How to pick your first pair of pointe shoes

I still remember the feeling of happiness that I felt the day I bought my first pair of pointe shoes. I was 9 years old, and although the age at which each ballerina buys their first pointe shoes is not always the same, it’s very important to know the type of pointe shoes we need when we are beginners, at whatever age this might be.

I still remember the feeling of happiness that I felt the day I bought my first pair of pointe shoes. I was 9 years old, and although the age at which each ballerina buys their first pointe shoes is not always the same, it’s very important to know the type of pointe shoes we need when we are beginners, at whatever age this might be.

To go on pointe is something you do when you’ve been doing ballet for a few years. Wearing the wrong pointe shoes for your feet can lead to improper foot development, learning bad habits and even cause injury, so it’s very important to understand the types of pointe shoes that exist and which one is the best for you. Let ‘s dig into it!

First, what is a pointe shoe?

Pointe shoes are the shoes that ballerinas use mostly in classical repertoire, but they can be also used in modern and neoclassical pieces. The pointe shoes allow you to dance on top of your fingertips, making the dancer look light and ethereal, like sylphs.

What type of pointe shoes do you have?

Nowadays, there are many brands and types of pointe shoes, to not make this text too long, I will mention the 6 most important characteristics:

1. Size

Like street shoes, pointe shoes have a size according to the length of the shoe, and depending on the brand they will use a different type of sizing (European, UK, USA, etc). But beware, your street shoes size won’t always match your pointe shoes size..

2. Sole

The sole of the pointe shoes can be made of different materials, but what matters most about the sole is its hardness, and this is the second most important characteristic when choosing your first pair of pointe shoes. To understand the different hardnesses, we classify the soles as very soft, soft, medium, hard or very hard.

3. Box

The box is the third most important characteristic when choosing your first pair of pointe shoes. There are different shapes, dimensions and hardness of the wings (the sides of the box are called wings), but the most important characteristics are width and height.

4. Box width

The width of the shoe and the box are proportional. A larger box is a wider shoe, and a smaller box is a narrower shoe. The width is usually measured by the widest part of the foot, which is the part where the toe joints begin. This characteristic is very important, as wearing the wrong width shoes can be very painful.

5. Vamp (box height)

When choosing your first pointe shoes you should also pay special attention to the height of the box, because if it is too high or too low you will go on them incorrectly and they will get deformed.

6. Platform

The platform is the part of the shoe that stays in contact with the ground when you go on pointe. The larger the platform, the more balance and support you will have, but a smaller platform will show a better line of the leg and the foot.


How to pick my first pair of pointe shoes?

To pick your first pointe shoes you must know the type of feet you have, but before we are going to talk about the protections, as we must first know what is the extra space that we need inside the shoes so that our toes and protections fit.

Toes pads

To protect the toes from the shoe friction we use protectors called toe pads. There are toe pads of many types and materials, silicone, foam, fabric, thicker, thinner, and there are ballerinas who do not use toe them and use cotton or paper instead to better feel the inside of the shoe.

The protection you decide to use is a very personal decision, just keep in mind the extra space when buying your pointe shoes. If it’s your very first time, try different toe pads and different pointe shoes on the same day.

Finally, let’s talk about how to choose your first pair of pointe shoes!

Standing flat, your heel should touch the back of the shoe and your big toe should just touch the front. If they don’t the shoes may be too long. If your toes are crunching or curling the shoe may be too short.
“plié” deeply on one leg. Significant pressure on the big toe indicates a length that is too short.

If you have a lot of “cou-de-pied” (the arch of your foot is very curved) you will need a hard sole, and when you gain more strength you will have to switch to using very hard soles. On the contrary, if you don’t have a lot of “cou-de-pied” (the arch of your foot is straight or slightly curved) you should opt for a soft or very soft sole, and later move on to a medium sole.

We will pick a higher vamp if our feet are very arched to prevent the feet from bending beyond the platform and a shorter vamp if we have less arch to be able to fully get on the platform. In any case, the joints of all toes should always be covered by the box, never out because there would be a risk of injury, so if the ballerina has long toes, the box should be higher.

On the figure (A) the ballerina has a very arched foot, the sole is too soft and the vamp too short.
On the figure (B) the ballerina doesn’t have a very arched food, the sole is too hard and the vamp too high.
On the figure (C) the ballerina is wearing a soft sole (this is called “knuckling” and it is incorrect).
On the figure (D) the ballerina is wearing the perfect pointe shoe

The place where the sole should naturally bend is just below the heel, if it bends on the toes it means that the sole is too soft. The platform should always be in contact with the ground all or just a little behind (after a few days of use you should be able to get on completely).

Some pointe shoes have what ‘s called a split sole (a sole that is divided in two parts, cutted normally at 3⁄4). These types of pointe shoes are great choices for both types of ballerinas with big and smaller arches, but I don’t recommend using them if you are a beginner.

To measure the width, each brand uses different letters or numbers:

  • 2 or less / X / A or B / N (N for “narrow”)
  • 3 / XX / C / M (M for “medium”)
  • 4 or more / XXX / D or E / W (W for “wide”)

As for the platform, you should pick a platform that is large enough to give you support and feel stable but that at the same time looks good on you (smaller platforms tend to favor the line of your leg and foot more). Small ballerinas tend to use smaller platforms since their weight and height do not require as much platform surface, but it may vary from ballerina to ballerina.


The most used brands

To help you with making the decision of picking your first pair of pointe shoes, these are the most common brands: Bloch, Capezio, Freed, Gaynor Minden, Grishko, R-Class, and Sansha.

Extra tips

To be able to go on your pointe shoes for the first time, you should be able to do at least 20 “relevés” in a row with your knee stretched without getting cramps over a single leg, this way you can find out if your ankles and knees are strong enough for using pointe shoes. When you go on pointe, your weight should be over your big toe, it is very dangerous if the weight is transferred to the little toe as you could twist your ankle.

Getting blisters and irritation is normal during the first few years. Therefore, apart from being physically prepared, you must also be mentally prepared to endure the pain. Over the years, the skin gets used to and you are able to spend more hours dancing on pointe shoes. Just to have an idea, a professional dancer usually uses pointe shoes about 8 hours a day.

To finish off, remember that you can ask your teachers for advice, they will surely help you make this big decision, something that you will remember for the rest of your life.

By Júlia Muxinach | Ballerina & blogger | shesapiens.com

Physical and mental preparation for a dance audition

Auditions season is coming. November is the month when we usually start seeing many announcements of dance auditions online. This is why today, we want to share with you some tips to help you be more physically and mentally prepared for a dance audition. 1. Being mentally prepared is as important as being physically prepared …

Auditions season is coming. November is the month when we usually start seeing many announcements of dance auditions online. This is why today, we want to share with you some tips to help you be more physically and mentally prepared for a dance audition.

1. Being mentally prepared is as important as being physically prepared

It is natural to worry about being in shape when you are going to an audition, but being mentally prepared is just as, or more important, than being physically prepared. When attending an audition, you will find yourself in a new environment and surrounded by people you don’t know, that’s why having a calm and positive mentality is key for doing a good audition.

2. Do not overthink and enjoy the moment

An audition can be as pleasant or unpleasant as you want it to be. Thinking too much about what the audition will be like is counterproductive. Creating expectations, whether positive or negative, will only make you more nervous and make you miss the magic of the moment.

Every dance audition is unique and different. If you go with an open mind you will probably enjoy it a lot more, so instead of trying to foresee what will happen or what other dancers are going to attend, focus on learning and enjoying every second, because this opportunity will not be repeated. Also, if you look happy during the audition, you have a much better chance of attracting the attention and liking the jury.

 3. Trust your hard work

BestBeing consistent in your daily work is key to preparing your body and mind for a dance audition. Before an audition, it’s important that you imagine that every class and every rehearsal you do, is like an audition. Arrive early to the studio to warm up, ideally 1 hour or 30 minutes before class. Start moving your body gently and increase the force as your muscles feel more prepared. Pay particular attention to the parts of the body where you have suffered a previous injury and gently stretch before starting the ballet bar.

At the end of class and rehearsals, stretch for a longer time to relax your muscles and prepare them for the next day. If you go to the audition knowing that you have been following a good exercise routine and have given your best in each of the classes and rehearsals before the audition, you will feel more confident and better prepared.

4. Be humble and don’t compare yourself

Each dancer has their own flaws, and you are no different. No one is better nor worse than anyone else. Is important that you work feeling a good atmosphere inside the studio, getting along with the rest of your peers. Being competitive in excess won’t benefit you. Feeling envy is never a positive thing. No dancer is born knowing how to dance. Remember how you were when you first started, and use this memory to motivate yourself to improve and get better every day.

Whenever you look in the mirror and start having self-critical thoughts, tell yourself a positive affirmation about something you do like about yourself. During the audition, imagine that no one else is there and focus on showing the jury what you are capable of. Dance humbly, because no one is perfect and don’t compare yourself with the rest of participants.

5. Follow a healthy diet and sleeping routine

Following a healthy diet is important for maintaining an ideal weight, but it’s also important for having a good energy level and avoiding getting injured. The secret is not to eat less, but to eat slowly until feeling satisfied. Vegetables, fruits, and legumes are low-calorie, high-nutrient foods, so you can eat them in abundance. Eat your food raw, steamed, or grilled with a small amount of olive oil, as these are the healthiest ways. Avoid sugar, do not use a lot of salt, and keep the fried food out of your diet as much as possible. And don’t forget to drink enough water! Before the audition, you shouldn’t eat too much. The right thing to do would be to eat a good healthy meal 2-3 hours before starting the exercise and take with you some fruit or nuts to maintain a good energy level during the dance audition. If you have any concerns about your diet, consider seeing a nutritionist.

Good sleep is also very important to let your body rest and recover your muscles. Keeping to a routine, getting up and going to bed at the same time each day is an essential part of reminding our minds and bodies when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. Don’t eat too much close to bedtime, and avoid watching TV or your phone time before bed and in the bedroom, as doing so could prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Consider reading a book or writing down the corrections that the teacher has given you during the day in your journal. These are activities that will help you turn off your brain at bedtime. If you suffer from anxiety or insomnia, it’s best to ask a health professional for help.

6. Don’t give up

Some days will be harder than others. When you are feeling tired or when it seems like everything is going wrong, you can use those days to do some inner work of introspection. Ask yourself: Why am I dancing? What positive emotions do I feel when I dance? How willing am I to do whatever it takes to achieve my dream? Reminding yourself of what motivates you to dance will be enough to keep you going that day.

What if the audition doesn’t go well? Should I quit? If the result of the audition is what you wanted, don’t give up because there will be many more opportunities. Each audition is a new opportunity that brings you closer to realizing your dream. The most important thing is to be sure if dancing makes you happy enough to do it for the rest of your life. If so, you there’s no doubt you will find the strength needed to succeed.

By Júlia Muxinach | Dancer and entrepreneur | shesapiens.com