Ordering Custom Pointe Shoes
When a ballet dancer reaches advanced levels, they are bestowed the honor of wearing pointe shoes rather than soft slippers. This is one of the most exciting times for a student. The fitting process can be quite difficult for some. The perfect pointe shoe can be hard to attain in some cases. And if we aren’t wearing the best fitting shoes, our dancing and development suffer…
Once we do find a maker that suits our foot structure, we can then consider special ordering a shoe from them. All pointe shoes are hand made so they come out a little differently every time. A special order lessons that risk and assures a close to perfect, if not perfect fit. The first thing to know before you special order, is the anatomy of a pointe shoe:
Each of the following features can be altered as needed:
Color: Pointe shoes can be custom-dyed. Usually they will require a swatch of fabric to be sent with the order.
Size: Sizes can be customized as well, sometimes a three-quarter size difference is necessary (or the like).
Width: Some dancers have extra narrow or wide feet and those width sizes are usually not in stock in the stores. If you need an AA or an EE then you’re best off special ordering.
Vamp Length: The shape of the vamp can be special ordered as well; if a shoe has a standard U shape, you can always custom order it to a V shape instead (if your outer arches require more support in an otherwise well fitting shoe). Vamps can also be made 1/8”, 1/4”, 3/8” or 1/2” shorter or longer than the standard length.
Back: The very back of the pointe shoe can sometimes run too long causing it to dig into the tendon, or too short causing the shoe to slip off. The back can be custom fit to 1/8” or 1/4” higher or lower.
Sides: The sides of the shoe can also be cut to fit 1/8” to 1/2” higher or lower. Sometimes a dancer with a low arch needs this to be shorter to make the foot appear more arched, or a dancer with a rather deep arch needs it to be higher to attach ribbon to, in order to hold onto the foot better.
Drawstring: The drawstring on some shoes can dig into the top of the foot near the toes and irritate the skin. This drawstring can be special ordered on the side rather than the top front of a pointe shoe.
Toe shape: The toe area can be ordered more square, flattened, more tapered or vice versa.
Pleats: The pleats can be customized to be longer or shorter than the standard shoe. A low arched dancer sometimes needs a shorter pleat and a high arched dancer would sometimes need a longer pleat for support.
Boxing: The box of the shoe (which is where the ball of the foot and toe are supported) can be ordered harder or softer. This means more or less glue basically. A well-accomplished dancer with a low arch would need a softer shoe, this is only good for a very strong foot. A softer shoe allows a better-arched look in pointe shoes. A dancer with a deep arch would usually need a harder shoe, or a dancer that goes through shoes too quick would also want to order a harder shoe. There is also a 3/4 boxing that can be ordered for support that doesn’t fight with the low arch, or a wing block that supports more. The 3/4 block is glue that reaches half way up to the drawstring, and the wing block is glue that can harden past the sides.
Shanks (leather sole): The shank can also be ordered weaker or stronger depending on the strength and makeup of the foot. A double shank can be ordered for more support, or a half shank for less. A half shank reaches only to the fold where the heel is. Double shanks are for deep arched dancers. Usually makers have shank strengths ranging from 1 to 5…as Capezio specifically does.
Maker: Sometimes a maker will have lettering on the shank of the shoe that will indicate the specific person who made your shoe. If you find a perfect shoe then note the maker and remember to specify when ordering next. This is the case for Freed of London.
After you place your order, it will take anywhere from 5 to 8 weeks, so order ahead of time so you don’t run out of shoes. Expect a little wait. There are many more dancers than pointe shoe makers!