In today’s world, many people know that ballerinas “dance on their toes”. Many people also know that we wear pointe shoes and definitely not “toe shoes” to accomplish this. But what many people are still unaware of, is what these shoes are actually made of and how important having the right shoe is for a dancer. When you think about it, a dancer’s entire body weight is balancing on a small box, so she relies on her shoes to be extremely sturdy and supportive. Most shoes are handmade and some are even custom fit to specific dancers, meaning that no two shoes are alike. And although there are some pointes shoes that are actually made of plastic, most are made with less durable materials, like leather, cotton, fabric, cardboard or paper. We are trying to create an illusion of lightness and trying our hardest to “make it look easy”. But rest assured, it most definitely is not easy. After getting a new pair of shoes, a dancer has to spend time sewing them, breaking them in and prepping them for use. This includes obviously sewing on ribbons and elastic, but sometimes cutting the inside shank in half so they create a better arch, stepping on the box so that it’s easier to get fully on your shoe, or banging them against the floor so they’re not noisy while you’re dancing. This process varies a lot from dancer to dancer and can take a long time to complete.
Poorly Fitted Dance shoes may cause Dancer’s Feet Problems. Since a dancer’s feet problems can be caused by poorly fitted dance shoes, it’s important to break them in right. It’s all part of a dancer’s total feet care. Poorly fitted shoes will affect dance technique and can cause issues with blisters, skin lesions and the possible development of hammertoes or bunions. Wearing correctly fitted shoes is essential to avoiding injury, but so is meticulous foot care. Sometimes this also includes choosing the right type of tape for the dancer’s feet, taping the toes and then wrapping them as if she is going into the boxing ring. When we gear up for a string of performances, many of our shoes require special preparation. For some roles, our pointe shoes have to be dyed or ordered in special to match our costume. Personally, I’ve worn blue, white, green and gray- and that’s just pointe shoes. I’ve also worn creme character boots, black character shoes, a few different colored flat shoes, and heeled orange boots. But no matter what color or style our shoes are for a performance, dancers always know how to put on a good face - even when our foot care is lacking, our ankle support is failing and our dance shoes are not fitting. Many times, our pointe shoes come out crunchy or harder than normal when painted or dyed. Sometimes the boots for a character piece are sent from another company and we have to scramble to find a size that’s semi close to ours. Sometimes we even have to change in a flash from character shoes to pointe shoes and have no time to prepare ourselves for the piece ahead. Nevertheless, in the end, we are in front of that audience doing what we love and whatever foot care issues we are dealing with backstage melts away on stage.