Ask Amy

January 19, 2011

I’ve been wearing the same brand of pointe shoes ever since I started four years ago. I know feet change. Should I be trying different kinds of shoes? –

You’re right—feet do change over time, especially after years of pointework. They often grow wider, particularly around the bunion joint. How do you know if it’s time to make a switch? “If your mind is distracted by your shoes too often, then something is off,” says Marie Johansson, a professional pointe shoe specialist for Freed of London. “They should feel like a glove, and then you can forget about them.” I wore shoes with a very broad, square box for two years. While I liked the way they looked, my toenails were always bruising. I decided to get professionally fitted, and realized that not only were my shoes too wide, they were the wrong shape for my foot. I switched to a narrower size and a more tapered box. I haven’t had a bruised big toenail since—and my feet look a lot better.

Your shoe needs will change as your training progresses, too. As a beginning pointe student, you probably needed stronger shoes to help support your feet and ankles, but as you strengthen you should become less dependent on your shoes to stay on pointe. “The shoe is there to support you, yes,” says Johansson, “But you should also be able to articulate your feet and hold yourself up. As our technique moves forward we may need less support and a lighter shoe.”

If you’re not sure whether you should try something different, ask your teacher for her honest opinion about what you’re currently wearing. Ask her to accompany you to a pointe shoe fitting if possible. “When looking for pointe shoes, look at the function of the shoe first: the block, platform and insole,” says Johansson. “Then look at the aesthetic and the measurements.” When all the ingredients come together—the fit, the appropriate support and, of course, the look—you’ll know you’ve found the right shoe.