Pointe fitting is serious business!
The wrong fit can cause a whole host of issues in the studio, while the perfect fit allows the dancer to focus on technique, vs. pain and discomfort! Would you rather…..
Section 1: What is your toe shape?
*Tip: Toe shape impacts both box shape & width platform width*
At pointeperfect.com, we believe there to be 5 major toe types. Your feet may be a hybrid of two different types, or you might even have two different toe shapes on each foot, and that’s OK!
Pointe shoes should fit the shape of your toes as closely as possible, leaving very little “negative space”. There should never be room to grow or wiggle room in a pointe shoe!
An egyptian or tapered toe type is one the has a large big toe, and the rest of the toes gradually get shorter and shorter.
Greek + Tapered
A greek+tapered foot has the 2nd toe the longest, where the rest of the toes gradually get shorter.
In a peasant toe type, the first 2 or 3 toes are all the same length, and the rest gradually get shorter and shorter.
Greek + Square
A greek+square foot has the 2nd toe the longest, where the rest of the toes are all about the same length.
On a square toe type, all of the toes are approximately the same length, and toes don’t taper much, if at all.
Toe Shape vs. Box Shape
Each model of pointe shoes has one of three main box shapes! The three box shapes used universally with makers are Tapered, Slightly Tapered and Square. Some makers have slightly different terminology for their shoes, but all essentially use the same shapes.
Every manufacturer has at least one of each box shape in their collection, though a Square Capezio and a Square Grishko will differ slightly.
A tapered shoe works best for people with tapered, Egyptian style toes as well as Greek +Taper feet. Some dancers with peasant shaped feet can also wear a shoe with a tapered box. Wearers of this box tend to have long slender tapered feet.
some Greek Tapered Toes
Slightly Tapered Box
Slightly tapered shoes are the middle ground between square & tapered. Many different toe shapes can wear this box shape. This is for a foot with toes that are somewhat/slightly tapered and feet that aren’t quite square.
some Greek Tapered toes some Greek Square toes
A square shaped box is for a person whose feet don’t taper much, if at all and tend to be broad. This foot is about the same width from the bunion area down to the toes.
some Greek Square toes
Toe Shape VS Box Shape
This diagram definitely isn’t the rule, but a reliable starting point!
It’s important to note…
There is a difference between having a square shaped foot and having a wide foot, they are not mutually exclusive. A person might have tapered toes but a wide metatarsal area. She would still look for a shoe with a tapered box.
Your goal is to buy the shoe that has the right box shape for your toes. If, for instance, a person with Egyptian style tapered feet purchased a pointe shoe with a wide square shaped box, their metatarsals would be completely unsupported.
So often we hear dancers complaining of big toe pain with their current or past pointe shoes, only to learn that they are in a big square shoe, although they have very tapered toes. Of course they are in pain!
Section 2: What is your toe length?
*Tip: Toe length impacts the box shape & width vamp length*
There are those with long slender toes and those with short compact toes. It’s important to pay attention to toe length so you can determine what type of vamp you need. Wearing a vamp that’s too short can leave parts of the forefoot unsupported which can make it hard to roll from demi-pointe to full pointe. Wearing a vamp that’s too long can prevent the dancer from hitting demi-pointe at all.
A vamp that’s too long can also keep you from getting over the box!
You wouldn’t put a person with long toes into a shoe with a short vamp! The vamp must extend past your toes. The vamp helps hold your foot in place and stabilizes your arch. For example, a person with a very flexible high arch will often need a higher vamp so they don’t roll too far past the platform.
Short toes generally need a short vamp!
Take an average or medium vamp, but may take a long vamp in the event that the foot is very flexible.
Long toes generally need a long vamp!
Section 3: What is your arch type?
*Tip: Arch type impacts vamp length & shank strength*
It’s important to note that there is a difference between arch shape, and arch flexibility.
A dancer might have a very low but flexible arch that appears quite high en pointe!
This diagram definitely isn’t the rule, but a reliable starting point. Shank strength comes from many factors, but arch height and strength are certainly a big part of that!
Flexible Flat Arch
This is called “pes planus” – arches are flat when standing normally, but are flexible when pointed and can appear to be quite high on pointe.
An overly loose foot may need extra support in the shank and a long vamp.
Rigid Flat Arch
This is called “pes planus” – these are feet that are stiff and have limited flexibility in the arch. Will benefit from a pre-arched, flexible/soft shank.
Sometimes dancers with this type of arch are not suited for pointe regardless of the shoe.
This one is perhaps a bit exaggerated, but a person with a “Normal” arch has a flat supported exterior foot, but also a significant arch compared to their flat-footed counterpart.
People with average arches can wear most shank strengths per their preference and other aspects of their foot like strength.
The High Arched foot has a small amount of supportive outsole and a very pronounced arch. This type of foot creates a beautiful desirable line, but people with a high arch often have weak feet.
A harder shank and a higher vamp will stop those with high arches from rolling very far past the edge of their platform.
Very High Arch
People with extremely high arches can slide a pencil through their whole arch while standing flat. These feet are often called “banana feet”, and tend to completely roll over their shoes.
Just like high arched counterparts, a strong shank and deep vamp will help hold your feet back in the shoe so you don’t roll over them.
Section 5: Compression
*Tip Compression impacts both box shape and platform width*
An important, but often overlooked aspect of pointe fitting! A good pointe shoe fitter will check for this as part of their evaluation of your feet. Bring up compression during your appointment if your fitter doesn’t mention it. Compressible feet can cause a lot of issues for a dancer, especially if she is fitted without taking compression into consideration.
Compressible feet will mold to fit the shoe rather than the shoe conforming to the foot. If a dancer with compressible feet is dancing a shoe that’s too wide, she’ll sink down onto her big toe and deal with lots of pain.
I’ve got compressible feet, what does this mean for me??
If you’ve just learned that you have compressible feet, don’t worry! This just means you need to pay close attention to how your shoes fit when standing en pointe. You should feel supported en pointe in the areas you just squeezed. If you find yourself sinking down into your shoe while en pointe, a different width or box shape is needed.
Tip: Though dancers with compressible feet often need narrower shoes, it’s important that they aren’t extremely narrow. Pointe shoes do stretch slightly as they break in, so shoes should be purchased with this in mind. A dancer with compressible feet should avoid flattening the box, as it will increase the width of the box!
How to determine if you have compressible feet: Stand flat, and gently squeeze your feet in the same areas you see in the photo below. If your foot squashes in and compresses, VOILA! You’ve got compressible feet!
This dancer has feet that look VERY wide when relaxed, but are actually quite narrow when pointed and en pointe. This dancer is often fitted in wide, square boxes that leave a ton of negative space and put all of her weight on her big toe while dancing. This dancer actually needs a slightly tapered, narrow shoe!
Section 6: Heel Shape
*Tip Heel Shape impacts heel height & width*
Every manufacturer uses different heel shapes in their pointe shoes. When fitting pointe shoes, this is generally the last thing I worry about when deciding between two pairs. This is not the most important aspect of a fit, the toe box and shank is!
There is a heel type called “disappearing heel”, where the heel compresses and seems to disappear! This dancer needs a shoe with a low heel. In addition, if the heel is too high and the drawstring pulled too tight, it can affect the Achilles tendon. Experiment with different shoes to see what works best for you!
TIP: The way you place elastic can reduce a baggy heel or help keep a low heel from falling off when transitioning from flat to pointe.
This image shows heels of various pointe shoe models, including:
Russian Pointe Almaz
It’s up to the dancer to decide how important some extra fabric at the heel is vs. a great fitting shoe.