Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe
There are several elements involved in the anatomy of a pointe shoe, all of which contribute to its fit and performance. The ability to identify these parts is important in understanding their impact upon the dancer and her performance. The front edge of the shoe is the platform, or the flattened area upon which a dancer stands en pointe. Inside the shoe is a stiffened cup encasing the toes known as the box, or block. The area covering the toes and top of the foot is the vamp, while the opening nearest the toes is the shoe’s throat. The supportive insole of a pointe shoe, or shank, fits within, while an outer sole, typically made from leather, runs along the underside. The rear portion of the shoe that encases the heel and sides of the foot is known as the quarter. Running the circumference of the shoe is the binding. This is the fabric channel through which the drawstring runs.
Beginner Pointe Shoes
The most important aspect in selecting beginner pointe shoes is proper fit. This not only affects one’s ability to dance en pointe, but safeguards proper development of the feet, ankles and legs. Bones in the feet do not fully mature until the early 20’s, and improperly fitted shoes can cause damage. Look for pointe shoes that fit properly standing on and off pointe. The ends of the toes should reach the front of the shoe, and there should be no excess material at the heel. To find the best width, check that there are no wrinkles in the box and that a finger cannot fit between the box and the foot. Most often, beginner pointe shoes should feature a medium shank, unless the dancer is particularly muscular or has a high arch. No matter the shank, a properly fitted pointe shoe will allow a dancer to roll through with comfort.
Ballet Demi Pointe Shoes
Ballet demi pointe shoes are designed to meet the needs of younger dancers until they mature and develop adequate strength for pointe work. The main difference between a demi pointe and pointe shoe is that the demi pointe is boxed and shankless. They do not provide the support and stability needed to safely go on pointe, but are ideal for working up to it. These shoes are intended to help familiarize pre-pointe students with working in a boxed shoe, as well as basic shoe care such as sewing on ribbon and elastic.