Freed Pointe Shoes
I loved my Freed pointe shoes! So I hate to say anything negative about them, but I have to be honest. For many professional dancers, Freed is the Rolls Royce of the pointe shoe - properly fitted, there's nothing quite like them. They use a unique paste which gives them a lightness other shoes don't have - plus Freed have a seemingly inexhaustible ability to customize any aspect of their shoes to fit any foot. But for students, getting a consistent fit is more difficult than with other shoes!
With other pointe shoes, dancers will talk about the model that suits them best - the Grishko 2007 or the Capezio Contempora, and so on. With Freed, professional dancers are more likely to talk about the maker that suits them best - because Freed shoes are handmade, and each shoemaker brings his own unique style to the shoe, which affects the fit. So a Classic made by one maker won't fit quite the same as a Classic made by another maker. Few online retailers will allow maker requests, which means that every time you buy a pair of Classics, you'll get a slightly different shoe - so before you decide to make Freed your shoe of choice, it's important to take that into consideration.
Here's a lovely video from BBC Scotland where a dancer gets to meet her shoemaker. I'd never thought about it before, but it's amazing to think that a dancer can have wear someone's shoes for 20 years or more, yet never meet or speak to that person!
When I was dancing in the UK, I was always able to get my shoes direct from Freed's shop in St Martins Lane so I could specify my preference. Here's a photo of the sole of my pointe shoes, showing the maker's mark and other customisation codes:
When I was studying ballet, Freed and Gamba were virtually the only two choices for dancers in the UK. Because many of today's teachers also grew up in that era, you will often find ballet schools which insist all their students wear Freed - because that's what the teacher knows and loves. These days that's a short-sighted attitude, because there are so many choices in today's market, and Freed is an expensive choice for students due to their lightness and ease of breaking in - which means they don't last as long.