Ask Amy

November 28, 2010

I usually tape my toes and use paper towels to pad them for pointework. But I’d like to try something more earth-friendly. Do you have any suggestions?

You have plenty of options. Many dancers wear reusable toe pads. I started wearing them because I grew tired of buying new rolls of tape and paper towels every week. They took some getting used to, but now I find them very comfortable and much easier to deal with. They also last a long time—I’ve been using my current pair for about a year. One drawback is that they collect odor and bacteria, so it’s important to air them out after use and frequently wash them with soap. Companies like Bunheads, Pillows for Pointes, Leo’s Dancewear and Eurotard make reusable pads from materials like gel, foam or wool. (The gel material in Pillows for Pointe products, though not biodegradable, is recyclable.) Check out dance supply websites or your local dance store to compare products and pricing.

You could also try cutting out the toes of an old pair of thick socks. They absorb moisture and you can throw them in the wash with your laundry. Or there’s always the old-fashioned method: lamb’s wool. It’s extremely cheap (around $5 a box) and made from a renewable resource. Or if you’d rather not use an animal byproduct, try Green Ballerina Bamboo Pointe Shoe Padding, a new earth-friendly product similar to lamb’s wool that’s recyclable and anti-bacterial. You can order a box for $5 at

Everyone has different comfort levels—some dancers prefer a lot of padding, while others prefer hardly any. Try different products to figure out which is right for you.