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Hello dancers! Are you asking yourself now you have bought your pointe shoes, how do I actually break them in so I can nail that pirouette? If you want to know how to break in ballet pointe shoes bloch style, then keep reading.
Firstly, it is important you find the right pointe shoes. The more functionality and comfort of the shoe will only ensure a better fit for you. Here are some things you need to think about before even breaking in the pointe shoes.
Your ankle strength, the arch of your foot, box type, shank strength and the vamp shape are all aspects you need to consider whether you are a beginner ballerina or a pro.
Toe Box: the cup that encompasses the toes and ball of the foot
Elastic: secures the shoe to the dancer’s foot
Platform: the bottom of the toe box on which the dancer stands
Ribbons: long satin type material that keeps the shoe more secure on the dancer’s foot
Shank: the stiff insole that provides support under the arch
Throat: the opening of the shoe
Vamp: the section of the shoe that covers the top of the toes and foot
Remember to break them in carefully and first you may sew your ballet shoes to make sure they fit snugly around the ankle with the ribbon.
Secondly, you will break the box – the front of the shoe – and you may try stepping on them lightly and squishing them into the ground. You essentially want them to be flatter and more malleable when you wear them for long periods of time.
The shank of the pointe shoe needs to be broken – bent a little, at the ¾ of the shoe mark – and this will be different for everybody. You do this so you can point your foot. It will ultimately ensure you shape to your own foot and create a more natural form when on pointe.
Some people will also bend the demi pointe, but please do this carefully as you do not want to damage the actual shoe.
Next step may be to bang them against a wall or on the floor as they can sound quite loud to begin with.
At this stage, if you are getting ready to go on stage, to maintain feet, put gel squares on the tips of your big toes as they will receive the most impact on stage when performing. And make sure you tape them up as well. You can even place paper towels over the tops of your toes as well – Olivia Boisson does this as part of her technique of breaking in pointe shoes.
Try those shoes on after all those steps and see how they feel, and you may need to bend them a little further at this point.
There are some companies who offer orthopedic pointe shoe inserts, molded to your own feet, which fit snugly into the front of the shoe.
I would suggest using a pointe shoe sole scraper, so the sole of the shoe becomes less slippery and smooth when you are on the floor. These are easy to buy on any ballet website.
And that is the 411 on how to break in pointe shoes fast. So let’s move on to how much pointe shoes cost and what the history behind them is.
It depends on the style and make of the pointe shoe, but they can vary between $45 – $120 per pair. In the UK, that is around £47 – £95. If you are part of a company, they may just have an unlimited supply for you and there is no need to pay for each new pair of pointe shoes. Invest in superior quality shoes, as this will only help your feet in the long run. You may be in those ballet shoes from 10am until 11pm at night, so it’s imperative that you are as comfortable as can be.
In terms of ballet companies and how much pointe shoes cost them each year, see below the eye-watering numbers. But we need them, so there you go!
American Ballet Theatre – $500,000 / year – that is 160 pairs of shoes per dancer / year
NYCB = $600,000 / year – 170 pairs of shoes per dancer / year
Royal Ballet – $400,000 / year – 6-7,000 / year
English National Ballet – 5,000 pairs / year
Australian National Ballet – $250,000 / year – over 5,000 pairs / year
Freed of London
A pair of pointe shoes can last on average up to 4-12 hours of work, but depending on the make of the shoe, they may last longer. Professional dancers will go through many shoes over their careers.
Your first pointe shoe will be a rite of passage and they have certainly been around a great deal of time and are an essential part of a ballet dancer’s kit bag. In 1823. Amalia Brugnali was the first to introduce pointework to audiences, on her tiptoes in Armand Vestris’ La Fée et le Chevalier. It certainly took some work as her shoes were only lightly stitched satin slippers, but sparked the inspiration for modern dancers of the day.
Italian shoemakers started a revolution in the late 19th century, as they created a shoe more resilient, and a stiff box incorporated at the front, made of newspaper, flour paste and pasteboard. The insoles were strengthened with leather.
In the 1910s-1930s, the narrow vamp and rounded toe of the shoe made them less steady like the shoes of today. It was known that Anna Pavlova added in extra leather soles and hardened the box, as she had unstable arches.
In the 20th century there was a demand for a more supportive shoe and this is why all ballet pointe shoes have the flat box shape design we all know today.
The long and short of it is that the fit, durability and performance of the ballet pointe shoe are all entwined and for the benefit of the performer themselves, it is in the best interest to think about these things when buying your shoes.
So that’s all you need to know when learning how to break in pointe shoes, and you will be pirouetting in no time. And remember life without ballet would be pointless.
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