What is a perfect fit in pointe shoes?
For a perfect fit, pointe shoes should match the dancer’s foot shape, fit snugly but not painfully tight, work well technically, and have the appearance the dancer and her teachers and directors desire. Proper pointe fitting is an absolutely essential part of avoiding injury from pointe work. When shoes are fit properly, the dancer performs at her best and dances with maximal safety.
The pointe shoe model must be chosen to match the shape of the foot as closely as possible. Choosing the pointe model involves evaluating the relative sizes of the heel, metatarsal area and toes, as well as toe length and toe taper.
Size and Width
In a properly fitting shoe, the toe box sits smoothly and snugly against the toes. All five toes lie flat against the insole, and the big toe reaches the end of the box comfortably when the dancer does a plie. The feet do not shift within the shoe. The heel is snug when the dancer stands on flat; on pointe, there is a little room to pinch the heel fabric. On pointe, the dancer’s weight is evenly distributed on the toes, she is balanced on the center of the platform, and the feet do not sink into the toe box.
When the shoes are too small…
Pointe shoes should never be tight enough to cause pain. Signs of overly tight shoes include pinching of the little toes, toes not lying flat in the box, squeezing or creasing of the sole of the foot, and blisters at the heel. Feeling that the big toe is jammed or stubbed can result from either pointe shoes that are too tight or a toe box that is too wide, so that the toes aren’t staying straight.
When the shoes are too big…
Wearing loose pointe shoes is a recipe for disaster. Sprained ankles and dangerous falls are likely, as are abrasions from the foot moving around in the shoe. In earlier years, many dancers had trouble finding shoes that were appropriately snug because there was so little variety in the available pointe models. Some had to wear pointe shoes that were painfully tight in order to have the correct function of a snug shoe. Today, every dancer should be able to find a pointe shoe that fits like a glove, molding to her foot without any painful pinching or squeezing.
With a correct fit, the dancer is properly supported and shows correct alignment. The foot follows the line of the leg all the way to the toes, with no noticeable angle at the metatarsal area or ankle, and an imaginary vertical line could be drawn from the head to the toes. The dancer will be able to “feel the floor” so that her foot and the shoe work as one unit.
When the right pointe shoes have been found, the dancer’s feet and body will look their best. The fit and function of the pointe shoes will compliment her foot shape, help her attain correct alignment, and facilitate her best ballet technique and most beautiful dancing.