Sunday, 23 January 2011

Preparing my pointe shoes

Whilst I'm not a professional dancer, taking pointe class each week means that I still need to prepare and look after my pointe shoes.

With a little help from an online friend identifying my foot type, I finally found a shoe that seems to suit my foot, and have been happily wearing said pair since the summer (I do only use them for class for about an hour each week). Sadly, and I'd felt that it was coming, I snapped the shank on Tuesday, and had to start again with a brand new pair.

My battered but comfortable (until they snapped) Grishko 2007 4 1/2 xxx's with medium shank. On the second photo you can see in the demi pointe where the shank has died!

So began the process of breaking in my brand, shiny new shoes. And I'd forgotten just how painfully hard they are when they're unworn.
Look how stiff they are! It made me wonder if I'd ever releve again.

My initial exctement about new shoes waned quickly when I put them on and felt the restriction of the super hard box and unpliable shank. Despite the snapped shank on my previous pair, they were at least fairly comfortable for class.

So I set about the lengthy process of making the shoes fit to wear:

First I stripped the satin off the toe, 'sealed' the satin by burning with a lighter, and began to blanket stitch around the platform to gain a little traction and stop the satin fraying. I used to darn the whole of the platform, but discovered that the piece flat to the platform came off after a few weeks anyway, so it made more sense to remove it and make sure the edges are secure.

Ta-da: fully sewn platforms. By using thick thread, this only took about 15-20 minutes per shoe, as opposed to the hours it used to take to darn the entire platform.

Although I haven't photographed the rest of the process, I then sewed on covert elastics from heel to heel, and sewed the ribbons on, roughly to match the sewn line that marks the back quarter of the shoe. Then the bit that makes me nervous: squashing the box to make them more comfortable on my toes. I do this initially with great trepidation (as it's easy to crack the box) but within a couple of weeks I'll be standing on them to make sure they are comfortable. Whilst my shoe has a 3/4 shank, which cuts down on shank preparation, it also has a pretty high and stiff vamp, so I have to spend time softening it with my hand.

If I got through several pairs a month I don't know how I'd manage the final part of the process which is to simply wear them around the house with socks over (to warm and soften them) and gradually work through the demi pointe doing gentle rises & pliees. This is the longest part and as my shoe seems to have a particularly strong shank (apparently Russian shoes like Grishko tend to be much harder) it's always the most painful bit.

My fully prepared shoe: it'll be a few classes before they're genuinely comfortable and can do what I want them to do.

Do you wear pointe shoes? What brand or How do you prepare them? Do you have any advice on speeding my process or making it more efficient? I find the ritual of preparing pointe shoes fascinating and would love to hear/ see images of how you prepare yours.


  1. I wear Sansha Ovations. Instead of removing the whole platform I just take an X-acto knife and make criss cross marks on the bottom of the shoe to create fraction.

  2. You do a lot of work! Wow I do not strip the satin off the bottoms - 20 minutes to darn them!! :) You're awesome. I don't even like sewing the elastics and ribbons that much. My fave part is destroying it. You've inspired me to write up my own breaking in routine sometime. It usually takes me a couple classes to get them perfect too.

    As far as your shank breaking - it shouldn't do that!! I 3/4 shank them and break them at the arch so that they won't break later on their own in the wrong spot. The best reason to retire your current pair is because the box is too soft (and that can even be fixed for a class or two with jet glue) and the shank no longer supports you... a broken shank would break my heart, unless I broke it myself.

    Your shoes are pretty! What are you wearing these days?

  3. I use Bloch B-Morphs. I have yet to try the "heating up the put them in the fridge" thing yet, and I have been using them about an hour a day, 3 times a week, and they feel fine. I also have high-ish arches, so that might be why mine don't bother me. I tried on a few other brands, but I really liked the European Balances as well.
    Happy Dancing!

  4. great post. I am a trained mobile pointe shoe fitter specializing in Grishko :) darning pointe shoes indeed helps alot! I even have a video on how to darn pointe shoes on my youtube channel