Do Toe Pads Affect the Amount of Strength Gained en Pointe?

Dear Lisa,

Does the use of toe pads affect the amount of strength gained en pointe? In other words, if a dancer starts pointe without using toe pads and dances through pain, will she eventually be stronger that the other dancers who have used toe pads from the beginning?

Thanks for your help!


Dear Crystal,

Thank you for this question as it is a common question among students who are beginning en pointe. Many students are told not to use toe pads right from the beginning to gain strength.  Personally I do not feel that thin toe pads affect the strength of your toes. Toe strength should be worked on separately, not just when en pointe and the use of pads actually protects the top of the toes rather than stopping them from working. However, many girls do use too much padding in their shoes and this can restrict the natural movement of the toes.  I do feel that a thin layer of gel padding or material to stop the friction between the top of the toes and the shoe is fine to prevent blisters however; you should not be stuffing the box of the shoe when you start.

A girl who does not use toe pads and is working in significant pain will actually tend to become more fearful of working on pointe and as she is less comfortable it may take her a much longer time to progress. When dancers are confident going en pointe with little pain then they tend to progress more quickly.  If you are experiencing pain then I would definitely look at addressing one of three things; either, your toes are curling inside your shoes which makes the knuckles rub against the inside of the shoe, the shoe may be too big which will cause you to sink/slide down in the shoe, or the shoe may be too small across the box causing the foot to be compressed. Usually one of these three things, if not all of them, will be causing the pain and addressing these issues will reduce the amount of pain your are experiencing en pointe.

I hope this helps!

Kind Regards,

Lisa Howell

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.

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