How to Tell if Your Pointe Shoes Are Dead

It’s important to know when your pointe shoes are dead and in need of replacing to avoid injury. This is more important when you are just starting out on pointe as your pointe shoes will probably last longer when you start out. Once you start using your shoes more you will get through a lot more pairs and will know when your pointe shoes are getting close to being dead.

dead pointe shoes

Here are a few of the tell tail signs of when your pointe shoes have no more dance left in them:

  • If you are starting to feel the floor through your shoes when you’re on pointe it is definitely time to get a new pairdead shoes
  • The box begins to feel soft and not very supportive
  • The shank is no longer supportive or does not feel as supportive as it used to

There are other things to look out for that could mean your shoes are ready for renewal as well such as:

  • Feeling pain in areas you do not normally feel pain in
  • Being unable to push over the box correctly
  • Unable to stay on pointe when balancing or turning

Remember, these are not the only signs to look out for. If your box or shank becomes damaged or cracked in anyway you should look into getting a new pair. Also, don’t rely on the shank to tell you when your shoes are dead. The box is just as important in supporting your foot. Both the shank and the box should be giving you support and if one isn’t it’s time for some new pointe shoes.

Have a look at my other post to see what you can do to look after your shoes and extend their life for as long as possible.



Taking Care of Your Pointe Shoes

Pointe shoes aren’t really known for their long life span, so it’s best to try and look after your shoes to make them last a long as possible. I’ve put together a short list of things you can do to help look after your pointe shoes.

caring for your pointe shoe

  • Firstly, always make sure shoes are broken in correctly and carefully and after the first time you wear your shoes mark them left and right.
  • After every class or anytime you wear your shoes, always take out the padding and hang them up to let them dry. DO NOT leave them in your dance bag.
  • If you use your pointe shoes for several classes during a week buy two or more pairs to wear. Pointe shoes should be taken off and allowed to dry after 45-60 minutes of training. Always allow pointe shoes at least 24 hours to dry before wearing them again.
  • Mesh pointe shoe bags can be useful if you are needing to carry your pointe shoes around from class to class
  • Shellacs and glues can be brought to help re-harden your shoes to make them last longer. Dance stores and pointe shoe fitters will be able to guide you on what product would be best for you
  • Suede tips can be glued to the tips of the shoes. Not only will this give you more grip but will stop the tips of the shoes wearing out

How to Break in Your Pointe Shoes

When You Get Your Shoes

It’s soooo important each time you get fitted for a new pair of pointe shoes you will need to break them in. But before you break them in or sew your ribbons on, make sure you’re dance teacher is happy with your shoes. If your teacher has a fitter they recommend this may not be necessary but it is best to ask first.

Pointe Shoes

How to Break in Your Pointe Shoes

There are several ways to break in pointe shoes, some people just keep working them with their feet and hands, while some people bang them on the floor and shut them in doors to break them in. However, many pointe shoe makers advise against hammering shoes and shutting them in doors as this can damage the shoe.

Softening the Shank

  • Place any padding on your foot before putting the shoe on
  • Fold the back of your shoe down and place the shoe on your foot, keeping the back folded downFold back heel
  • Mark with your fingers where your heel ends, keeping your fingers in place remove the shoeWhere the heel ends
  • Carefully massage and push the shoe from where your fingers are. You may hear some cracking noises but this is normalBreak in pointe shoe
  • Keep gently pushing and massaging the shoe until it loosens

(apologies for the terrible nail varnish, forgot to take it off)


Breaking in Pointe Shoes at the Barre

This exercise really helps work your feet in your pointe shoes which will help break them in. It’s also a brilliant warm up exercise before pointe work.

  • Start facing the barre with your feet in parallel
  • Rise up onto demi pointe, trying and rise up as high as you can before you start to go up onto pointe
  • Rise up onto pointe
  • Bend both knees pushing right up and over the box
  • Stretch your knees and recover back to pointe
  • lower your feet making sure you go through the demi pointe position
  • repeat this several times before repeating in 1st position

Eventually the demi pointe position will become easier to go through as the shoe becomes broken in.




Are Demi Pointe Shoes Necessary

Many People ask whether demi pointe shoes are really necessary when preparing the feet for pointe work. There is no one straight answer for this question so i will go over both sides of the argument to help you decide what you think.

demi pointe shoes demi pointe

Arguments for demi pointe shoes

Demi Pointe shoes have much more resistance than a normal flat ballet shoe. This means your feet have to work harder, helping you gain the strength you need to do pointe work. They also help you understand how to fully stretch your feet when you eventually move onto full shank pointe shoe.

Arguments against demi pointe shoes  One of the biggest reasons demi pointe shoes are not often used with younger students is the bad habits they can lead to, the biggest being clawing of the toes. You must be fully aware of what foot muscles you should be using to stretch your foot with the added resistance before using demi pointe shoes. If you don’t you may end up using the wrong muscles to stretch your feet which can lead to several issues which can damage your feet. However if you are aware of how to articulate your feet correctly demi point shoes can help you build the strength you need in your feet.

Personal Preference Personally, i do not use demi pointe shoes as i believe the same strength can be built up without them while also making students more aware of their feet. There are several different foot exercises. such as cherry picking, that can be done which will also allow you to look at how your feet are moving, ensuring positions are being held correctly, there is a video below showing you how to do this exercise. However, if your dance teacher wants you to use demi pointe shoes there is no reason why you shouldn’t. If you are unsure on how you should be using your foot in the shoes just ask your teacher and they will explain. But remember, there is no reason why you can’t do foot strengthening exercises as well.

Feet strengthening  – Cherry Picking

  • Lie on your back with on foot in the air
  • Stretch your feet, pushing your feet forward with resistance, until it’s fully stretched and you have ‘picked the cherry off the tree’
  • Then flex your foot back keeping your toes trying to point downwards, ‘holding onto the cherry’
  • once your foot is fully flexed flex the toes back and ‘drop the cherry into your mouth
  • repeat this several times on the same foot and then do the same number on the other foot

Everything You Need to Know Before Going en Pointe

Being told you are ready to go up on en pointe is possibly one of the most exciting times of a ballet dancer’s life. You are finally dancing with the big girls and suddenly feel like a professional, and so you should, it takes a lot of hard work to get your body ready to go en pointe. It’s not just your feet that need to be strong but your ankles, abdominal muscles,  just about every muscle in your leg and your mind.

However, as exciting as pointe work seems, it is important that your body IS ready and you are under the watchful eye of your dance teacher. Here are a few points to think about when going en pointe.


1. Knowing your ready – Your dance teacher should tell you when you are ready to go en pointe, but i see so many young girls in pointe shoes before they are ready, so here are a few things to make sure your teacher is looking for:

Firstly you should be at least 11 years of age, any younger than this and you can seriously damage your feet not matter how strong they are. Secondly you should be able to rise high up onto demi-pointe with your weight equally distributed over your toes and no sickling in the ankle.

2. It isn’t as easy and pain-free as it looks – You are going to stand on your toes, it isn’t going to feel comfortable. When getting pointe shoes fitted make sure you try on several pairs to make sure you find a comfotable pair for you. This will allow you to work harder an dbuild up your strength and technique allowing you to advance.

Remember, once you are en pointe in class always have some plasters to hand. Blisters and sores are common and you will get them, making sure they are cushioned and protected will allow you to keep dancing without those blisters rubbing.ballet-on-point

3. Allow plenty of time for your pointe shoe fitting – Pointe shoe fittings can be very unpredictable. Usually a fitting will take around an hour, however with your first fitting this could become considerably longer to ensure you choose the right shoe. Don’t try and get fitted in between other appointments you may have as you may spend two or more hours getting fitted.

4. Don’t buy pointe shoes online – Especially not your first pair! Many dance teachers would strongly advise against buying your pointe shoes online full stop, this is because every shoes is different and while you are younger your feet will be growing. It also means that you will not be able to try them on and see how they feel, they may arrive and be extremely uncomfortable that you can’t wear them, don’t pointe shoes do not come cheap.

5. Be patient – Some of your class mate may pick up moves quicker than other, you may even be one of these people! But if you are learning slower than others don’t worry, you will get there in the end, it’s important to listen to your teacher and only attempt new things once you are told you are ready.