THE REALITY OF POINTE
#1: Pointe shoes are very painful and make your feet bleed/become disfigured.
While it is true that pointe shoes are not the most comfortable shoes you'll ever own, they are made to protect your feet. When first training in them, there are some new calluses and discomfort levels the dancer will encounter. But pain, sharp and strong means something is wrong! That is why it is so absolutely important for students (and professionals) to be fit by a trained pointe fitter. Our job is to make sure you're getting the most appropriate fit for your individual foot, looking at numerous aspects like arch flexibility, toe shape and much more. Your feet will need some extra TLC for certain, but it's not a horror movie. If it is, talk to your teacher or the place you were fitted for shoes ASAP.
#2: There's nothing inside pointe shoes so it has to hurt.
While it is true that dancers years ago had teachers who only allowed lambswool or tissues (or nothing at all), this is not the norm now. We have had many innovative products come out in the last twenty years or so, from gel toe pads to space packs that go between individual toes. There are a plethora of accessories for dancers to utilize now. While it will never be an entirely painless craft, it has come a long way from bleeding toes and bruised skin. Some companies even put small gel cushions in the toe of their box now!
#3: My friend has "x" shoe and I want to wear them too!
Well, if your friend and you have the same exact foot shape, then there's a possibility! But what works for them might be inappropriate for you. Your goal is to feel as comfortable and supported as possible. Trust me, both your shoes and theirs will look busted and less pretty before you know it! Get what is right for you.
#4: Once my child has been in ballet a few years, she's ready for pointe.
This is one of the most difficult discussions in the pointe environment, and something that is unique to every single dancer out there. The truth is that some very talented children may be strong enough to begin pointe work at 8. Others not until they are well into their teens. A few, unfortunately, the answer is never. So many factors play into when a child is prepared enough to go en pointe. If you are concerned, asking your pediatrician or family doctor is never a poor idea. Make sure they believe the bones/muscles are stable and formed enough. Talk to your child about the serious risks and need for strict training that comes along with it. A teacher should never put a student up who isn't ready, and the vast majority of them do not. They will know when is best, and will likely approach you when the time comes.
#5: Pointe shoes only last a few hours.
This is half-truth, and we need to take a moment to dive into the shoe itself to understand it a little better. The majority of pointe shoes are made to last about 24-48 hours. That sounds unbelievable but it's true! However, that number for the average student is broken down into half-hour or hour segments. If you take class once a week en pointe (at a full hour each session), that means the shoe will most likely last you about half the year. It is not uncommon for a first-time wearer to see their shoes last a full year, just given the nature of barre work and how strong the muscles are (or are yet to be). There is no firm answer on longevity, however, and when your shoe begins to feel like it isn't supporting you anymore, it is time to get a new pair. (Professionals can go through a few pairs a night!)
#6: Pointe shoes are handmade.
This is true and a very laborious and dedicated process. Some companies (such as Freed) have particular makers that a dancer stays with their entire life due to that maker's particular form being the most perfect for their foot. Other brands have streamlined it a little more, and continued to innovate and push boundaries past what was previously thought attainable.
This last topic is where we will focus next!