Pointe Shoe Reviews: A Grain Of Salt

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We live in a world where anyone can go online and look up reviews for anything.  Shopping for a new computer?  Read reviews online to see how other consumers rate a high dollar object that will be used regularly for years.  Retailers, manufacturers and distributors depend on these online reviews to boost product sales and attract potential customers.  There is a reason you receive an email asking for a product review shortly after purchasing something online!

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you’ll know that most people contact a company to tell them when they’ve made a mistake, not when they’ve done something right.  There are always a few customers that call in with glowing reviews or compliments, but most often the customers calling in have some problem or issue they need resolved.  How many times do you hear of someone reporting great service to the Better Business Bureau?

In pointe shoes though, the regular product review system has many flaws.  You can head over to DiscountDance.com or any other online dance retailer to read reviews of many pointe shoes offered in their catalog.  These pointe shoe reviews are full of great information, but they often don’t paint the real picture or give information a consumer really needs to know if a particular shoe will be right for them.

 

Much Misconception

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misconception in the dance world pertaining to pointe shoes.  The “old school” methods of pointe fitting still run rampant, only detrimental to the pointe students who are caught up in them.  All instructors and schools are different, so it’s up to the parents & students to break the mold.

 

Misconception #1:  One brand of shoe is superior to all others
Real Life:  A shoe fits you, or it doesn’t

One of PointePerfect.com’s mantras is… There are no bad pointe shoes, only those that fit, and those that don’t!  Pointe fitting is similar to fitting running shoes, in that each make & model is intended for a different foot shape.  Each manufacturer offers several different models, all with different attributes.  One thing each maker has in common, is that almost all offer at least one shoe in all three of the main box shapes– Tapered, Slightly Tapered & Square.

In the diagram below, you’ll see first the quantity of models each manufacturer (in our database) offers in each major box shape.  The second table offers the name of one shoe from each maker in each box shape.  Note:  Prima Soft does not currently offer a shoe considered fully tapered.

Models Available By Maker

Since we have this information, there is no reason to take stock in the idea that “All _______ shoes are ________”.  For example, it’s widely thought that “All Bloch shoes are block-y, and wide”.  As you can see in the table above, Bloch does offer a wide choice of shoes for feet in the Square range, but they also offer several Slightly Tapered & Tapered models to cater to many foot types.

Misconception #2:  Student VS Professional Shoes
Real Life:  A shoe fits you, or it doesn’t

This misconception falls within the “gray area” of explanation & reason.  Some manufacturers advertise certain shoes for students or beginners, and others for professionals.  Some instructors suggest certain shoes for their students to purchase, and refuse to allow them to wear other brands.  The Gaynor Minden shoe is a good example of this debate, many instructors will not allow their students to wear Gaynor Minden shoes in the classroom, but do allow the same students to buy a pair for performances.

Each maker that offers student VS. professional shoe has different reasoning.  Some offer a soft flexible shank to help build foot strength, others offer a wide platform to aid in balance.  Realistically, the student should always buy the shoe that is as close to perfect as possible.  If a shoe marketed for professional dancers fits the student like a glove and the “student” shoe leaves room for improvement, by all means buy the professional shoe!

We’ll use Bloch again to help us demonstrate.  Bloch offers the Alpha for “experienced” dancers, and the Amelie as an introductory shoe.  Both are similar in likeness & features!

Bloch vs bloch bloch vs bloch

 

 

 

 

 

Bloch Amelie most notably features a soft shank to help build foot strength.  Bloch Alpha most features a high profile and a shortened exterior sole to allow full arch.

Both shoes are beautiful.  What if the beginning dancer is larger in stature and can’t make the soft shank of the Amelie work for her?  Perhaps she needs a higher profile?

The point of this exercise is to realize that a strictly “beginner” or “professional” shoe won’t necessarily fit the beginner or professional.

 

Misconception #3:  The “One Size Fits All” Approach
Real Life:  A shoe fits you, or it doesn’t

Depending on where you live, it can be hard to find a retailer that offers a large selection of shoes to try on.  Because of this, many dancers end up purchasing shoes that aren’t the best fit for their feet.  Unfortunately this can be a difficult problem to overcome.

In other scenarios, schools opt to instruct all students to buy the same shoe or shank strength.  Some schools tell their students to purchase shoes with hard shanks to build foot strength, others require a soft shank.  It’s important to understand that there is not one magical pointe shoe that will fit all foot types.  There just isn’t.  Some manufacturers offer a high level of customization with their stock shoes, where the dancer can choose their preferred vamp length, vamp shape, shank strength, or heel type.

It’s highly unlikely that two dancers in the same class will have the same foot shape and pointe shoe needs.  If your instructor is requiring a certain shoe by all means try that shoe on, but stay open-minded during your fitting.

 

Misconception #4:  Shoe Durability Complaints
Real Life:  Shoe durability is a result of many factors

Many pointe shoe reviews focus on the durability of the shoe.  After all, every dancer wants to find a shoe that fits like a glove and doesn’t die out after two classes.  It’s important to take these types of reviews with a grain of salt, as many factors can impact the durability of a pair of pointe shoes.  Some of those factors are:

– Dancer Stature:  A very tall dancer will likely wear out her shoes faster than a very short dancer, as the very tall dancer will generally have more body mass.  The more body mass, the more pressure on the shoes.

– Foot Strength:  The dancer with exceptionally strong feet can blow through a pair of shoes in a few classes, where a dancer with weaker feet may take longer to wear out a pair of shoes.

– Foot Anatomy:  A dancer who naturally sickles or pronates will wear out her shoes differently than a dancer who has a naturally straight point.  Also, a dancer who sweats a lot will see her shoes break down quicker.

– Class Load:  A student who takes 1 class hour per week vs a student who takes 6 class hours per week will certainly run through pointe shoes at different rates.  It’s good to have multiple pairs in the rotation as class load increases– shoes should fully dry out between classes!

– Shank Strength:  A soft shank & box will wear out quicker than a hard shank & box.

-Lightness:  A dancer who constantly “sits” in her shoe when she’s en pointe will wear out shoes faster than a dancer who correctly uses her muscles to lift herself out of the shoe.

 

What’s the point?

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Take it all with a grain of salt.  Reviews, instructor shoe demands, peer pressure, all of it.

Take the time to Learn Your Foot Type, then look for the shoe that best fits your type.  What works for one dancer will be completely wrong for another!  No two people have the exact same feet.

 

 

 

 

 

Good luck, and Happy Dancing!

 

 

 

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