Pointe shoes have reinforced soles, thanks to an inner shank between the outer sole and the insole. This section is called the shank, which supports the entire foot on pointe. Shanks are usually made of several layers of material, in different amounts and configurations to provide different degrees of strength, or stiffness. With a good variety of shank options, each dancer can choose the amount of support she needs.
Some dancers think that they should choose a stiffer shank to hold them on pointe. The shank should support the dancer properly and safely, but without developing her foot strength she will never succeed on pointe. The pointe shoe must be a partner to her dancing, not a prop that holds her up on its own. In a well-chosen shank, the dancer is developing her own strength while being supported adequately.
Other dancers hope that a stiffer shank will last longer than a more flexible one. This can be true to a certain extent, as long as the shank is chosen with the dancer’s strength, foot shape and technique in mind. But, sometimes a stiffer shank can actually last less time! If the shank isn’t suited for the dancer, it is more likely to snap rather than break in – and wear out – naturally.