Breaking in by Steaming Pointe Shoes
We are all familiar with the rather brutal methods some dancers use to break in their pointe shoes - hammering them, crushing them in the jamb of a door, et al.
A less destructive and more controllable way of taming unyielding shoes is to steam them. Use a steaming kettle (turn the power source off until you really know what you are doing and keep hands away from heat of the steam), direct the spout into the box, usually around the wing and front of the vamp where shoes often dig in, especially when rising through demi-pointe. The whole interior of the shoe will become moist and it will also get quite hot. Again, until you know what you are doing, only expose the box interior to about 10-20 seconds of steaming. Allow the shoe to cool for a few moments before trying it on. Rise on pointe, with full weight so that the shoe moulds to the contours of the foot en pointe. Don't go through demi-pointe as you might end up with some unwanted creasing, and don't wear the shoes for performance or class straightaway. After steaming pointe shoes hang them up to air and dry or place them in an airing cupboard overnight.
This method, effectively, is dissolving some of the glue and therefore is only suitable for traditional paste shoes.You can repeat the process at a later date if the shoes are not sufficiently softened and comfortable. Different makes of pointe shoe respond differently but don't over do it. If you make the box very soggy with moisture from the condensed steam you might find that the shoe becomes mis-shapen.
This post was kindly contributed by Caron Jones, an experienced pointe shoe fitter and dancer.