How To Break In Pointe Shoes

The best way to break in your pointe shoes is simply by wearing them. Your body temperature and perspiration from class help to mold the shoes to the unique shape of your feet. However, there are a few ways to cut corners and speed up the process. Try these simple techniques to break your shoes in.

1. Crush the box.


Use your heel to gently crush the box. Flattening the top like this will reduce stiffness. You can also soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and lightly dab the wings, or the sides of the big toe and pinky toe. This trick softens the canvas, which could otherwise be abrasive against the toe joints. Be careful not to dunk your pointe shoes in water, as this could ruin them. Also, do not attempt to slam them in a doorway like some professionals do. They have the experience to break them in this way but you don’t. You could end up killing the box completely, or loosing a finger.

2. Bend the shank.


Bending the shank helps to increase the flexibility of the shoe. Holding the shoe with both hands, bend the shank, or sole, back and forth. Shanks come in different strengths. If you have high arches, a full, hard shank will give you the support you need. If you have lower arches, you may benefit from a 3/4 shank. All shanks are made of leather and wear down with use. Some shoes, like Gaynor Minden, are made of synthetic materials that last much longer than traditional pointe shoes. Be careful not to snap your shank in half. You don’t want to compromise the strength of your shoe from over-bending the shank.

3. Walk on demi-pointe.


With your ribbons securely laced around your ankle, walk around on demi-pointe. Be sure to keep your knees straight and not sacrifice technique for the sake of trying to break your shoes in. You can also practice grand plie, allowing your heels to come up while keeping your toes pressed into the floor. This will make the box more pliable by creating a crease on the top of your toes. Plus, it is good practice to roll through demi-pointe to full pointe. The more flexible the box is, the easier it will be to articulate and point your toes.

4. Tip toe and arch.


Another classic way to break in shoes is tip toe around the classroom. This simple technique helps you adapt to the shift in weight and the feeling of being up high. Stop occasionally and arch one foot at a time. Remember, your ankles should be over your big toe. If you’re falling back, you need to practice getting over your box. If you’re bending your knees, you need to go back to square one and build your strength in technique shoes.

Remember, it is not a good idea to wear your pointe shoes anywhere other than the classroom. Improper usage can lead to premature damage of your pointe shoes and possibly lead to injury. Also, be careful not switch your pointe shoes. While some dancers do this, it counteracts the unique fit for each foot. Pointe shoes are expensive! Extend the life of each pair by using proper techniques to break them in.

image credit: M.A. Cabrera Luengo
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image credit: Michael Sheehan
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image credit: Michael Sheehan
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image credit: Lina Budesa
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image credit: Patrick
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