Ballet shoes come in two types and are used for two distinct purposes. The flat shoe, or ballet slipper, is the starter shoe for ballet beginners who have not graduated to pointe. And they are also the shoe of choice for most barre work, to be interchanged with the pointe shoe. To be ready for anything in class, be sure to take both soft slipper and pointe shoes, and a spare pair of each if you can.
The ballet slipper should fit the foot snugly, yet never bind or press on the toe. Measurements and proper fit are essential to high performance, comfort and security with footing. If the ballet slipper is too tight, it will stretch with time but will make you miserable while you wait. In cases where your foot size is less than half a size too small, try wetting the shoes and stuffing them with paper towels to open up the narrowness and give them a better fit.
When choosing the soft ballet slipper, you will have a choice with the padding on the sole. Light padding makes the slipper more flexible and can better accentuate your arch. But the down side to a thinner sole is that you have little protection against the pounding pressure into the floor. Dancers with sensitive feet or who are recovering from ligament damage should opt for a thicker sole and disregard the clunkier look.
When wearing brand new pointe shoes, they may feel more like a mouse trap than a technical pair of shoes. Most dancers need to manually break them in a bit to soften the shank and make the arch more flexible. Rather than using wild and wacky ways of breaking in your shoes, just bend the pointe shoe a few times with a strong motion until you feel some pliability. Another good way to break in your pointe shoes is to place them against a wall or other solid surface and pull the heel back in a controlled and deliberate motion. Too much pull will weaken the shoe and shorten its life, and at today’s prices for pointe shoes you don’t want to do yourself out of the last few days of usage.
The harsh reality is that just when the pointe shoes are getting comfortable, the shank gives in and it’s time to replace them . Some top pointe shoe designers are offering models with replaceable shanks, which can considerably lengthen the life of the shoe and cut your dance supply expenses in half. For a dependable and high performance shoe, try Sansha Recital with a sturdy square box, wing block and replaceable 3/4 shank.