Ask Amy: My Vamp Is Digging Into My Foot

May 16, 2019

I got professionally fitted and my shoes were fine in the store. Now in class, the vamp is digging into my foot in demi-pointe and the heel is sliding off. Is it the size, the width or both? —Mandi

I consulted with Mary Carpenter, a professional fitter whose popular YouTube channel, Dancewithmary NYC, offers advice on common pointe shoe problems. She says there could be several reasons why your shoes feel differently now. Did you have your fitting at the end of the day or during a tough performance run? If so, they may be too big. “Feet swell as the day goes on,” says Carpenter. “A fitting first thing in the morning or right after shows is not going to be a good representation of your day-to-day fit. An ideal time is in the middle of the day, when you’ve been up and moving around and have perhaps taken a class.” Another thing to consider is toe pads, she adds. “Make sure you wear your usual padding at the time of the fitting.”

Alternatively, your shoes may simply need more breaking in. Remember: At the store you’re typically standing flat or on your toes, not articulating through demi-pointe. Carpenter notes that an overly hard shank can cause the heel to slide off. And high vamps, especially when combined with strong side wings, can be uncomfortably stiff and make the shoe feel too narrow at first. Rather than wearing a brand-new shoe “as is,” use your hands to lightly smoosh down the box to create more width and gently bend the shank where your arch naturally curves. This will help make the shoe suppler. If it still doesn’t feel right, you may need to try a smaller size or lower vamp.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at
askamy@dancemedia.com.