Introduction: Preparing Your First Pointe Shoes

Moving up to pointe shoes is a very exciting time in every ballerinas life. Once your instructor says that you have passed the test, it is straight to your local dance shop to pick out your first pair of pointe shoes. Make sure that you have picked out a pair that is suitable for your foot. I must have tried on about ten pairs when I got my first pair before I ended up with my Block Heritage’s. Remember, you must always get confirmation from a professional before you move up to pointe shoes. Trying to dance in pointe shoes when your feet are not strong enough can result in serious injury to your feet. It is also important to go at the pace your instructor feels fit. You may be itching to try a pirouette out on the floor but once again, it is dangerous and should not be attempted until your instructor believes you are ready. Barre work may seem tedious but you will build the foundation that is necessary to be able to dance beautifully in your shoes. The goal of this tutorial is to teach beginners how to prepare their first pair of pointe shoes. Each ballerina is different and more advanced ballerinas may alter their shoes in a way they have learned works for their feet over time. Thus, this tutorial is not a be-all-end-all, it is just a way to show dancers new to pointe the basics of preparing their shoes. Now that you have purchased your first pair of pointe shoes, it is time to prepare them for class!

Step 1: Necessary Supplies

This process may take some time so make sure you gather all of the supplies you will need to prepare your shoes. Here is a list of what you will need:

· Your pointe shoes

· The ribbon that come with your shoes

· The elastic that comes with your shoes

· Pen or marker

· Lighter

· Scissors

· Needle

· Thread

Step 2: Ribbon Cutting and Burning

You will most likely be given one long ribbon so you need to fold that ribbon in half and cut it. This makes one ribbon for each shoe. You then take each of those ribbons and fold them in half again and cut. Now, you should have four sets of ribbons of equal length, two for each shoe. To avoid fraying, light one end of all four ribbons with a lighter until they melt only slightly. This step is very important because frayed ribbons do not look professional. Notice how in this photo, only the left pair of shoes have burned ribbons while the right pair did not and became frayed at the ends.

Step 3: Measuring for Your Ribbons

Now it is time to measure out where to sew the ribbons on to the shoe. You want as much support as you can get so it is important to make sure your ribbons will correctly wrap up your ankles. To do this, you must sew the ribbon at that spot in your foot where the arch forms. So make an arch with your foot and take a marker to mark the spot. Now, put your shoe on and mark inside the shoe at the spot where your foot is marked.

Step 4: Sewing Your Ribbons

Once your shoe is marked on the inside, you can start to sew. With the shiny side facing outward, fold the end of the ribbon that has not been burned twice. The folded part should no more than three quarters of an inch tall. Stick this folded part over the mark in the shoe. With the needle and thread carefully start to sew the ribbon into place. You must avoid two things while sewing. First, you cannot sew all the way to the rim of the shoe because this will run through the drawstring that goes all the way around the shoe. The drawstring is necessary to keep the shoe tight around your foot. Second, you must only go through the first layer of the shoe. If you go through both layers then the stitching will show on the outside of the shoe. On the photo on the right you can see that the outside of the shoe looks clean.

Step 5: Elastic Sewing

The elastic band goes behind the ribbon. You should flatten the back of your shoe and measure out two finger widths from the back of the shoe. Make a mark of where your finger is inside the shoe and then put on your shoe and wrap the elastic so that it is snug around the top of your foot. Here, you need to make a mark on the elastic of how long it needs to be. Now, sew that elastic at that spot. Again, avoid the drawstring and only go through the first layer of the shoe.

Step 6: Break in the Arch

Now that everything is sewn in properly, it is time to break in your shoes. There are multiple ways to go about this but I usually do it in two steps. First, you want your shoes to bend so they are not so rigid. Where your ribbons have been sewed on, start to bend your shoe by pushing it with your hands and on the floor. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of force because pointe shoes are very strong. In the two photos above, the shoe on the right has the arches slightly broken into while the left has not. You can see how the shoe now has a natural curve to it. This will help tremendously with your dancing.

Step 7: Break in the Shoe

Now you are ready to begin your pointe classes. I usually walk around my house for about 10 minutes on relevé before each class to continue to bend the new shoe. Some people find this tedious but it helps with breaking the shoe in!

This concludes the step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare
your first pointe shoes. I hope you found this both informative and helpful. Happy dancing and good luck on pointe!