Breaking in Pointe Shoes

Obviously after paying lots of money for beautiful new pointe shoes, young dancers and their parents are often dismayed to hear talk of “Breaking in” the shoes. This is actually a very important step, and if done correctly may even extend the life of the shoe. However; if this is done incorrectly it can drastically shorten the life of the shoe, so it must be done with caution.

Initially the shank of a pointe shoe is reasonably hard. If the shoe is worn like this for dancing without softening first, it will tend to break in the middle of the arch where it is under most stress. Once this happens, the shoe is usually labelled as being ‘dead’ and may be pulled apart (or broken down) to make demi-pointe shoes. However, if the shoe is pre-weakened further back towards the heel before you start dancing in it, it will continue to weaken at this point when used in class, preserving the rest of the shank. It also gives a much nicer line to the foot and offers much more support.

When breaking in pointe shoes it is important to use the stockings and padding that you will be using when you are dancing.

1. Place the foot inside the shoe with the material on the back of the shoe peeled back. Find the area of your foot where your heel ends and the sole of the foot begins, and work out where this corresponds to on the shank of the shoe.

2. Remove the shoe, and hold it securely to make sure that you do not weaken anywhere else in the shank.

3. Slowly and carefully weaken in the heel of the shoe so that the shank sits snugly along the line of your foot. This will create a nice little platform for your heel that will help you feel lifted out of your shoe.

4. Once you are happy with the heel break, try breaking in the demi-pointe area a little. This area of the shoe does not need much as you will be working through this area a lot in class!

Breaking In Pointe Shoes 01
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For more information about starting en pointe please look at the sites dedicated to The Perfect Pointe Book and our My Beginner Pointe Program. Both websites have lots of information for students of all ages. Also make sure to check out all of the articles about pointe work on The Ballet Blog.

Pointe Resources

If you are looking to delve deeper into this topic, check out the following programs:

  • The Perfect Pointe Book: This course was originally designed to help students and dance teachers safely prepare for pointe work. The four stages of tests and exercises within the book are ideal for pre-pointe preparation classes, students close to achieving pointe shoes and students already en pointe looking for extra strength and technique training.
  • Pointe Range: This online program comprises of 41 clear and concise videos, totalling just under 2 hours play time, this course begins with a series of assessments to establish exactly what structures are restricting your pointe range. It then explores a diverse array of massage techniques, joint mobility exercises and fascial mobilisers to safely improve your pointe range. This is followed by an in depth look at retraining all of the muscles that stabilise the foot and ankle to allow you to actually use your new found pointe range in class.
  • Pointe Intensive: This online virtual workshop is designed for both Dance Teachers & Health Professionals working with dancers. This three day Intensive will give you the most up-to-date advice in the industry to help you understand your students’ needs, analyze their differences, and them you the tools to help your students become the best dancer they can be.