A well-rounded theater performer, Claire has been studying ballet for years. Since moving to Chicago, she’s found a great mixed-level class and is preparing for her triumphant return to pointe! I wanted to help her find just the right shoes…
Before we started her pointe shoe fitting, Claire and I had a nice, long chat about her dance experience, shoe history, and past injuries.
I also took a look at Claire’s feet. She wears around a street shoe 7 and has short, even-length toes and an overall wide and square foot shape. She has a high instep and a moderately flexible arch.
A few years ago, Claire suffered a torn Achilles tendon, which caused her to lose some flexibility in her left ankle and arch.
Claire uses gel toe spacers to prevent deviation of her big toe joint, which can lead to bunions. Claire wore her spacers during her fitting to ensure that her new shoes could accommodate this extra accessory.
Claire also brought her padding of choice, Ouch Pouch Jr., to wear during the fitting.
Each time we do a pointe shoe fitting, we check the length of the shoe by having the dancer stand in second position. Then we gauge whether the dancer’s toes are at the end of the shoe, and whether they are able to remain straight when she pliés. When the dancer props one foot onto pointe, we do a second length check, looking for about a thumb width’s worth of fabric to pinch at back of the heel. We also check to see if the shank is twisting away from the arch, a sign that the shoe is too narrow. When the dancer comes to relevé, we make sure her metatarsals are held firmly by the box rather than sinking into the shoe.
The first shoe we tried was the Russian Pointe Almaz, size 37.5, 4 width, with a flexible soft (FS) shank.
Standing flat in the shoe, Claire felt some discomfort because the shoe’s fairly low crown wasn’t spacious enough for her high instep.
Unlike many Russian Pointe styles, the Almaz does not come pre-arched. Claire found this straight shank too stiff when she came to relevé. The left shank twisted a good bit on Claire, both because of the stiffness and because the shoe was a little too narrow.
I decided to switch Claire to the Russian Pointe Rubin, which is a bit less tapered through the box than the Almaz. We first tried the Rubin in the same size, size 37.5, 4 width, but Claire still experienced some twisting.
Next we went one width up in the Rubin, to width 5. The shank was no longer twisting. Claire felt much more comfortable, though the heel felt a little looser than she’d like. When she went into relevé, she wasn’t quite sinking (a sign that the shoe is too wide) but did feel some rubbing on her pinky toe.
We decided to compare the Rubins to the Russian Pointe Bravas, which have a wider platform and are a bit fuller through the crown. In the Brava size 37.5, width 4, Claire felt less pressure through her instep. When first standing in the shoe, she said, “This feels the best immediately!”
When Claire came to relevé in the Bravas, they looked like a pretty nice fit!
It looked like Claire wasn’t getting all the way up on the platform in the styles we’d tried so far, particularly on her injured foot, so I thought she might benefit from trying a shoe with an angled platform.
I had Claire try on the Repetto Carlotta, size 5.5LS (large width, soft shank). Claire found the shoe’s softer build more comfortable for her high instep than the stiffer Bravas. The shoe felt a little too short when Claire pliéd in second (her toes weren’t able to sit quite flat). When she went into relevé, we found that the shank was twisting again on her left foot.
I decided to go a size up in the Carlotta, to a 6.0LS (large width, soft shank). Claire found the shoe much more comfortable, both standing flat and on relevé. She found that the angled platform did indeed push her a bit more onto the middle of the shoe’s platform.
While the Carlottas appear to have a high vamp (not always ideal for people with short toes like Claire), that’s actually a bit of an illusion in this shoe—the material is soft and flexible up to the middle of the vamp. I like this feature, because it gives you the flattering elongated look of a high vamp without being too constricting!
The low vamp did allow Claire to stretch even farther through her arch, but this feature, along with the shoes’ overall soft construction, made the shoe better for short-term use. “It feels like a shoe that’s already been broken in!,” Claire noted, adding that it would make a nice performance shoe but may break down too fast for everyday use. Claire also likes to ¾ her shanks—in other words, she cuts off the back quarter of the shank for a closer fit to her arch—which might not be ideal these already-super-soft-shoes.
The conclusion—Being open to lots of options is key for an effective pointe shoe fitting! You might find the shoe of your dreams, your perfect “sole-mate.” But it’s just as likely that, like Claire, you’ll find different shoes to serve you well for different purposes. Claire thought the super-soft Capezio Tiffany was a great option for performing, but liked the extra support of the Repetto Carlotta for day-to-day wear.