January 30, 2011

Must Find Perfect Pointe Shoes!

Wore my pink tights today, which I never ever do unless bribed or forced. You see, pink tights give me turkey legs, which is just not as flattering as you might think. But when my friend asked me to come along for her pointe shoe fitting, I figured I could do both: give moral support and try out a pair or two myself. Hence the thunder-thigh inducing tights. Now, I have to admit that I´m being self-deprecating here, as my thighs are perfectly fine in the real world. They are also strong enough to squeeze orange juice, an image that has stuck with me ever since Madame told us to squeeze our abductors until we feel "The Pain"! It makes me crave a cold drink of Tropicana every time..

Back to the pointe shoe fitting: It was a busy saturday, and the shop seriously understaffed, but we were lucky enough to be first in line. The salesperson was very nice and helpful, despite the rush. My friend E is an advanced dancer with good solid technique, awesome big jumps and quadruple pirouettes (!). She is also very tall for a ballet dancer, which means that the shoe has to support more weight. Oh, and she has not been seriously on pointe for almost ten years. So I was a bit curious when the fitter asked my friend to go straight away up on pointe in seconde, which is really difficult to do in new shoes!

Luckily she switched her tactic after that and asked E to just relevé in parallel position. It made it easier to see whether the soles were properly aligned or not. But they were not: shoe after shoe, no perfect fit in sight. Either they were too wide, or too narrow or too short or too long, or a size was sold out or a more suitable model missing. So frustrating! One pair of Repettos finally made the short-list, and were laid aside. If the one other shop has nothing better to offer, my friend will have to settle for just "okay".

I did not fare any better. Although I did tell the salesperson that I wanted to try some pairs just because it happened to be convenient, and that I would be back again later. Still, after I gave her my specifics: size 38 or 5 (European/UK), short toes = short vamp, wide forefoot, low(ish) insteps, high arches and soft-medium shank, pre-arched preferably - she had only two models for me to try on. Both of which were totally wrong. Nor did the Grishko Elites fit, or any Freeds or Gambas or Repettos. I asked if I could try Bloch Morphs (with TMT shank), but the shop only carried narrow models like Suprima, Serenade and Axis. Again, so frustrating! I know Bloch Morph / Heritage / Balance European (left picture) could be just right for me, but where to shop? Obviously I cannot buy shoes online without knowing my precise size first!

I guess I have to use my back-up plan and ask my teachers for help. I´m not entirely convinced that the salesperson pulled out all her aces, since it was really busy and she was clearly under some stress. It made me feel all self-conscious and doubtful again. I mean, if I have supposedly "nice feet", there should be a pair of suitable pointe shoes out there, right? Next time I hope to bring my own expert with me, someone who knows both my feet and technique (or lack thereof). Also, I wonder if Madame would let me try out her shoes again. The new pair of Blochs (custom made, no less) she brought in a week ago was almost perfect, the right length and width and so comfortable - only the vamp was a bit too high ( I would not have known). I know perfect pointe shoes are the holy grail of ballet, and to obtain a pair of my own, I will do anything short of selling my soul. Heck, I would even wear the dreaded pink tights to class. Just dare me!

Check out this cool video of pointe shoes in the making:


  1. Miksi sen pitää aina olla niin vaikeaa! Mäkin kokeilin viimeksi varmaan kymmeniä tossuja ennen kuin löytyi sopivat. Enkä vielä tiedä onko nekään täydelliset. Käykää vielä muissa liikkeissä kokeilemassa :)

  2. Welcome to my world...I'd like to go to NYC to try on Russian Pointes, but someone should sponsor my trip. B-)

  3. JV: Yes, New York works for me anytime! And that same someone could sponsor my own pointe shoe maker! How sweet would it be to have custom-made shoes?

    SS: I wish there would be one mega-store with ALL the models there are! But the plan is to check out Footlight´s store, Grishko´s (near the Opera), and "Suomen Tanssitarvike". The latter has the Bloch models I want to try, at least advertised on their online shop. After that, we are pretty much out of options. Unless that sponsor appears from somewhere :)

  4. Suomen Tanssitarvikeliikkeessä pitäisi olla Blochilta noita haluamiasi malleja ja olivatpa ainakin vielä viikko sitten -20%. Kokoja oli tosin heikohkosti jäljellä.

  5. I'm half-excited/half-dreading purchasing a new pair of pointe shoes (it's been quite a few years since I've danced en pointe and when I did I never bought the same brand/style twice). It can be such a frustrating process. I hate that they never stay on my heel, so it's hard to really know whether the shoe is really going to work until after I've gotten them home and sewed on the ribbons & elastics. But I can't wait to have a new pair. Tried on some Gaynor Mindens a few months ago and really liked a lot of things about them, but the box seemed too tapered or something. Maybe I'll try some of the new Blochs. I've heard about them, but don't know a whole lot. Good luck with your search; I look forward to hearing what you end up with!

  6. You have perfectly captured my frustrations as a pointe shoe shopper for golly-knows how many years. I'm only teaching now, but I do like to maintain a minimum pointe ability in myself. I never found my perfect pair, but I'm gonna keep tryin.

  7. Roriroars: Do you mean the new TMT Blochs? One of my friends wears the Morph model, and she is really happy with them. The Bloch website has also a instructional video about the TMT paste shoes. Apparently all you need is a hairdryer and fridge!

    About the "heel issue" - is your heel narrow compared to the rest of your foot? I´ve heard that some shoes specifically address this "problem". And if you can, try out Russian Pointes. There has been some good feedback.

    I going back to the one bigger store later this month, and there should be some new sizes and models to try. I keep my fingers crossed :) Best of luck with your shoes too!

  8. Classicalballet teacher: I wish it would be less frustrating to buy pointe shoes - I mean it should be fun to go shopping, right? Now it´s more shop til I drop before I ever get to pointe til I drop. Sigh.. Even my own ballet teacher found her perfect shoes late in her career, and she used up a pair a day at the age of 18 already! That´s a lot of shoe..

    I´m curious as to how do you adapt to your less-than-perfect shoes? Do you cut the shank, or wear more padding, or what else do you do?

  9. Hi Johanna,

    I'm curious, have you tried Bloch Sonata? They have a short vamp, medium flexible shank, wide in the front for a wide front foot, 3/4 shank. It may not be "the shoe" ... but maybe?

    I know what you mean about pink tights and feeling like thunder thighs - yes in the real world it may be seen as crazy, but in class with tiny little bodies all around - it feel like a big deal :)

  10. Hi Aileen,

    I might have tried them last time, not sure, but they were Blochs with a 3/4 shank. The fit was not right though. BUT: I have since bought new pointes! They are from Bloch too, not so short or wide but they seem to fit quite nicely. The model is Serenade TMT31, and I´m just in the process of breaking them in before next class. There is going to be a post about it soon. :)

    Do you have any favorite brand pink tights? Any recommendations? Here a lot of girls/women wear them white, but I think I prefer a more flattering sheer/fleshy kind of pink. Still, black leggings (semi-sheer) are my favorites by far! I like them in a longish capri length because they draw the eye to ankles and those pointed feet (flesh colored soft ballet slippers look the best). Yeah, it is a big deal alright :)

  11. I usually get Capezio or Body Wrappers pink tights - but I get a larger size (next size up) because it shows more of the color then a fully stretched pair of tights shows. I like the convertible foot tights - they work great when putting the toe pads under the tights for pointe shoes.

    I do see a big difference when I wear pink tights - meaning i can see exactly what the muscles are (and aren't doing) - and I can't see that when wearing the flattering black tights.

    For soft ballet slippers do you use split sole? Bloch makes an "elastosplit" shoe that makes feet look they have beautiful arches.

  12. Aileen, you are making me reconsider those pink tights! It is true that muscles are better visible underneath lighter colors, but I do use really sheer leggings.. I just fear that I would feel too self-consicous in show-it-all tights and not be able to enjoy the class as much.

    As for those split soles: definitely yes! I have tried the elastosplit, but I do not like the fit. They are too tight at the elastic, and then too baggy around the toes. Also they tend to shift, so I had to yank them into place ever so often. Mind you, I got them from a friend.. There might be a another size and better fit for me. Maybe I will try them next summer, now it´s just too cold for half-exposed footsies :)

    My favorite split soles are by Bloch: Pump and especially Proform. I also wear Sansha Pro 1, as they are most readily available here. Blochs have a more flattering nude/flesh color, which works in the winter as well. Sansha´s flesh color looks best on darker / tanned skin tones.

    By the way, I´m sure your feet have nice arches even with full soles!

  13. Had to drop a line after seing the words "pink tights" :D

    All the autumn I wore either black capri pants (quite tight fitting) or some dark color leggings (capris too) with really short shorts. I did buy 2 pairs of ballet pink convertibles in the beginning of classes, but only after Christmas I had the guts to put them on :D So these days I have dark stuff (black, petrol, violet/lilac) on Wednesdays and pink on Saturdays :P The convertibles are by Intermezzo, super comfortable for me. Also I noticed the fact about muscles showing quite nicely! :D

  14. Hi iepukka, you are so much braver than me! At least on those Saturdays! :) The brand Intermezzo is not familiar, what kind of pink are they? More nudish or more barbie-ish? How much did you have to pay?

    I just can´t bear the sight of my pins in pink. Sure, muscles are more visible. But so is the all the rest! I mean I´m a woman with hips and curves and all my extra weight goes into my thighs, always. I had a huge complex already in my teens.

    I consider myself brave not to wear hip hop sweat pants to class.. The lightest I will go is dark blue. Maybe dark petrol, if feeling very courageous :)

  15. Intermezzo's ballet pink is (in my opinion, of course ;)) kind of light peach, rather than pink. So it's a bit nearer to the natural color of our skin. When you put them on, they keep only very little of the peach color, more to the white. At first I was very afraid to wear them (because of how they look in the package), but they turned out to be very nice :)

    I bought them from Piruetti, still found the wrappings - but no price tag :/ It might have been something like 10-12 euros. Quite a lot, but they've been worth it, I think. Only now has the other pair developed one tiny hole :D

    Btw, also found a pair of (quite) bright blue leggings that I've used :D

  16. Johanna, what size are you in Blochs? I have a pair of brand new Balance Europeans that do not work for me. Finding the right shoes is such a task!

  17. Kaija, my size in Bloch Serenade is 5 C. But I´ve found out that their sizing is not consistent from model to model. The Serenades are not really perfect either, as the box is a bit too long for my short toes and not-so-strong arches..

    I am still looking for "my" prince. That is shoe. (Just watched the Royal Wedding) ;)

    Thanks for your comment!

  18. The holy grail of the perfect pointe shoe! If you ever find it, you'll be one of the few.

    I know these days, they say you MUST be professionally fitted, but in my day (a thousand years ago when I was dancing), most of us didn't have much choice. My nearest professional fitter was about 500 miles away. You either went into the local ballet shop, who looked up a size chart and ordered a pair based on that - or you sent a tracing of your foot direct to Freed or Gamba and hoped for the best. And we all survived! So if you're struggling, buying a pair online may not be as hard as you think.

    You don't say what your foot type is. That's probably the most important criteria IMO. The best chart I've seen is from Danielle deVor:

  19. Hi Marisa!

    I have since found myself a pretty good shoe, Bloch Balance European. In fact, I'm on my third pair already. How time flies when you're having a good time on pointe!

    My foot has a "peasanty" shape: the two first toes are of the same length, the third tapers slightly and the last two more. I have short toes, the first being very strong. My feet are wide-ish, I wear a size XX with the Balance Euopeans and a width C with Bloch's slippers.

    I like these pointe shoes because they mold quickly to my foot, are flexible enough and last for about 10 weeks (I take pointe class three times per week).

    Thanks for the link! :)

  20. Everyone's who's "complaining" about being pointe shoe fittings, is it really that hard to find the perfect apir of pointe shoes? I'm 13 and am completing my 4th year of ballet training and I should be getting en pointe pretty soonn (please check out my blog!!). Also, what's it like to be en pointe? when I put one foot on pointe my big toe that's standing en pointe (i have the tapered foot) bends and if it straightens my big toe falls forward to much?? is this normal?? someone plaese answer me

  21. Hi!

    Pointe shoe fitting takes some time and an expert to help you, but it's not impossibly hard. If you can, ask your ballet teacher to come along.

    Have you already tried on pointe shoes? Since you said that your big toe bends when you go up? Or did you try to stand on your toes without the shoes?

    When the pointe shoe is correctly fitted, it will support your foot so that you can get up onto full relevé without sinking into the box of the shoe. This will also prevent your toes from bending over or curling under. You also need to make sure that the vamp length fits the length of your toes, and that the shank strength works with your arch and instep. An experienced fitter will help you.

    The first times up on pointe are fun but akward. It's so much harder to maintain turnout while balancing on a very small platform! It also means that you're building new muscles in your feet and legs, and that takes some time and a lot of practice. So don't worry if the beginning feels harder than you expected.

    About the pain.. If you are fitted correctly, and use some light padding, you should be fine. There is bound to be some discomfort but you get used to it. In the beginning, pointe takes about 15 minutes at the end of a class, so it's not too painful.

    Check out Freed's point shoe fitting guide:

    Also this video from a professional pointe shoe fitting at Miami City Ballet School:

    Defintely check out Lisa Howell's videos, she has great expert advice! - Fitting pointe shoes - Breaking in pointe shoes - How to sew on your ribbons

    Wishing you all the best with your pointe adventure!

  22. Oh, thanks so much! I'm so relieved now! I was worried there was something wrong with my foot or whatever, and I will take what you said into consideration when I get my first pair of pointe shoes and when I was going en my toes I just took ONE foot, bent the leg, to see how my foot looked when I went en pointe, and yes my toe was curling over but now I understand what you are saying. Thanks again!


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, ...