Case Studies: Choosing a Russian Pointe Shank
When you choose the best shank option for an individual dancer, take into account the shape of her foot – taking note especially of the shape and placement of the arch – her strength and flexibility in the feet and throughout the body, her level of technical accomplishment, and her technical requirements and preferences.
The following case studies include photographs and analysis from real fittings with Russian Pointe fitting specialists. Not every foot type or shank type is represented here. Instead, we hope that you will be able to use these case studies as examples of the thought process that goes into shank choice.
Moderately flexible foot, with apparent muscular strength. Arch slopes gently, with the apex (strongest angle) fairly high on the foot (closer to the heel).
Several options might work well for this dancer. Start with Medium Flexible, to match the foot’s shape (not extending past the arch’s apex). If she wants the support of a solid shank, try Medium Soft or Soft (Standard Series). She could try Medium-Hard Flexible, but it might be too long for her arch. A pre-arched model would give extra arch conformity and easy break-in, but her moderately curved arch would not require the pre-arched shape.
Very flexible with a high arch and instep. Arch’s apex is high on the foot. Entire foot is flexible, even the toes. Flexibility is balanced by clearly well developed muscular strength.
To match shape of arch, try a Medium Hard Flexible shank. The dancer is strong enough for either a Standard or Flexible design, depending on her technical requirements and preferences. However, the degree of bending in her toes suggests a Standard shank; the solid design would support her flexibility, and her feet are strong enough to work through demi-pointe in any shank type. The extreme arch suggests a pre-arched model, to better support and conform to the foot and limit strain on both foot and shoe.
Relatively flat arch, without a lot of strength in the foot. Relatively inflexible, especially near the toes.
Start with Soft (Standard Series). The solid shank gives the support she needs on pointe. The short shank length would help her reach full pointe, with enough flexibility in the arch to enhance the appearance of the foot. She could try a Medium Flexible or Flexible Soft, if the Flexible design gave her enough support. Her shank should not be longer than Medium; she might not be able to break it in without manipulation or alteration, and she might have trouble reaching full pointe.
This dancer has strong ankles and a moderately flexible foot. The arch is relatively low, with its apex fairly low on the foot (toward the midpoint of the sole).
A shank longer than Medium would probably be too long to allow full expression of the arch. The dancer has enough strength in the ankles to hold herself on pointe with moderate support. Because the arch’s angle is not very strong, a pre-arched model would help her reach full pointe and highlight the curve of her foot. Recommendation: Medium or Medium Flexible shank in a pre-arched model.
Dancer #5 (right foot)
This dancer presents an interesting challenge. Her right and left feet are so different that they almost appear to belong to different dancers! The feet must be examined separately.
The right foot is very flexible throughout the ankle, arch and toes. The apex of the arch is clearly defined and high on the foot (toward the heel).
A Standard Series shank would provide stability behind the flexible toes. A pre-arched model would conform best to the arch shape, reducing stress on the shoe and foot on pointe. A Medium or Medium Hard shank might match the placement of the arch.
Dancer #5 (left foot)
The left foot is noticeably less flexible, especially in the ankle and toes. The arch has some flexibility, but the degree is much less than the right foot’s. The apex of the arch is lower (close to the sole’s midpoint).
For the left foot, a Flexible shank would enhance the less-flexible toes. The Medium Hard shank suggested for the right foot would be too long for this foot’s arch shape. Best for this foot would likely be Medium Flexible, or possibly a shorter (MS or S) shank in the Standard series, if the dancer had the strength to bend the shank in demi-pointe. Like the right foot, the left would benefit from a pre-arched model – in this case, to help the dancer reach full pointe.
Dancer #5: Conclusions
When the two feet have noticeably different shapes, it’s best to cater to the foot that has greater needs. In this case, the left foot is weaker and less flexible and could not handle some of the choices that might be appropriate for the right foot. Although the right foot’s arch shape might suggest a longer shank, it has enough strength to handle the shorter shank recommended for the left foot. Recommendation: Medium Flexible or Medium Soft shank, depending on her technical needs and strength on pointe. Both feet would benefit from a pre-arched model, for different reasons.
Many dancers believe that harder shanks are longer lasting. In fact, if a shank is too hard it is more likely to snap. The longest-lasting shank is the one that does not require forcible bending to break in, and conforms to the dancer’s foot well enough that pressure is spread most evenly throughout the shoe.