When choosing pointe shoes, it is vital to choose a pair that fits you perfectly so that you can perform to your fullest capacity, stay relatively pain-free, keep your feet healthy and look great.
It has been concerning me to see that so many people end up buying a pair that is too big for them and they consequently get blisters and a whole lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Here are a few pointers to help you tell whether or not shoes fit well.
Before you go to a shop to be fitted, make sure you have your usual padding if you use any, and preferably tape your toes to save some time. Wear convertible tights or tights socks. Trim your toe nails closely so they do not cause discomfort while you are trying the shoes on. Also, before you go, take your socks off and have a good look at your own feet. Are your second toes longer than the big toes? Is there a gap between your big toes and the rest of your toes?
How much padding you have is entirely up to you, but I usually advise my dancers to have the bare minimum. I find too much padding restricts the movement of the feet, and creates unnecessary and unwanted gaps. If you think that you will then get a lot of blisters without so much padding, the shoes are not very well fitted.
If you have a gap between your big toe and the others, consider using a toe separator. They are made of silicon and are not as bothersome as you might think. Otherwise, your big toe will be pushed inward and you risk developing bunions.
If the second toe is longer than the big toe, you can use a cap with a little gel to cushion it, or use the same thing to pad the shorter toe a little bit. You can also cut these kinds of tubes to the desired length and use them to protect the joints.
Your pointe shoes have to be just the right size for your feet. I know this sounds a little too much like basic common sense, but surprisingly many people are sold shoes that are too large for their feet. They should be just tight enough so all the toes are fairly well packed together without overlapping each other. The wings of the shoes should be high enough to encase the top joints of your toes. If your top joints are not properly protected, it will cause pain and present unattractive lines.
You can check if the length of the shoes are right by standing in second position and doing a demi plie. Your toes should be just touching the end of the shoes without toes being bent. Check there is no gap on the side or in the box above your toes. If you can put a finger inside any part of your shoe easily, it is likely to be too large. Drawstrings can be used, but they are just for fine tuning. You should not be able to wiggle your toes.
The next thing to check is whether the centreline of each shoe is aligned with the centre of your foot. If they are not aligned, the whole shoe is twisted on your foot.
Put one foot across the other and push down. If the shoes fit, the sole of the uppermost shoe should run along the bottom of your feet with the sole bending to follow the shape of your instep. There should not be any gap between the sole and the foot.
Step up onto pointe (make sure you are holding onto something!) and check the lines. The box should look as though it is a part of your foot without any kink or change of direction in the lines. The soles of the shoes still should stay with the soles of your feet. Gently take some steps up and down and see if your feet are well supported. If the shoes are too wide and/or too long, you will feel your feet sinking each time you put weight on your feet.
It is not always possible to find your dream pair, but be patient. They are out there somewhere. Also, as you get stronger, your feet will change, so make sure you keep checking that your shoes still fit well.
Sometimes you may have to compromise a little and get the best out of what is available. You can adjust slight discrepancies by using gel tubes, making a cat’s cradle (see toward the end of my another entry on https://kodamaballet.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/how-to-sew-ribbons-on-your-pointe-shoes/ ) and there are size changers these days that can change shoe sizes by up to a quarter of a size.
Last of all, if the fitter tries to sell you a pair that you are not quite convinced about, do not be afraid to ask questions and ask to try different sizes. It is wise to try a size down from what you may think is a good fit, just to check that it the best size. Do not be pressured into buying shoes. If they do not seem to know what they are doing, just ask to be fitted by someone else, or go away and ask your teacher to come with you. Most of the fitters should have learned how to fit shoes, but it is undeniable that, unfortunately, you may still come across some who do not seem to know or care about how to fit pointe shoes perfectly. It is your feet and your health you are putting on the line. Choose well!