Once you’ve found the best pointe shoe combinations of box, width, vamp and shank, try the remaining shoe or shoes with cushioning. I do not recommend loose lambs wool, paper towels or newspaper. There are so many much better options available these days!
Cushions should enhance comfort and fine-tune the fit; they should not be used to compensate for a sloppy fit! Use as little cushioning as possible. Many dancers who wear no pads find they need at least one of the oval or mushroom cushions. If these are not sufficient, use additional cushions. It is also possible that a narrower box or a box liner is needed to prevent the foot from dropping in too much. If the length and width are correct but there is pain or pressure on the toe(s), more cushions may be needed. Here are some options:
- Try a full toe pad. I recommend those made of gel with the fabric coating inside and outside. Beginners may want to start with a pad that has gel all around, but there are versions with gel on the top and just fabric on the bottom to enhance feel of the floor.
- Add a toe sock to the offending toe. Those with gel all round might feel too bulky, so look for those with gel on one side.
- Put an oval cushion in the tip of the shoe. Try one on top of the other. Try overlapping them to wrap around the toe. Try a mushroom cushion.
- Try taping a cushion directly to the toe. Be sure the toenails are trimmed properly.
- The foot may be sliding too easily into the box, and the sides of the box may not be holding the sides of the foot. This can cause big toe pain and bruised toenails, and highly compressible feet are especially prone to it. Try removing some cushioning to make room for a boxliner that will prevent sliding.
- If the shoe is baggy in front of the side seam, place a half sockliner in the front of the shoe or use a box liner.
- For bunions, try spacers between the big and second toe.
If you find yourself using a great number of cushions and are still not comfortable, fit may be incorrect or your ability to “pull up” may be a factor.
Try on many different brands and models of shoes. Reject those that do not fit and place those that do in a “maybe” pile. Next, retry the maybes and narrow them down to your top choices. Keep eliminating until you find the winner, which should feel like this:
Standing up with your feet flat on the floor, you should feel like your heel is completely in the back of the shoe, and it’s snug against your heel without any digging in. The sides of the shoe should not be gap away from your foot, and a slight pull on the drawstring should make the sides lie flat. The inside of the box should feel very tight – almost like your toes are glued together. Your longest toe should touch the interior of the platform. It should feel tight without bending the toe. In plie a lá seconde, the toes should not be made to bend or crunch, but should touch the end of the box.
The shoe should hug, not pinch. It should look sleek and snug but still allow the 1/4 pinch at the heel. It should flatter the foot, and the upper (box and vamp) should be smooth and pretty, not so tight that bumps or causes bunions. The heel should be neither high enough to irritate the Achilles tendon, nor so low the shoe will slip off while dancing, though that is difficult to check before the elastics are attached and the shoe is a bit broken-in.
Once a good fit and cushioning are set, remove and re-insert any cushions and heel grippers that you will need to be sure you have learned how to place them.
Now, its time to buy your pointe shoes. You should purchase one pair of the shoes, ribbons, elastics, and the cushioning you used in the fitting. Especially while you’re still growing, it is important to get re-fitted each time you need a new pair of shoes. Feet change with growth and new shoe styles become available each season. If your feet have stopped growing and you’ve found The Pair, you might consider buying multiple pairs of shoes at a time – especially if you are dancing so often that you are wearing them out quickly – and at a discount from an online dancewear store.
So now you know the basics of good pointe shoe fitting! A poorly fitted shoe can prevent even a highly trained dancer from looking and feeling her best, but a well-fitted shoe will accent your lines and encourage your best quality of movement. Happy Dancing!