last (with major fluctuations depending on the strength of the dancer’s feet, her weight, the type and strength of the shoes, and the amount of time spent en pointe) for about one to three months. Higher level dance students, who usually take several pointe classes a week, can often go through one or more pairs monthly. Professional dancers go through pointe shoes much more quickly and order shoes in bulk directly from manufacturers – one pair can “die” after twenty minutes of a performance. Many professional ballet companies offer shoe allowances to their dancers, allotting a certain number of shoes to each dancer per season, depending on her position in the company. Professional dancers may buy very expensive pointe shoes, ranging from $80 to $100, depending on what company and how they are customized.

Here is a list of pointe shoe companies you can google the names. 

Bloch (Australia), Freed of London Ltd. (England), Gamba Ltd. (England) , Prima Sansha (France),Chacott (Japan), Russian Pointe (Russia), Grishko Ltd. (Russia), Capezio (USA), So Danca (USA) , Gaynor Minden (USA) , Angelo Luzio (Canada) , Principal Shoes(Canada) , Repetto (France)

And last but not least is  my pet peeve.. I hate Gaynor Minden shoes. The shank is PLASTIC. This means that when you sweat the shoes don’t mold to your feet.  They don’t allow you to develop your own arch, or get any muscle memory. I believe they are cheater shoes. As you are learning to do pointe work, you have to develop your muscles instead of letting the shoe hold you up.   Parents you might love them because they last longer but they are not teaching a dancer how to utilize their feet properly.  If you ask my favorite shoe it would always be a Freed.  


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