Making Pointe Shoes More Comfortable
Ballet dancers use many different things to protect and cushion their toes while wearing their pointe shoes. Some dancers use toe pads which are u-shaped and made out of a foam rubber material. Other types of pads are made out of a gel-like substance such as silicone or synthetic polymers. These "jelly" pads can also include toe caps that cover individual toes on the foot for bunion protection or spacing inside the box of the shoe.
Sometimes a dancer has to experiment with many different ways of protecting her toes from pointe shoe pain. For some dancers, a thin layer of paper toweling is enough. For other dancers, tape, lambs wool, and toe pads are a must have.
Individual toe caps help even out the space inside the box of the shoe if the dancer has toes of uneven length. Lambs wool is another type of padding that can be used inside pointe shoes. The proper way to use lambs wool is to remove small amounts of the wool and wrap individual toes. Stuffing the box with wool will cause bunching and discomfort as lambs wool tends to shift around inside the shoe if you use to much. Toe spacers are used when large gaps between toes could cause the bones of the foot to move too freely inside the box of the pointe shoe.
Taping toes is another method that works to protect feet from blisters and yet not take up excessive room in the shoe. Many dancers favor plain old paper towels because it gives them a barrier against the rough surface of the paste box and provides the lightest layer of padding in order to feel the floor. Most dancers use a combination of different padding methods depending on the shoe, the teacher, and the current condition of their feet at the time..
BREAKING IN A NEW POINTE SHOE
The following techniques can be used to help make a new pointe shoe more pliable and comfortable but check with your particular maker to be sure. Certain manufacturers like Prima-Soft make pointe shoes that cannot have the shanks bent by hand when cold.
* Knead the underside of the shoe concentrating on the demi-pointe area, then work around the box area for several minutes
* Extra hard boxes that irritate bunions or ingrown toenails can be softened by using water of alcohol. Apply only to the specific place on the shoe that is causing irritation
* Molding the shank to your arch is also important and makes the shoe feel like a natural extension of your foot
EXTENDING THE LIFE OF A POINTE SHOE
Almost all pointe shoe manufacturers agree that drying time is one of the most important issues involved when trying to extend the life of a pointe shoe. Foot perspiration must be allowed to evaporate completely. Pointe shoes that become damp generally need 24 to 36 hours to dry. Ideally, it is best to interchange several pairs ( if you can afford it).
USING FLOOR WAXES AND GLUES
Many dancers use a hardening substance like floor wax or a special pointe shoe glue to get a few more wearings. It's always better to experiment on an old pair of pointe shoes your first time although the method is really a simple one.
Most dancers use Future floor acrylic, jet glue, or gorilla glue. Jet glue can be purchased at dance supply retailers. These types of glue usually come with a slim nozzle that fits down into the box of the shoe. All waxes and glues should be applied to the inside of the box only.
To apply jet glue or gorilla glue simply pour the glue into the box area, then using a 1' wide paintbrush smooth the layer of glue evenly throughout the box. A thin coat is better.
To apply future floor acrylic; pour a small amount into a plastic cup then using your paintbrush apply the acrylic inside the box area. Both of the above methods can be used to harden the shank area also.
- Air dry if you have the time, preferably with the pointe shoes toe box up.
- Blow dry
- Fan dry
- Oven- pre heat your oven to 200 degrees then turn the oven off.
- Place the shoes in the oven to dry.
Check the product label for specific drying times.
USING THE FREEZER
Dancers with higher arches who find themselves with shoes that become weak and get soft spots along the shank can get a few more wearings by using glue along the shank, then putting the shoes in the freezer to set the glue. Lift the sock liner out of your pointe shoe, apply glue to the weak areas of the shank, then freeze until set.
For extra support, cut out a cardboard inner sole that matches the dimensions of the inside of your pointe shoes. Apply glue to the inside of the pointe shoe, layer the cardboard over this and apply more glue. Put the shoes in the freezer to set. This will create an extra layer of re-enforcement for a dying shoe and give you a few more wearings.
EASY TIPS FOR MOLDING A NEW POINTE SHOE TO YOUR FOOT
Traditional paste pointe shoes respond well to heat when it is properly applied. If the shanks of the shoe are too stiff for demi-pointe try aiming a blow dryer at the bottom of the shoe to warm up the shank and make it easier to bend.
Molding a hard box to the shape of your toes can be accomplished by using steam. Hold your shoe over a pot of steaming water and let the steam enter the inside of the toe box for several minutes. Put the shoes on after steaming when the pointe shoe paste has softened and the shoes will mold easier to your foot.
Putting new pointe shoes in a low temperature oven also softens the paste. You can heat your oven to 200 degrees, turn the oven off, and then place your shoes in the oven for 10 minutes. Put the shoes on after baking to mold them to your feet.
Pointe shoes can also be placed directly into a 100 degree oven and baked for 10 to 20 minutes. A simple blow dryer is also effective. Anything that can warm up the pointe shoe paste and make it more pliable will help you mold them faster.
A well-molded pointe shoe helps a dancer get on with doing what she loves best; dancing.
- ilovebeads (Flikr: First Time Ever In Pointe Shoes) CC By 2.0 www.creativecommons.org
- Baryshnikov pointe shoe photo from the author's personal pointe shoe collection