Gaynor Minden: Cheater Shoes or Not?

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Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are not only the most revolutionary pointe shoe on the market, but also the most hotly debated.  It seems you are either in one camp or another– you love them, or you think they are for cheaters and thus despise them.  Nobody loves a cheater, right?  Hopefully this article will put to bed one of the most unending debates in the pointe world.  Gaynor Minden:  Cheater Shoes or Not?

Please remember:  PointePerfect.com believes that every pointe shoe on the market is great!  No shoe is BAD, a shoe either fits you or it doesn’t.  We don’t condone trash talking certain shoes or manufacturers, it is simply a waste of time and fresh clean air.  PointePerfect.com wants to know WHY a shoe doesn’t fit you.  Also– there is no such thing as a “magic” pointe shoe that fits every foot!

 

The “GM = cheater” crowd generally believes:

  • The shoe does all the work
  • The plastic shank makes your feet weaker
  • Once you use a GM shoe, you can never go back to a “regular” shoe
  • GM shoes are for professionals only, and only performances

 

In determining whether the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe is a “cheater shoe”, one must consider the composition of a GM vs a traditional paste shoe.

 Paste VS GM

Gaynor Minden: Made from what the company calls Elastomerics (not plastic), a durable but very flexible material that always returns back to the same pre-arched form it arrives in brand new.  Always.  The shank and box are designed to never break down or change shape other than some slight stretching of the fabric, although the shanks have been known to give a bit with extended wear.  Such a durable shank & box mean the life of a Gaynor Minden shoe is generally much longer than a traditional paste shoe.

Traditional Pointe Shoe:  Made from varying combinations of paper, fabric, glue, cardboard, burlap, and leather.  Most come out of the box perfectly flat and must be “worked” to conform to the dancer’s feet.  As the dancer sweats in traditional shoes, the paste  heats up and becomes pliable.  The shoes break down over time, always becoming weaker and the foot support lessening.

The diagram below demonstrates the breakdown of a Gaynor Minden pointe shoe vs. a Traditional Paste Shoe.

 

Shank Breakdown 1

 

As time goes on the shank and box of every traditional shoe breaks down.  For a time as the shoe dies, the dancer is increasing strength in her feet to remain stable and supported in the shoe.  Eventually the shoe dies and must be replaced, and the process starts over again.  The length of time a pair lasts varies greatly, depending on foot strength, number of classes per week, and if the student allows her shoes to dry in between classes!

TipIf the dancer has multiple classes a week, it’s suggested she have multiple pairs of shoes in rotation to prolong the life of each pair!

Gaynor Minden shoes were designed to not weaken or break down over time.  There are reports online of students with very strong feet breaking a shank here and there, but most shoes are replaced due to growth, wearing away the satin on the tips, and sometimes the stink!  The consistency of the shoe seems to throw the naysayers.  Surely if the shoes never change, the dancer never increases strength, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

 

Mechanics of a GM Shoe VS a Traditional Shoe 

One major gripe people have about GM pointe shoes is that they don’t allow the dancer to roll through the shoe properly.  The pre-arched shank forces the dancer up onto pointe when she tries to roll through. Or they prop the dancer up on pointe, so the shoe is doing the work that usually strengthens a dancer over time.  The dancers feet weaken as a result of this and they experience  setbacks when they attempt to switch back to a traditional paste shoe.  Unfortunately, most of these claims are due to bad fittings and a lack of understanding.

A Gaynor Minden fit with the correct shank strength will allow the dancer to work it like a traditional shoe.  The shank won’t be so strong that it forces the dancer up without control.  It’s true though, the mechanics of the GM shoes are different than traditional paste shoes when the shank is too strong.  At that point, you must apply opposite force in a GM to control the shoe.  A dancer wearing GM shoes for the first time will find her arches sore in different spots following her first few rehearsals in GM pointe shoes.

Traditional Shoes

The image below demonstrates how a dancer rolls through a traditional paste shoe.  From demi pointe, she pushes or clenches into the floor with her toes to straighten them, while lifting the arch and pulling up through the legs, glutes and core.  Try this.  With a bare foot, stand one foot on demi pointe.  Slowly push your toes towards the ground while lifting your arch and pointing your foot until you reach full pointe.  This is the action your foot takes to bring a traditional paste shoe to full pointe when rolling through demi pointe.

Bare2

From demi, she pushes her toes into the floor while lifting her arch to achieve full pointe.

 And in a shoe:

Contempora Arrows 2

Traditional paste shoe: From demi, she pushes her toes down to the floor while lifting her arch. Note that the shoe passes the “neutral” point about halfway through the climb to full pointe.

Note the side profile of the shoe used in this demonstration.  The shank and sole of the shoe are almost perfectly flat.  This is how the shoe comes new out of the box.  It’s the neutral position of the shoe.

-In the 1st photo of the series, you see the foot lifted in a nice high demi-pointe.

-In the 2nd photo, the dancer has pushed her toes flat against the bottom of the toe box (towards the floor) to roll the shoe through demi-pointe and towards full pointe.  Note that the shoe passes its neutral point about half way through the climb to full pointe.

-Once the shoe has passed the neutral point, the dancer must use the toes and arch to extend to full pointe, pushing up and past neutral as seen in the 3rd photo.

 

Gaynor Minden wearers, however, deal with a different force within the shoe, although the exterior looks nearly identical to the traditional paste shoe.  This is especially true if the dancer is wearing a shank that is too strong for her!

 

Gaynor Minden Shoes

GM 2.2

In demi, the dancer must hold her toes “open” to prevent the shank from popping back to neutral and forcing her onto pointe. She must release her toes rather than push into the ground in order to roll through the GM shank.

The neutral position for the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe is the position the foot takes while on full pointe, as seen in photo 3.  No matter how the shoe is bent, it always reverts back to neutral.  This is what creates the sensation of being propped up onto pointe.

-The 1st photo of the GM series shows the shoe in demi-pointe.  This position is the furthest from the neutral position.  When compared to the traditional paste shoe, the force applied to the GM shoe is opposite.

-The 2nd photo shows the dancer as she’s rolling through to full pointe.  This is where many GM wearers get into trouble.  As the GM shoe tries to pull the shank back to neutral, the foot must be actively resisting the pop up to full pointe.  To resist this sensation, the dancer must slowly RELEASE her foot muscles & arch to move the shoe from demi-pointe to full pointe.  This movement is opposite from the movement used when PUSHING the shoe to full pointe in a traditional paste shoe.

-In the 3rd photo, the shoe has landed back into “neutral” position, which is also full pointe.

 

Other Items of Note

There are other factors to consider in this debate.  Skimming through YouTube, you’ll see quite a few dancers wearing Gaynor Mindens that are too hard for them, or they haven’t been taught how to resist the GM shank they are stuck with.  Wearing a very hard shank in either a Gaynor Minden or traditional paste shoe is both similar and wildly different!

In a traditional paste shoe, wearing a shank that’s too hard will usually prevent a dancer from getting fully over the box, and traditional shoes can also “prop” a dancer on pointe easier if the shank is too hard.  It’s much more noticeable in a GM shoe, due to the pre-arched shank.

A dancer constantly allowing the shoe to pop her up  will experience a weakening of the feet due to lack of use.  When a GM props you on pointe, the shoe essentially forms back to its regular shape as soon as the heel leaves the floor.  This dancer can usually be spotted doing 50 single leg releves with ease after switching from a traditional shoe.  In turn, this makes the Gaynor Minden skeptics correct in their assumption that an overshanked dancer will not build strength, rather lose strength over time as the shoe is doing most of the heavy lifting.

So to recap, putting students in harder than necessary shanks is a practice some teachers prefer to build strength through resistance.  This practice isn’t inherently wrong, but the major difference is this:

Gaynor Minden pointe shoes will remain the same hardness basically forever.  There is a slight weakening over time, but all in all a pair of Mindens will remain the same hardness as if it were new.
Paste shoes will remain hard temporarily while the shoes are still new.  These shoes will break down rapidly in comparison, and eventually die.

 

The Verdict:

It is possible for Gaynor Minden pointe shoes to “do the work” for a dancer.  Does this make her a cheater?  We don’t think so.  Like we said, no shoe is bad or wrong.  If a dancer is over-shanked in any make/model of shoe, she is going to have big problems.

The main difference being, a traditional paste shoe with a shank that’s too hard will break down over time, and probably become dance-able.  A GM pointe shoe with a shank that’s too hard will not break down and get better.  It’s up to the instructor and the student to practice and learn to control the shoe just like someone wearing traditional paste.  If a dancer can’t learn to control her GM shoe and work to build the muscles to slowly release the coiled spring that is an Elastomeric shank, she is only hurting herself.

Technology is evolving every day, pointe shoes included.  The Gaynor Minden pointe shoe is like the advanced alien species that has invaded the old pointe world.  Technology enriches our lives and let’s face it, pointe shoes remained relatively unchanged for a very long time.

Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are not necessarily any better or worse than traditional pointe shoes, just different.  Each do completely different things to your feet, and that’s OK.  Both shoes take tremendous strength, power, and stamina to control.  No shoe on the market today can take away those requirements for dancing en pointe.

 

12 Responses to "Gaynor Minden: Cheater Shoes or Not?"
  1. Jaime says:

    I fall on the “LOVE” GM side… haha, but I’m so glad you posted this! I am an adult beginner and had my first pointe class in about 4 months last night. I’m currently in Gaynors and I love them but figured out last night that the vamp is too short for me. I’ve got low arches, low insteps (can stretch over and CAN reach a nice arch with effort) and long toes… Which just complicates things! Anyway, I’ve got an appointment to be fitted in Gaynors that have deep vamps and softer shanks on Saturday. I’m really hoping this solves my problem. I was so amazed by your pictures in pointes…

    • Hi Jamie! Kudos for returning to ballet as an adult, it’s a weird but amazing thing! I also loved my Gaynors, but I need a different pair with slightly different sizing before I’ll dance in them again. I purchased the sleekfit vamp, which is the longest vamp they have and it was a bit too short for me. I don’t have super long toes, but my arch is so flexible and breaks so high off of the shoe it just wasn’t enough for my feet. Someday I’ll try a harder shank and see if that helps, my shank was just too weak and made it look like my feet would break in half!

      Good luck at your fitting! I hope you can find another pair that works just right, but don’t write off other pairs of shoes. I badly wanted GM to be the perfect shoe for me based on the durability and the low low profile of the shoe, but the Russian Pointes I’m in now are lovely too. 🙂

      Good luck!

  2. S. Collins says:

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  3. Kelly says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you could tell me why my Gaynor Mindens hurt so bad – it’s not just the normal pointe pain. I never experienced this type of pain with other pointe shoes (Freed Classic Pro, Russian Pointe, Capezio). The tip of my first and second toes really hurt on both feet. I use Bunheads Pro Pads (which are pretty thin). Am I using the shoes wrongly or something? Please reply!

    • Hi Kelly,

      So sorry to hear you are having issues with your shoes! It sounds like you might be sinking in the box a little despite using padding! Gaynor Mindens are great shoes but might not be 100% right for everyone, even with all of their many options. Have you ever tried the Gaynor Minden box liners in the Totally Toes Fitting Kit? I remember trying to use regular pads in my pair of Mindens, but with the profile being very low and the width being just about right, none of my “regular” toe pads worked out for me. My toes went numb and the shoes hurt.

      You might need to play around with your padding. The Box Liners are amazing, and were exactly what I needed to keep me from sinking while not taking up too much space in the shoe. I also put a thin layer of lambs wool in the tips to help pad the negative space in my shoe and relieve pressure on the big toes.

      Good luck!

      • Kelly says:

        Thank you so much! I bought the Totally Toes Fitting Kit a week ago and now my shoes hurt a lot less – I’m using the box liners and my Bunheads Pro Pads now – so I can concentrate on pointework instead of worrying about the pain. I really appreciate your help!

  4. Hi, can you tell me why my toe hurt so badly when I am standing on demi pointe, is it because the GM shoes do not fit properly on my feet or is it just normal?

    • Hi Elena! Sorry to hear you are having toe pain with your shoes! The pain could be happening for a few different reasons, and while some discomfort in general is normal, intense pain isn’t normal at all and suggests your shoes may be the wrong size or shape for your feet. Without seeing your feet working in your shoes, it’s sadly hard to say.

      1. Is your shoe too short? Do you feel pain when in deep 2nd position plie, or just demi pointe? Do your big toes hurt when on full pointe? If the shoes are too short, there sadly isn’t much you can do to fix them that doesn’t involve some major pointe shoe surgery.

      2. The shoes could be too wide, causing you to sink in even in demi pointe. This can be modified with the Gaynor Minden Box Liners

      3. Does your GM box choice match your toe type? There are three different box types available in GM shoes and are meant for a specific type of foot. Box # 2 = Tapered, Box # 3 = Slightly Tapered, Box # 4 = Square.

      4. Do you use padding? You may need to reevaluate your padding techniques to cut down on the pain.

      Best of luck!

  5. dhania says:

    i personally think that my metatarsals and foot actually works harder with gaynors everytime i’ve done dancing my foot is sooo sore whenever i go on pointe slowly i can feel that my foot is actually working so it’s not the shoes that made me on pointe i love gaynors and i think its always different by every single personal preferences

  6. Ava says:

    I have been wearing Grishkos for a year now, and my first pair worked well with my feet, but the pair I have now definitely doesn’t work with my feet. Whenever I go from demi pointe to full pointe my heel slides off no matter what the size or where I sew the elastic. Now I am going to buy new shoes, and I am wondering whether to go to Gaynor Mindens or a different type. I have to get a supple to medium shank strength or else it seems that I can never go over my arch. Btw your website is AMAZING and it’s the best reference website for a dancer!!

    • Hi Ava! Thanks for your kind words!

      The heel thing is super annoying, I know! Have you tried going down a shoe size and sewing your elastics just a little tighter and in an X shape (2 elastics?)? This issue makes me think you may have a shoe with a vamp that’s too long. If you are having to fight your vamp just to stand in demi pointe, it’ll torque the heel and force it off your foot. You saying you can’t get over the box also leads me to believe your vamp is too long– something that will definitely prevent you from using your full arch and foot flexibility to your advantage!

      It’s hard to suggest a make/model of shoe without seeing your feet and your current shoes (or knowing which Grishko model you are in now), but Grishkos tend to have harder shanks and long vamps in most of their models, both things will hold you back in a shoe. GM’s are very different than Grishkos, but may be helpful for you as the vamps tend to be on the low side (even a long vamp is pretty low compared to others) and the shank is nice and flexible. I’d suggest getting fitted for GM’s in person so you can choose the right shank– too strong and it’ll prop you up weird on pointe, and too weak and you won’t be able to roll through at all.

      In the meantime, try putting rosin on the inside of both your heel (with tights) and your shoe. This will help hold them on until you can get a new pair!

      Best of luck!

      -L

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