Pointe Shoe Fitting Guide
Five major components of a pointe shoe need to be taken into consideration for fitting. These are the last, the vamp, the platform, the shank, and the paste. However the most important factor of these is the last. This `shell` determines the major factor in the fitting, which is to find a correct and comfortable shape shoe when the foot is standing flat and when en point. The other components of vamp, platform, shank and paste are considered to be the `cosmetics` of the shoe.
Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe
1. Throat Line
3. Modified Vamp
11. Side Seam
14. Heel Strap
Vamp Shape / Throat Line
The shape of the entrance area for the front of the foot. In Bloch pointe shoes the vamp shape is either `U` shaped or `V1 shaped.
Block / Box
The hardened surface area of a pointe shoe which includes the vamp, wings and platform, surrounds the front section of the foot. The block/box is made from the application of numerous layers of special fabrics, all with different shapes, bound together by the paste in between each layer. This process is very similar to the process of paper mache.
A combination of layers of special materials into a unique profile which forms the structural anchor similar similar to the way a spine supports the human body. Shanks/insoles are developed in different profiles creating various levels of flexibility.
The tape that finishes the top edge of the upper which also encases the drawstring.
A length of ether cotton cord or elastic cord encased within the binding that allows the upper to form a snug fit around the foot.
The lower forward part of the shoes upper, covering the forepart of the foot and includes the block/box and platform.
The flattened surface at the toe end of the pointe shoe which allows the dancer to balance en pointe.
Each of the two symmetrical sides of the vamp directed towards the heel. The outer edge of the hardened toe block/box that contain a lesser amount of material and paste. The wing can vary in shape and hardness depending on the style of pointe shoe or the dancer’s preference.
The outer most sole of the shoe and for pointe shoe is made from leather.
The foot shaped mould which the pointe shoe is manufactured around.
All the parts above the shoes sole that are joined together to become a single unit which is then attached to the insole and outsole.
A specially formulated glue type substance, which is used in both the process of hardening the toe block/box and attaching the insole to the inside of the pointe shoe.
Maintenance of a Pointe Shoe
Bloch pointe shoes have been made with skill and craftsmanship. As pointe shoes are a dancers tool, careful maintenance and preparation will extend there life expectancy. Bloch pointe shoes are made in the traditional method, using natural fibers and pastes so the foot absorbs less strain through the intentional breaking down of the shoe, helping to prevent injury and minimize discomfort. Before wearing pointe shoes for the first time some preparation is essential and recommended.
Pointe shoe preparation
• Correct placement and sewing of ribbons.
• Darning underneath and over the platform using a non-shiny darning cotton will also buffer some sound and give additional shock absorption as well a helping resin to adhere to the platform.
• Suede toecaps can be glued with a suitable adhesive onto and under the platform, making sure the suede is level with the platform of the shoe.
Humidity and dampness are pointe shoes worst enemies so a dancer should always remove and protection or padding from inside their pointe shoe after wear. To restore the box shape, gently stuff this area with absorbent paper for a short period of time and place the shoes in a dry, warm and well ventilated area, remembering to change the absorbent paper frequently. This will prevent moisture remaining in the box of the shoe which can lead to the premature softening of the paste and the shoe drying out in a distorted manner.
If a dancer has a tendency to roll or if one foot is more flexible or stronger than the other, rotating the pair of shoes from one foot to the other can help them to wear more evenly. It is advisable for a more advanced student or professional dancer to use multiple pairs of shoes enabling one pair to dry out completely between wears.
Bloch do not advise
• Bending shoes manually, because if you are not accurate where the shoe is bent in the shank, the shoe may no longer retain the integrity of their design and could become dangerous.
• The use of sticking plaster over the platform – this can cause moisture to be retain in the box and therefore cause the platform to soften.
• The use of calamine lotion to take the sheen from the satin, this can cause the block/box to collapse.
Pointe Shoe Hardening Process
Instructions for use: Shellac or French polish can be purchased from a hardware store.
• Air and dry pointe shoes thoroughly.
• Do not attempt to paint the hardener into the block area of the pointe shoe if the shoes are damp from perspiration. Thinly load the brush with the hardener and carefully paint inside the shoe from the platform and up under the vamp.
• Don not paint the hardener on any of area which has not already been stiffened as the hardener will seep through the satin and stain the fabric. Repeated process after 24 hours. We recommend 2 or 3 layers to strengthen the blocking of the shoe, rather than one layer which will take an extended time to dry and harden. This process of hardening the block may be used at any stage to prolong the life of the shoe.
• Ensure the hardener is completely dry before wearing the pointe shoe.
• The brush, after use, should be thoroughly immersed in mineral turpentine and cleaned with a soft cloth.
• Do not allow any hardener to remain in the bristles as this will stiffen the brush.
Warning: Shellac is highly flammable substance and should be kept away from heat and out of reach of children.
There is no rule for how long a pointe shoe will last. A young student having one or two lessons per week including some pointe work, will no doubt grow out of their shoes before they wear out. A more advanced student will require two to three pairs of shoes per term, depending on the repetitious nature of their classes, the humidity and the type of flooring in the studio.
Professional dancers are supplied with shoes reflecting the repertoire of the season and their status in the company.
Medical fraternities advise that a young student should not commence pointe work before the age of 11 or 12 as the cartilage and bones of the feet are still soft. The student would normally have been studying ballet for about three to four years prior to going en pointe. Serious damage could occur if pointe work is taken up at too early an age before the correct development of all the muscles.
The teacher may advise a student to attend a pre-pointe assessment with a dance physiotherapist. This assessment will help ascertain a student’s physical readiness for the commencement of pointe work including the flexibility and strength of the foot.
Ribbon bundles are sold in one long 2 ¼ meter length so the ribbon needs to be cut in half and then half again so there are four pieces, one for each side of the shoes.
• Take one piece of ribbon and at one end fold one centimeter over once and then fold it over two centimeters again.
• To attach the ribbons at the correct angle, fold the back of the shoe forward and down then mark each side of the shoe on the cotton lining in the angle made.
• Place the folded end of the ribbon at the marked position and sew as shown in the drawing onto the side of the shoe through the cotton lining but not trough the satin. The ribbons may be angled forward if required to hold the shoe on more securely.
For extra support the ribbon can be sewn further down the shoe close to the inner sole at the same position. Do not sew the ribbon through the binding as the cord can not be adjusted and the binding may pull away from the satin. The cord inside the binding of the pointe shoe is to adjust the tension of the width of the upper. It should be adjusted while on the foot, and tried in a double knot with the excess cord tucked into the shoe and not be visible. Do not cut the excess of the cords off, as should the knot come undone the ends would be lost inside the binding.
Bloch Elastoribs are pre-cut into four pieces and each has an elastic piece sewn into the ribbon length not quite in the centre so one length is shorter than the other. The shorter length should be pinned to the marked area for sewing to check that when the ribbon is wound round the ankle the elastic sits directly behind the Achilles tendon. The Elastoribs come with detailed instructions in the packet.
Note: All information contained in this guide is courtesy of Bloch. If you require any other help or information please feel free to contact us