Breaking In Pointe Shoes

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Soften the Pointe Shoes

Pointe shoes
Tracy Wicklund

Many dancers like to try to soften parts of their pointe shoes to make them more pliable and feel more comfortable. Since pointe shoes are relatively stiff when you buy them, it's often a good idea to "break them in" before dancing in them.​

Be aware, however, that the following methods of breaking in pointe shoes may shorten their lifespan significantly.

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Massage the Box

Massage the box
Tracy Wicklund

The box of a pointe shoe is the stiff toe cup that surrounds the front of the foot. One way to soften the box of your pointe shoe is to massage the box with the palms of your hands. Simply grasp the box of the shoe between your palms and squeeze the sides of the box together. The box will feel very stiff at first, but after massaging for a while, it will begin to feel softer.

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Dampen the Box

Dampen with water
Tracy Wicklund

If the box of the pointe shoe still seems too stiff, another method to try is wetting it. Both water and alcohol are used frequently by dancers to significantly soften pointe shoe boxes.

Simply fill a small squirt bottle with water or alcohol and spray directly onto the box of the shoe. (Alcohol is preferred by some dancers because it dries faster and is easier on the satin.) If you don't have a bottle, some dancers actually hold their shoes under a faucet or dip the boxes into a water-filled sink. After wetting your shoe, hang them in a dry place for proper drying.

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Bend the Shank

Soften the shank
Tracy Wicklund

The shank of a pointe shoe is the hard sole on the inside of the shoe that supports the arch of your foot. There are hard shanks, medium shanks, and soft shanks. Hard shanks are sometimes recommended for beginners because the dancer will strengthen her feet by having to work against the resistance of the hard shank. However, sometimes the shank may need to be softened to maximize comfort and to make it easier for the dancer to dance in.

How to soften the shank:

  • Hand bending: Gently bend the pointe shoe shank at the three-quarter pointe. Be extra careful not to "break" the shank, as this will make the shoe unwearable. The shank will soften as you gently bend it back and forth.
  • Door bending: Bend the pointe shoe shank in a door frame at the three-quarter pointe. Door bending may significantly lessen the lifespan of your pointe shoes, so use caution.
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Dampen the Shank

Dampen the shank
Tracy Wicklund

The shank of a pointe shoe can also be softened by wetting it with water or alcohol. Wetting the shank will make it easier to bend. Simply turn the shoe over and spray the outer sole. Once damp, the shoe will be much more pliable. Some dancers moisten their pointe shoes every time they put them on.

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Score the Platform

Score pointe shoes
Tracy Wicklund

Scoring your pointe shoes with a pair of scissors won't necessarily help break them in, but it will make them easier to dance in. Scoring the platform, or the part of the shoe that you stand on when en pointe, will help prevent slipping by creating an uneven and coarse surface. This will give you greater traction during jumps and turns.

To score the platform of a pointe shoe, carefully create score marks with the sharp end of a scissor. Create several marks in one direction, then go back and cross them in the other direction.

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Score the Outer Sole

Score the outer sole
Tracy Wickluns

Scoring the outer sole of a pointe shoe will help prevent the need for rosin, the sticky substance used by dancers to create friction. Scoring the sole will scrape off parts of the sole, giving it an uneven and coarse surface. The roughened surface will give you more traction on every type of floor.

To score the sole of a pointe shoe, carefully create shallow marks on the sole with the sharp end of a scissor. Create several marks in one direction, then go back and cross them in the other direction.

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Wear the Shoes

Pointe shoes
Tracy Wicklund

Perhaps the best way to break in a pair of pointe shoes is simply to wear them. Many ballet teachers instruct students to put on their pointe shoes and walk around on demi-pointe. Performing pointe exercises at the barre will bend the shoes at the natural bend of your arches. You should feel a noticeable difference in the pliability of your shoes after your first complete ballet barre.

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Your Citation
Bedinghaus, Treva. "Breaking In Pointe Shoes." ThoughtCo, Mar. 31, 2017, Bedinghaus, Treva. (2017, March 31). Breaking In Pointe Shoes. Retrieved from Bedinghaus, Treva. "Breaking In Pointe Shoes." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 20, 2017).