Finding the right pair of pointe shoes is synonymous with finding the right partner. The right support helps you in times of need and allows you to thrive and become a better person. The same is with the perfect pair of pointe shoes; they help you feel secure and make your dancing come alive. While we know this, why is finding the right pair still so problematic?
With retired shoemakers, delayed deliveries, and a messed-up supply chain, finding the right fit for dancers in 2022 continues to be even more complex and challenging than ever before.
In this series of Finding The Right Fit, we follow the pointe shoe journey of three professional dancers: Suzan Sittig, Cécile Kaltenbach, and Sarah Schaefer. From their first fittings to their transition from student to company life, we explore the many facets and demands of a dancer, and ultimately, what one looks for in finding the right fit—and the consequences for not wearing the right ones.
"The most difficult thing is trying different customizations without knowing if it would work, plus the delivery time. Sometimes it doesn't work, and then the shoes are unusable."
Pointe shoe brands worn
Pointe shoe models worn
From First Fitting to Professional Training
First Pointe Shoe Experience
I may have been 11 years of age at the time before I was granted permission and was old enough to start pointe work at school. My fitting was at a ballet shop, where I tried a few typical brands and models that would typically fit young students, like Merlet, Sansha, Gamba, and maybe Repetto.
Training in My First Pair of Pointe Shoes
It was a dream come true, plus many blisters. I could finally dance in my very-own pointe, and not the big old shoes of my aunt at my grandparents!
The Shoes I Was Looking for at School
I wanted a pair that would fit size-wise, have a nice line, and cover my feet properly, as well as last longer, so not break so easily.
What I Look for as a Professional Dancer in a Company
Aesthetic: A nice lined box that hugs the foot properly (no banana effect on the side), a stable platform, follows the foot line, and breaks in nicely. I want a pointe shoe that compliments my overall line, so a continuation of the foot line, not a big block on the end of my foot.
Fit: The fit needs to be comfortable and not take too much time to break in, like the cinderella feeling when you wear them! The box should cover parts like bunions and support the foot, while the sole shouldn't be too hard in the middle foot area but strong at the bottom. There shouldn't be much fabric on the side or by the heel en pointe. Overall, the sole should be stable and not too wobbly. Wow, I guess I have a lot of criteria!
Longevity: My ideal pointe shoes should last a few weeks or at least one week of wearing the same pair.
Flexibility & Stability: I need a soft sole that bends enough when I point my foot or jump, but I also need a harder box to support my feet. Half of the sole should be hard enough to support my feet, with the top end being very soft.
Support: I need a stable box that is hard enough to hold the foot properly, but not so much that it hurts the bones and toes.
Delivery Time: The most difficult thing is trying different customizations without knowing if it would work, plus the delivery time. It would be a dream to have my pointe shoes within 1-3 months; however, mine usually take a year minimum. Sometimes your customizations don't work, and then the shoes are unusable. One size too big can be too much, or even half a size. A harder box might mean that you can't go on pointe anymore.