Technology at Your Toes

A look at pointe shoe improvements in the past decade
Published in the June/July 2009 issue.

A dancer’s love affair with her pointe shoes, though it may seem silly to an outsider, is very real. Every dancer’s reputation depends on her shoes never letting her down. They must help her balance and allow her to roll up with ease and down with control. In the decade since Pointe debuted, manufacturers have addressed many pointe shoe challenges. Now dancers can spend a little more time focusing on their technique instead of worrying about their shoes.

Challenge: So much time spent breaking in shoes

Solutions: Bloch has updated the paste they use in their Axis and B-Morph shoes with a formula called TMT technology. It accelerates the break-in process, allowing the dancer to mold the shoes to the contours of her foot. This spring, Capezio introduced Simone, which uses a new paste formula that forms to the foot quickly without sacrificing longevity.

Challenge: Short life span

Solutions: In 1993, Gaynor Minden began to explore how space-age technology could produce a longer-lasting shoe. In the past 10 years, the company has reformulated its elastomeric shanks and boxes to accommodate a greater range of foot types with more options like shank strength, vamp length and heel width.

 

The recently patented Flyte pointe shoe by Inspire has a shank made of polymer compounds of varying strengths, giving it both rigidity and flexibility. The use of polymers means that the shank will last up to five times longer than a traditional shoe. It is made of three separate components: box, shank and a removable outer shoe that can be replaced without the need for an entirely new pair.
Bloch’s Axis and B-Morph shoes have a curved composite insole, made of materials that make it virtually unbreakable.

Challenge: Finding the right fit
Solutions: The Heel Ovals Kit from Prima Soft includes hypoallergenic pads that can be used as heel grips or to prevent narrow heels from twisting in the shoe. Their Make It Fit Kit helps dancers who have one foot that is bigger than the other. Gaynor Minden has introduced wafer-thin removable urethane liners that expand and contract to prevent the dancer from sliding in the box. They also designed a Sleekfit option for feet that are broad at the metatarsal and narrow in the heel.

Challenge:  Noisy shoes
Solutions: The new Jewels Collection by Russian Pointe uses less fabric, making the shoes lighter and quieter. Grishko’s new model, Miracle, has an insert that absorbs sound. The “Whisper-Toe” of Sansha’s Gloria 601 uses a piece of PORON, a high-quality shock-absorbing material that makes the shoe almost inaudible.

Challenge: Sweaty, blistered toes
Solutions: Grishko’s Miracle model has medicinal silver nanoparticles in the insole and box that act as natural antiseptics and protect the skin from injuries like blisters. Capezio’s Aria shoe has a So Suede lining that absorbs moisture, reducing foot odor and retarding mildew and fungus growth.

Challenge: Constantly changing needs

Solutions: Working closely with professional dancers, Freed of London tracks changes in
choreography and shoe requirements. Their latest introduction, the Classic Pro, is handmade with the traditional “turn shoe” method (making the shoe from the inside out), but it also
incorporates the latest techniques to create a truly modern shoe. The platform is banged out by hand, there is flexibility at the demi-pointe and a graduated insole.

Challenge: The difficulty of dancing on pointe!
Solutions: Prima Soft’s new En l’air is designed for dancers with tight ankles and feet. It has flexibility points that enable the dancer to roll through the shoe but also receive proper support.

Expectations for the Future
As choreographic and technical demands increase, pointe shoes must evolve to meet dancers’ needs. Considering the advances in the past 10 years, what will the next decade hold? A shoe that makes dancing effortless? One can only hope.

Janice Barringer is the author of The Pointe Book and On Pointe.