Ballet 101: All about Pointe Shoe Padding
Elegant, graceful, impressive... painful. Starting pointe work is one of the most exciting milestones in a ballet dancer's journey, but putting your entire body weight on your toes is never going to be the most comfortable of experiences, especially if you're new to pointe work. The first ever "pointe shoe" in the 1800s was nothing more than a satin slipper, the dancer relying solely on their own feet and ankles to hold them up. Thankfully we've come a long way since then, and as well as shoes specifically designed to support the dancer in every way, we have a huge range of padding options to make life a little bit easier, and troubleshoot those little niggles. If in doubt, it's always a good idea to ask your teacher what they recommend, but we've put together a little how-to guide to help you get started.
Our 100% Australian Lamb's Wool is the most natural and flexible way to pad your pointe shoes. Many dancers opt to use lamb's wool as their sole padding option, because there is complete freedom in how much you use and where you use it, allowing you to tailor it to your foot shape without compromising the fit of your shoes. Lamb's wool will also give a dancer maximum contact with the floor as opposed to something bulkier, increasing stability and control. We recommend you tease the wool in your hands to soften and "fluff" it up before use. Another tip is to think about padding the "dead space" in the shoe; if you are experiencing pressure on your big toes and you add more padding to that toe, sometimes that simply exacerbates the issue. Instead, pad the empty space above your little toe, tapering across, and you will even out the pressure across your toes and (hopefully!) reduce the pain. Bonus: lamb's wool is completely washable and easily rejuvenated when it starts to look a little sad.
Pointe Pouches are one of our most popular pointe shoe products, probably because of how easy they are to use; just pop them in your shoes and off you go! Our range of pointe pouches are made with medicated gel for maximum comfort and durability, and can easily be cut down to size whilst retaining their structure. Our best-selling pouch is the "Pro Pouch", which features the gel layer over the top and tips of the toes, and fabric only underneath the ball of the foot. This means you get all the benefits of that comfy padding, whilst retaining contact with the shoe and the floor underneath. Without the padding under the foot, the fit of the shoe is less likely to be affected - although with any pouch you will need to have it fitted at the time of purchasing your shoes, just in case it changes the width or length of shoe you need. We also offer a "Junior Pointe Pouch" which is shaped down in an oval shape across the toes, for those with short toes or more of a petite foot shape. Our standard "Pointe Pouch" offers the maximum padding option, with cushioning over the toes and balls of the feet - so if you find pointe work particularly painful in general, this might offer you some welcome relief.
One padding option which is likely to be recommended during a fitting is a Toe Support Pack - also known as toe spacers. If you have a gap between any of your toes (usually your big toe and second toe), in the confines of the pointe shoe box your toes are likely to push together, which can force your joints out of alignment. This can lead to some discomfort and eventually the dancer's most dreaded foot condition - bunions. If our fitters notice you have a gap between your toes when they assess your feet, they will probably have you try a spacer - a piece of medicated gel moulded to fit perfectly between the toes, holding your joints in alignment and prevent any of these issues. We offer different sizes in our toe support packs to ensure an ideal fit, and to avoid pushing your toes too far the other way. Also included in the support packs are some very thin pieces of medicated gel which are the perfect shape to help keep your little toes from curling inwards. Once you are fitted with spacers, we always recommend you wear them every time, as they will affect the fit of your shoes if you take them out.
We offer a range of different length toe tubes and tippy toes to troubleshoot specific problem areas. The medicated gel provides comfortable relief, and will hold its structure when cut down to size, meaning the full length tubes can be divided into several little sections to target multiple toes. If you have any spots that are prone to blistering, these will offer you protection and prevent further irritation, and maybe a little less bleeding onto your theatrical pink tights! It's a great idea to keep these in your shoe bag for emergencies - you may not need them all the time, but if you do rub a blister, you can pop one on before it gets so painful you're struggling to dance.
OK, so it's not a padding option, but it is a necessity to making your pointe-work life easier! If you put your pointe shoes into your regular dance bag with all your other shoes, the sweat from class breaks down the construction of the shoe much faster. This means a shorter shoe life span, and more pointe shoe purchases every year. We recommend hanging them out to dry and storing them in our mesh Pointe Shoe Bag, so they stay aerated and last as long as possible. It also has a zip pocket on the front which is ideal for keeping all your little accessories safe and accessible - so whichever padding option you go for, you have somewhere handy to keep it (especially if you have little spacers and toe tubes that like to go missing!)
If you're hoping to get your first pair of pointe shoes, or you want to buy your next pair, make sure you book a fitting with one of our qualified pointe shoe fitters at our Energetiks stores. Click here for the contact details for all of our stores, and check out the video below to give you an idea of what to expect when you come in to see us!
Article by Emily Newton-Smith