Starting as a ballet dancer, Marisa discovered flamenco in her 40s. Now retired, she enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things dance.
I have my first pointe shoe fitting tomorrow! I am so excited! My teacher is so strict about letting people up, so I am so proud, as well! Can you explain to me how the fitting will work? Do I wear tights? I have class before, so I will already be wearing tights (pink convertible). What will I need to bring? How bad should they hurt? Should I speak up if I don't think a pair is right?
Congratulations! Your teacher is right to be strict, and you're about to get the benefit of her advice (and your hard work!) because you're bound to do well on pointe with such thorough preparation. Well done, you have every right to be proud!
To answer your questions:
What should I bring?
You don't need to bring anything, although you might want to bring a camera to record the momentous occasion.
How bad should they hurt?
Not at all. If a pointe shoe hurts in the store, it is totally the wrong shoe for you. They will feel strange because of the stiff box, but they definitely should not be painful.
What should I wear?
Convertible tights are absolutely perfect to wear to a fitting. The fitter needs to see your bare feet, but you need to try on the shoes in tights. However, I feel sorry for the poor fitter if you arrive at the shop with sweaty, smelly feet! Could you manage to wash your feet after class (maybe in the sink at the studio?). A clean pair of tights would also be nice.
One more tip:
Cut Your Nails
Make sure your toenails are neatly clipped, as long toenails may hurt when you go up on pointe.
If you know your local dancewear shop doesn't have a professional fitter, it's worth learning a bit about how pointe shoes fit and how to assess your own foot. This article explains what you need to know.
At the Store
A good fitter can take an hour to find exactly the right shoe for you. Each fitter has their own method, so it's hard to be specific about how they'll approach it. Just be patient, follow their instructions and answer their questions, and you'll end up with a beautiful pair of pointe shoes that support your foot and make it look beautiful. You'll be glad you took the time.
If the salesperson doesn't look at your foot, asks, "What's your street shoe size?", then puts a shoe on your foot and asks you if it fits—you're in trouble. That person knows nothing about pointe shoes.
If you have a choice, go to another store, because there's a chance you'll waste money on a pair of shoes that doesn't fit and feels horrible. But sometimes you don't have a choice because there are no other ballet stores in your town.
If that's the case, take control. Don't let them rush you. Ask them for some toe pads before you try on anything. Put the toe pads on and your tights over the top. Now try on the shoes.
- If a shoe slips on easily and you can pinch material at the heel, it's probably too big (the salesperson might say, "it just needs the drawstring tightening", but they're wrong).
- If you're struggling to get the heel on, it's too small or too narrow. Go up a half size or try a wider width.
Now try these tests (you'll need a barre or something/someone to hold onto):
- Do a plié in first position turned out. You should be able to "feel" the end of the box with your toe. There should be no looseness in the heel.
- Rise on pointe. Are you able to get over the box? If not, the vamp may be too long. On the other hand, if you're going too far over, the vamp may be too short.
- Stand parallel. Rise on pointe. Don't worry if there is some spare material at the heel. The shoe should not twist. Get someone to check from the back, to make sure the sole is perfectly straight on your foot in that position. If it's twisting, the shoe is probably too narrow.
There are many other considerations, which is why it's better to have a proper fitter to help you—but you can tell a lot by how the shoe feels. Take your time. The shoe should feel "snug" which means it really hugs your foot—but your toes shouldn't be jammed up against the box, squashed together or overlapping. On the other hand, your toes shouldn't have any wiggle room.
The next video illustrates those tests and gives you an idea of how thorough a professional pointe shoe fitter can be. Claudia is an ex-professional dancer, so her fitting is a bit different—however, it's worth watching in full because it shows you the kinds of things the fitter looks for, and the kinds of things Claudia does to check whether the shoes fit.
When You Get Your Shoes Home...
I know it's tempting to take your shoes straight out of the packet and dance around in them, but please, please don't.
I always recommend you take the shoes in to show your teacher first because she knows your feet better than anyone. If she feels the shoes are wrong for you, you can take them back to the store and try again. So you need to keep them perfectly clean and untouched until your teacher approves them.
Perhaps you've bought your shoes just in time to wear for your first pointe class. In that case, then yes, you'll have to take the risk and break the shoes in, sew on the ribbons, etc.
© 2020 Marisa Wright