I see so many dance students wearing the wrong size of pointe shoe - at both extremes.
As a ballet student, you already know you can't rely on your street size when choosing ballet slippers. Pointe shoes are even more challenging! You can look up your pointe shoe size on a size chart, but you can't tell whether a pointe shoe is the right size until you try it on.
The main mistake is shoes that are too short from heel to toe. Some professional dancers like their shoes in the smallest size they can squeeze into, so there's absolutely no pinch of fabric at the heel when on pointe - but dance students should never, ever wear shoes that tight. If your shoe fits that snugly en pointe, then it's probably scrunching your toes on the flat. You'll ruin your toes that way, and maybe even shorten your dance career.
Less often, I see shoes that are too big. These are usually bought by mothers who think pointe shoes are like street shoes, and need room to grow. This is not only wrong, it's dangerous. Loose pointe shoes lead to accidents. Pointe shoes must be snug. Let's face it, pointe shoes don't have a long life, so chances are you'll need new shoes by the time your feet have grown anyway.
Size isn't just about length from heel to toe, it's also about width - and that's every bit as important.
If you have wide feet, it's tempting to choose a narrow shoe because it looks so much nicer - but trust me, you won't be able to dance in them!
In the right width of shoe, your foot should feel as though it's being held firmly, without squeezing or pinching. Your foot shouldn't feel constricted, but the fit should be really snug with no gaping.
If the shoe is too wide, you'll sink into it. If it's much too narrow, you won't be able to feel the floor and you'll feel a lot of pressure at the top of the box, where your foot's trying to squeeze down into the narrow toe.
If the shoe is only slightly too narrow, it may feel OK. But check your heel - sometimes the shoe is only fitting because your foot has twisted to fit into the box. If that's the case, your heel won't be sitting squarely in the shoe. Try the next widest fitting and you may find your heel will straighten up nicely.
Please note: it's important to check the width en pointe as well as on the flat. If you have a compressible foot, there might be a big difference.
Photos by Treivilo.