There are lots of rumors surrounding pointe shoes – most of them criticize modern brands such as Gaynor Minden, and also brands that are designed to help boost a dancer’s technique without them working hard for it.
I recently tried Freed pointe shoes for the first time. A professional Freed fitter was visiting my ballet school and she was fitting pointe shoes for all of the company members and students. The first thing I can say is that the experience was amazing: I felt like a New York City Ballet dancer sitting in the pointe shoe room, getting the perfect shoe for my upcoming performance. But, we will talk more about that later.
First, we must address an issue surrounding the Freed of London brand: Do the shoes die faster? The answer is, “yes”, but righteously so. They are hand-made by workers in the London Freed factory, from which you can watch a spectacular video below:
Being hand-made, the shoes feel much different from today’s factory-made shoes. They are a little softer and they allow for a fluid roll-up and roll-down without the clunking. They also look spectacular – you can just see all of the hard work that went into the shoe when you wear them, by sewing them, and even just holding them in your hand.
The downside to hand-made shoes is that they don’t last quite as long. The glue deteriorates faster, as it is a special Freed glue that only these makers use. It is just generally less durable. This beauty of Freed pointe shoes is that they mold to your foot, which outweighs the durability issue.
All About Makers
A wonderful thing, or a burden to some, about the handmade shoes are makers. Each worker makes their shoes slightly different, and each of the makers will fit a dancer’s foot slightly differently.
You can see the list of all of the makers and their biographies on the Freed of London website here. Some of the most famous makers that have been there for a long time are the Maltese Maker (27 years), Crown Maker (29 years), and T Maker (20 years).
If you are wondering how to identify which Freed maker you have, look at the backside of the shoe. The maker’s symbol is imprinted on the sole of the shoe. The crown on the sole below symbolizes that the crown maker made the shoe.
My Fitting Experience
I was fitted for Freed shoes last week Wednesday. The entire fitting area was surreal: it was in the scene shop – the area backstage, surrounded by old sets of ballets and with a view of the stage.
There was a white curtain hanging in the back with a mirror in front of it, and a small barre for the dancers to try on their shoes. Behind the velvet chair in which the dancer sat there was a bank of pointe shoes, all organized into cubbies by maker and size.
The table at the front of the fitting area had all kinds of accessories… all of which you could purchase: I got a Freed mesh bag, a Trigger Pointe foot roller, and ribbons and elastics for my new shoes. It just felt very special and amazing… completely unique.
I first tried on shoes in the wrong size …and we quickly switched those out. Once we found the right width and height for my foot, we switched between multiple makers. I ended up going with the N Maker, size 6, with a width of XXX. My maker has been making shoes for 10 years!
So… Did I Like Them?
Nope. I ended up keeping my Grishkos. Just because a shoe has the right character, is handmade, or just because the principals at the New York City Ballet wear them, it doesn’t mean that you have to as well!
So, the lesson to take away from this is to not be concerned with looks or what people think of you, and don’t let peer pressure push you into things that you don’t want to do, or things that will sacrifice your dancing.
My friend kept saying to me, “I like them! They look very SAB.” I kept looking down at my feet and thinking the same thing. But, the little voice in the back of my head kept saying, “That’s a bad idea!” And it was.
So, trust that little voice in the back of your head that is telling you to do the right thing. Don’t give in to a certain aesthetic or peer pressure from your friends. When you have the ability to make a quality decision that will help you, you will see your dancing improve.