July 2, 2012

Present Your Feet: Ribbons for Pointe Shoes

I wonder why they make pointe shoes so satiny and shiny and pretty? You know you can't properly dance in them until they have been broken in, banged up and lost most of their virginal sheen. The same applies for ribbons. Shiny satin looks spiffy, but it's also slippery. And it doesn't really blend in with your tights. With my first pointe shoes, I tried the opposite and used pink cotton ribbon. But cotton tends to wrinkle up, and the color didn't match my shoes/tights. I also looked at regular satin gift ribbon, but it's far too flimsy. Even though I like the idea of gift-wrapping my feet. Goes together with the idea of presenting yourself! 

When I finally had to get new ribbons, I trusted my teacher to pick the best kind. It was not shiny pink, but matte satin ribbon in a peachy off-white. Not the perfect color match, but close enough. The ribbon feels soft to the touch and is sturdy enough to wrap around your ankle. I don't know the brand, as the shops here sell it pre-measured and cut. Sadly, it doesn't come cheap. One local shop in Helsinki would have you pay six euros for 2,5 meters of the stuff! That's just enough for one pair of shoes. Another reason why I always recycle my ribbons. Really don't care if they get a bit tatty. My last ones even had a bit of blood-stain on them! Rest assured, though. That blood had nothing to do with pointe class. I had just absent-mindedly scratched an un-related scab open when I tucked my ribbon ends under. Didn't even notice the blood trickling down my foot until my teacher yelled out! Sorry, I'm going off on too many tangents here. Back to ribbons it is. 

From left to right: old ribbon, new from Tendu, and too-shiny from Dance Direct.

I haven't yet tried any of the satin ribbons with elastic inserts (Bunhead, Bloch..) They kind of make sense, as they are supposed to protect your achilles tendon from possible irritation. However, since I haven't felt any discomfort from my regular ribbons, I'm not yet inclined to spend the extra euro. But I did make a nice discovery in a Finnish ballet shop (Ballerina ja Liikunta) last week. I found the same quality ribbon that I've been using, but in a matching pale ballet pink! This time I can even give you the brand: an English company called appropriately "Tendu". 

Lovely ballet pink, matte satin ribbon from Tendu. Width: 2.5 cm.

I wouldn't mind trying out other ribbons as well. I did buy pre-cut ribbon from Dance Direct, but decided against using it. Too shiny and slippery. Don't know the brand, but looks similar to the big honking ribbon roll I saw in our National Ballet's shoe room. They didn't like it either. I have read some good reviews for Freed's own ribbon, maybe some of you use it? Would love to get your input on this. Oh, and if anyone at Bloch, Capezio, Gaynor Minden, Sansha, Freed et al. would like me to review their ribbons, please send 2.5 meters over! ;)

Next on my to-do-list: Sewing those ribbons. My least favorite ballet-related chore, but still more fun than most chores! 


  1. Those tendu ribbons look lovely! If traditional ribbons work best for you, those look like a perfect match to ballet tights and shoes. I've tried similar ribbons to those by Suffolk, but I was noticing a little extra stress on my achilles in my left foot, so I switched to Bloch Elastorib ribbons, and I love them. I don't mind the shininess, either, because they match my Suffolk pointes quite well.

    1. I might try those elastoribs next time! I'm not so much bothered by the shininess, more so by the slipperiness.. One of my friends uses those Elastoribs from Bloch, and although she loves the comfortable support they provide, the ribbon ends don't stay tucked under. For a recent performance she used clinical tape to have them stay put!

      Suffolk pointe shoes are not available here.. How do you rate them compared to other shoes you have worn or tried?

      I wish I could have access to a pointe super-store with every brand possible and the best fitters in the world. Plus customization options! :)

    2. I kept trying to reply to this for you, but my iPhone wasn't agreeing with blogspot!

      I've mostly just used Suffolks myself. I wear Suffolk Solos in size 5.0 XXX. I have fairly wide feet, and Suffolks are a good brand for wider boxes, so even when I ask to try other brands at fittings, I end up with Suffolks. Normally I absolutely love them, but my current pair is off somehow. It doesn't matter what way I tape my toes, I still feel like I'm rubbing the sides of my big toes raw. I think it's time to insist on different pointes next time!

      I've tried Blochs before, specifically the Jetstream and the European Balance models. I find that the Bloch points had much nicer grip on the floor when new (I have to rough up the soles of my Suffolks), but in terms of box and shank support and strength, I prefer Suffolks. The Suffolk boxes are a better fit for my feet, and my shanks have always lasted longer than those of my classmates using Blochs.

  2. I love the colour of your tendu ribbons. I use Bloch elastorib and I've never had any problem with them staying tucked in. They always stay neat and are comfy to boot!

  3. Hah, you probably have better tucking-technique than my friend.. :D

    I'm curious, do you take a full one-hour pointe class, or 15-20 minutes at the end of regular class? I often find that my ribbons stay put at the barre, but when we get to center I need to fix them at least once. When we did our spring show, I sewed the ends in to be safe. Felt very pro doing it ;)

  4. Hi Johanna, brilliant article. We would be delighted to send you some Gaynor Minden ribbon to evaluate, Dancemania are the European distributors for Gaynor Minden and we would love to have your views on the whole range. Are there any other items you would like to test for free? Please take a look at the Gaynor Minden range at and contact us with your delivery address and we will send you a goodie bag of products to check out.

  5. I've decided to experiment and order some ribbon samples from a fabric store. I also do not like the super shiny ribbon, and like a soft matte satin. So I found from a store that sells bridal and couture fabric a lot of different fabrics and colors, ending up with a selection of peaches and pinks in a 2.5cm 100% matte silk double faced ribbon, matte double faced polyester, and grosgrain. We'll see which one works best!

  6. One of my dancing dauthers uses Suffolk ribbon and the other uses the Bloch Elastarib. To keep the Bloch ribbon from being too shiny she turns them around backwards. It seems to do the trick. The other daughter is satisfied with the Suffolk ribbon that I wish we could buy in bulk at a discount like Freed ribbon.


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...