Pointe Shoe Decisions for Beginners

Hey everyone!  Today we discuss pointe shoe options for en pointe beginners. The controversy of this topic lies in whether or not newbies to pointe should wear harder or softer shoes.  I’ll look at both sides of the argument.

The Types of Feet

For reference later in this post, it will be helpful if you decide on your foot type, and then that will help you determine which kind of shoe is better:

  • Average: Equal amount of strength and flexibility
  • Flexible: More flexibility than strength
  • In-flexible/strong: Less flexibility than strength
  • Sickled: Less flexibility and a weak outer ankle

Harder Shoes

Many people argue that harder shoes make it more difficult to roll up and down on and off pointe. Rolling strengthens and warms up the intricate network of muscles in the feet, preparing them for more difficult steps in center.  You have to work hard not to “pop up” onto pointe.  However, these people argue that a harder shoe makes it easier to be en pointe and doesn’t require much effort. Therefore it is quite a breeze to learn and train the foot with correct placement and also reduces the risk for injury.

The other side of the argument is that most young dancers haven’t learned to be disciplined and force themselves to roll up, even though they know it is easier to just pop onto pointe.  By neglecting to roll up properly they train the technique poorly, which can cause problems in center and pressure-injuries in the ankle and knees, in addition to bad dancing technique in general.

My opinion is that it depends on the foot:

Sickled foot

Dancers who tend to sickle need to learn correct placement en pointe as soon as possible to prevent injury, and a harder shoe that forces them in the right place would be ideal.  

In-flexible foot

This is also good for a dancer with a less flexible ankle, a shoe that fits well but is substantially hard will teach to put them over their box.

Flexible feet

For dancers with very flexible feet, it is important that their shoes are hard enough to get them over their box, but it can be a trade off.  If they don’t work through their demi pointe and their foot isn’t very strong, going with a harder shoe will force them to articulate.  But, if they are okay at working through their demi pointe, going with a medium strength can serve them well, as long as the foot is supported.

Softer Shoes

Some argue that a softer shoe teaches the dancer to support themselves en pointe and not to “sit” into their pointe shoes.  However, I feel that especially for dancers with typical flexibility in their feet, or feet that need to be strengthened, sitting into pointe shoes can really damage your technique.

The disadvantage of a softer shoe is that it is really easy to roll through, and therefore it does not strengthen the intrinsic muscles as much.  Additionally, for dancers with very flexible feet, it is easy to get incorrect placement or roll an ankle because the shoes don’t support you sufficiently.

My opinion is that a softer shoe does more harm than good – it teaches incorrect placement to those with less flexible feet and doesn’t support those with stronger.  Rolling through is a very important part of ballet technique and dancers who don’t strengthen their feet in that way may have problems in center, especially with jumps.

In Conclusion

Finally, my opinion is that young dancers should have medium-hard pointe shoes to train their feet as they induce proper placement but also strengthen them.  Importantly though, it really comes down to the dancers’ need. The question is, are they able to work correctly and get over their box?  It comes down to an individual basis, as it should.

Thanks for reading today’s post, and I’ll see you on Friday.  Happy 2017!

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