The Top 8 Pointe Shoes Reviewed
If you’re a dancer and are at a level where you’re searching for the best pointe shoes, chances are you’ve already given yourself the heebie jeebies by checking out photos of dancers’ feet online.
Getting the right shoes, then, is one way to minimize the chances that your feet will end up looking like that! Pointe shoes allow dancers to achieve physical feats which were impossible before their invention more than a hundred years ago.
They’re designed to give your feet the maximum possible support as you work through the dancers’ en pointe repertoire of jumping, hopping, balancing and gliding on the tips of your toes.
How can the right ballet shoes make a difference to your dancing?
Perhaps we should turn this question on its head and ask how the wrong shoes could affect your performance? Worse still, it’s not just the way you perform but the crippling damage that could be sustained by the feet if shoes are ill-fitting or not fit for purpose.
It’s not hard to imagine just how important it is to choose the best ballet shoes for the type of dancing you are doing. Neither is it hard to appreciate that ‘fit’ is everything for these specialist shoes, which encase, protect and support your feet as you achieve the seemingly impossible.
Things to consider when choosing pointe shoes
A shoes heel is the back section of the shoe, encasing the back of the foot. The heel must reach high enough up the back of the dancer's foot – approximately the 7/8 mark on the heel bone - to prevent the foot from slipping out of the shoe, but not so high that the heel wrinkles.
The heel should not be completely covered as that would cause injury to the Achilles tendon. On the other hand, it should not sit too low because the heel could possibly slip off when rising en pointe with predictable consequences.
Toe Box – Tapered, Slightly Tapered, Square
A toe box is found in the front part of the shoe and encases the dancer's toes. The flat area on the front of the box forms a platform for the dancer to stand and balance on.
A toe box is usually made of layers of paper and fabrics stiffened with glue and covered with pretty satin. The boxes of some brands of pointe shoes these days are made with plastic. More modern designs of pointe shoe feature a thermo-sensitive paste compound in the toe box which forms to the dancer’s particular foot shape.
The shape of the box differs according to toe alignment: tapered, slightly tapered or square. Toe boxes may be more or less stiff. They may be shallow and barely cover the tops of the toes or deep. Some types have extended sides called wings to provide extra support along the sides of the foot. Your toes should be flat, without any scrunching or pressure.
You should be able to fit the tip of your finger in the shoe over your toes and your skin should not bunch over the shoe.
The sole is made of a thin piece of leather attached to the bottom of the shoe by glueing and stitching. The sole is deliberately cut smaller than the bottom of the shoe to keep it hidden from sight. Scoring the soles with scissors is considered useful by some dancers to create more traction.
Favored by some dancers for the more elegant and pronounced arch they allow when en pointe. The problem, though, is that they lack the solidity of support in the shank which assists the dancer to stay up in pointe position. Thus, they’re only recommended for experienced dancers with very strong feet and a highly developed technique.
The way to check that the length of the shoe is correct is as follows: stand in a wide 2nd position and perform a plie. Your toes need to have enough room to lengthen in this position, just touching the end of the shoe. Be sure to take any padding you plan on using with the shoes into consideration when assessing if shoes are the correct length.
The vamp is the top part of the shoe covering the top of the toes. It contributes to the shoe’s overall supportiveness by holding the foot against the shank.
The vamp reaches from the drawstring to the platform of the box. Along with the size of the box and the strength of the shank, getting the correct length of the vamp is critical in properly fitting pointe shoes.
The vamp length is determined by the length of the dancer's toes. If the vamp is too long, going through demi-pointe will be impossible; if it’s too short, there is a danger of going too far over the platform.
Wings should cover the big toe joint. Lower than that and there’s a risk of developing bunions. A higher position, though, would prevent rolling through demi-pointe.
The platform is the flat tip of the box that the dancer balances on. The size of the platform varies considerably among pointe shoes, since dancers have individual preferences. Some dancers darn the platform of the box to help give extra traction. This also prevents the delicate satin tips from becoming frayed.
The shank is the part of the pointe shoe that supports the dancer's foot when it’s en pointe and keeps it there. It adds a degree of stiffness to the sole by layering materials such as leather or canvas and, more recently, plastic and helps to create the required elegant arch to the foot.
Shanks may run from one end of the shoe to the other or only part of the way and the level of flexibility varies. Dancers with stronger feet tend to wear pointe shoes with softer shanks, whereas those with weaker feet find softer shanks more beneficial. When the foot is in the en pointe position, it’s important that the shank is in line with the foot.
If there is any sign of misalignment, perhaps a wider toe box is needed. Any such misalignment can sometimes be improved with breaking in the heel area.
Ribbons and Elastic
Ribbons are a crucial part of the shoe, although they’re not always supplied with the shoe. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, the ribbons keep pointe shoes securely on the foot.
Correct positioning is vital and varies according to an individual’s unique foot shape – they need to be sewn in the position which will pull the shank closely to the arch. Elastics are used to get a snugger, more secure fit and to minimize the possibility of the heel slipping.
Dancers sometimes sew elastics on the outside of the shoe so as not to affect the fit and cause any chaffing on the inside.
Best Pointe Shoes
1. Wendy Wu Pointe Shoes
These may not be the most durable shoes we’ve reviewed, nor are they suitable for professional use, but they do have some USPs which meant we had to include them on our list.
Their relatively low price tag makes them an ideal choice if you’re trying out pointe work for the first time. In fact, they’re quite possibly the best pointe shoes for beginners.
They come with gel pads included, giving the toes more support and protection when en pointe. The plastic shank is strong, giving good support to the arch.
The pre-sewn ribbons are an additional feature – one less thing to do before you get to work at the barre.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
2. Kukome Satin Pointe Shoes
These high quality pink satin pointe shoes are ideal for daily practice but are also some of the best ballet shoes for beginners on the market.
Better yet, they’re so much less expensive than many pointe shoes. Like most pointe shoes, they’re not very durable because of the satin covering but at this price it’s possible to buy a couple of pairs and break them both in, so you won’t find yourself without a decent and comfortable pair when you need them.
They come with ribbons (not pre-sewn) and gel toe pads to help protect your toes. The sizing tends to be on the small side, so it’s a good idea to order one whole size bigger than your true size.
Will These Shoes Fit Me?
3. Stelle Canvas Ballet Slippers
These very economically priced ballet shoes are ideal for beginners, designed by brand leader Stelle.
If you’re looking for the best ballet shoes for toddlers or children, then these reasonably priced shoes won’t break the bank. They come in a full range of sizes to fit toddlers, little kids, older kids and women.
The breathable canvas uppers tend to be longer lasting than traditional satin and are machine washable, which will keep them looking smart. The leather split soles are durable and the insole is designed to give strengthening to the foot.
The shoes are very comfortable and come with crossed elastics pre-attached over the instep to ensure a close fit.