How Do I Choose the Best Pointe Shoes?

A properly fitted pair of pointe shoes will strengthen your feet, encourage proper technique, protect you from injury, and help you dance in beautiful lines. Careful measurements, time, and patience are required when selecting the best pointe shoes for your feet. You’ll need to figure out your foot shape first, then try on a variety of shoes until you find one that fits well and provides adequate support. Other factors to consider include shank type and any additional accessories you may require, such as cushions.

Grecian, Egyptian, and Giselle are the three main types of foot shapes. The second toe on a Grecian foot is longer than the first toe, or big toe. The Egyptian foot is tapered, with the first toe being the longest and the remaining toes being shorter. It is the most common foot type among ballet dancers. Some dancers have Giselle-shaped feet, where the first three or four toes are approximately the same length. A pointe shoe specialist can help you find shoes that will fit each of these foot shapes.

You should schedule a fitting in the afternoon or early evening, especially if this is your first pair of pointe shoes. It’s best to aim for a reasonable amount of dancing. Because feet swell slightly throughout the day, especially after dancing or exercising, this is a good average fit.

Pointe shoes, unlike most shoes, should not be fitted with extra room for growth. Your toes should lightly graze the toe box when standing flat, but not crammed against it. The shoe should be snug but not overly so.

The shank, the stiff insole of pointe shoes that helps keep the foot straight while en pointe, is also very important. Because the shank is usually the first part of the shoe to wear out, a more durable shank will usually result in a more durable shoe. Although some instructors believe that too much support prevents the foot of a beginner dancer from strengthening properly, a stiffer shank, sometimes made of plastic, provides additional support. It’s also possible that the dancer will “pop” into pointe position instead of rolling gracefully through demi-pointe. Check with your instructor to find out which shanks are preferred in your studio.

After you’ve figured out your foot shape and shoe size, you’ll need to figure out what other features you require. If you have long toes, for example, you may need a shoe with a longer vamp — the part of the shoe that covers the toe — to keep them from buckling or popping out while en pointe. If you have particularly high or low arches, bunions, or other foot issues, custom pointe shoes designed specifically for your foot type may be an option.