We all know new pointe shoes can be expensive, but an injury due to worn out shoes would be a much worse price to pay. Shin splints, broken bones, tendonitis, and sprained ankles can swiftly sideline your dancing for weeks or even months. As a ballerina, you put all your weight and trust on the very tips of your toes, so it’s critical that you make sure both your body and toe boots are strong enough for executing pointe work. Wondering if it’s time to switch out your pointe shoes? Here are some ways to tell you need a new pair:
They feel too tight. A person’s feet can keep growing all the way up until age 18-20! If your pointe shoes feel painfully snug, don’t cram your feet into shoes that are way too small. You want to be able to wiggle your toes a bit in the toe box but not slide around at all in the shoe itself. Squeezing into pointe shoes that are too small can increase your chances of developing corns, bunions, and blisters…plus, it hurts!
You don’t feel supported. Super soft, broken-in shoes might feel great and allow you to achieve that perfect pointed arch, but they can be unsafe if they’re not supporting your feet and body weight. If you start feeling the floor beneath your toes or begin to experience tenderness in the muscles and ligaments on the top of your foot and ankle, your shoes are officially worn out.
The shank is broken. Your pointe shoes should naturally arch right under your heel. But if the arch appears significantly lower on the shank, that means it’s broken and unstable. You want to feel lifted by the shank rather than sinking into the toe box.
It’s been…awhile. Depending on your level, pointe shoes can last anywhere from a few hours for professional ballerinas to about three months if you’re a beginner taking one pointe class per week. If it’s been a long time since you’ve changed out your pointe shoes or if you’ve experienced any physical or technical changes personally (i.e. the shape of your feet have changed a bit or you’ve developed stronger arches), it’s time to have another pointe shoe fitting at your local dance store.
If you’re still not sure about the state of your pointe shoes, speak with your dance teacher after class or visit your local dance store to chat with an expert. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Your pointe shoes are an extension of your body—your instrument—so take good care of them!