How A Pointe Shoe Works
The foot is supported from underneath the arch by a stiff insole, or shank. The box of the shoe tightly encases the toes, so that the dancer's weight rests on an oval-shaped platform. The shank has varying degrees of flexibility, and the box may have different configurations.
The outer material is usually pink satin and can be dyed for performance to costume designers' specifications. Most pointe shoes will fit either foot; there is usually no left or right. Except in rare cases pointe shoes are worn only by women.
Although the shoe enables the dancer to poise indefinitely on tiptoe, it is her strength and technique that bring her from the normal standing position through a mid-position, "demi-pointe", to the full-pointe position. Once en pointe she maintains a contraction of the muscles of the feet, ankles, legs and torso to pull herself up out of the shoe. Without proper technique an attempt at toe-dancing can cause injury.
Children with growing feet should not dance en pointe, nor should anyone lacking adequate strength and training. The introduction to pointe work must be gradual. Dancers should train for several years in soft slippers before they wear pointe shoes. Then only a few minutes of each class are devoted to special pointe exercises. Eventually dancers progress to wearing pointe shoes for a portion of their class time, and then progress to the entire class.
Pointe Shoe Terms
the fabric channel through which the drawstring runs
the stiff toe cup that encases the toes
the soft fabric that lines the inside of the box
the measurement around the widest part of the foot, at the metatarsals at the ball of the foot
a pointe shoe box, often cylindrical, with a relatively large space between the outer sole and the top of the foot
a pointe shoe box with a generally flat shape and a relatively small space between the outer sole and the top of the box
the five bones between the ankle and the toes. Pointe shoe fitting is especially concerned with the area near the ball of the foot
the bottom part of the shoe, usually made of synthetic or leather, which is in contact with the floor when the dancer stands in the normal flat position
the part of the pointe shoe on which the dancer stands when en pointe
the rolling inward of the foot so that when standing flat, more weight is on the ball of the foot than on the outside
the part of the shoe covering the sides and heel of the foot
the stiff insole that provides support
the soft fabric that lies directly underneath the foot and runs the length of the shoe
the rolling outward of the foot so that when standing flat, more weight is on the outside of the foot than on the ball of the foot
the opening of the shoe nearest the toes
the part of the shoe that covers the tops of the toes and the foot
wide, firm elastic sewn at the throat of the shoe to extend the vamp and cover the top of the foot
a box with extra-long, stiff sides
Students should not begin training on pointe until their instructor determines that they are ready for it. Each student should be evaluated individually and should have several years of ballet training before beginning a pre-pointe or pointe class.