How should I evaluate pointe shoe size and width?
Ask the dancer to plie in second position. Her big toe should touch the end of the toe box, without pressing against it or curling. Depending on the shape of her toes, she should also feel other toes against the sides or end of the box. (In thicker toe pads it may be harder for her to judge the placement of her toes.) She should not feel extreme or painful pressure on any toe.
Ask the dancer to stand in parallel and then place one foot onto pointe (with no weight on the foot). When the shoe is the correct length, you will be able to pinch a small amount of fabric at the back of the heel.
Choose a larger size if: In plié, the longest toe is jammed against the platform or the toes are curled. On pointe, the heel remains too tight to pinch the fabric.
Choose a smaller size if: In plié, the longest toe does not touch the toe platform. On pointe, you can put a finger into the heel area.
The width of a pointe shoe primarily affects the fitting of the toe box. In the proper width, the shoe hugs the foot snugly. On pointe, the dancer should feel supported snugly and securely in the box. Although it might not feel exactly comfortable, especially to beginners, there should be no actual pain from the shoe.
If the dancer feels painful tightness, or if her feet aren’t properly supported, she needs either a different width or a pointe model with a different box shape.
Signs of a toe box that is too narrow or too tapered: The toes feel pinched. The dancer’s toes feel suspended or not reaching the platform, which she might describe as “not feeling the floor.” The fabric looks strained or the dancer’s foot is puffing out of the shoe.
Signs of a toe box that is too wide or too square: The dancer sinks into the toe box. The toes may veer to the side, so that the big toe feels jammed or stubbed. The pointe shoe may gap loosely at the sides, and you may be able to insert a finger into the box.