Strong Feet

21 Responses

  1. Avatar Hanna says:

    I forgot to mention in my comment above that I have always worn stretch ribbons. My first fitter told me that they would show my arch better, and be safer by not irritating my Achilles. I never saw a reason to stitch to satin ribbons, but maybe they would hold me in the shoe better, and help the shank twist less. What do you think? 🙁

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      I am not a fan of stretch ribbons, but maybe that’s because they didn’t exist when I was dancing! The purpose of the ribbons is to hold your foot firmly in the shoe, and since stretch ribbons can stretch, I don’t see how they can ever be as firm as non-stretch.

      If you know your Achilles is prone to irritation, then you may need the stretch ribbons – otherwise, I’d say they’re not necessary. “Showing your arch” is far less important than being held in the shoe. As for the rest of your enquiry, your situation is complex and I’ll be seeking some further advice, so please bear with me.

  2. Avatar Hanna says:

    Hey there!
    I’m half way in to my second year en pointe, and have been having a lot of problems finding the right shoe for me. My teacher and various fitters have said I have strong feet, but I’m not sure that I actually do– I think I might just have really compressible feet. Well, maybe I have both, haha. I can squish my feet into almost any width pointe shoe, even though when I stand barefoot they are really wide. I have narrow heels and a high arch. My first two toes are the same length, and the others taper. My left foot is nearly a half size larger than my right.
    My first pair of shoes were the Bloch Euro Balance XXXX. Then I had Suffolk Stellar soft shank XXX, then Grishko Allure (alias Dreampointe 2007?) Medium Flex shank XXXX, then Grishko Nova Flex hard shank, XXX. I wore through the Suffolks in two months, and the Nova Flex only one month! The reason I’ve been switching my shoes around so much is because on all of my shoes so far, when I go en pointe, my foot physically compresses so that it slides down in the pointe shoe, even though I’m aggressively pulling up and out of the shoe like I should. My heel slides down even more than my toes do, so I end up with a great looking arch, but (especially on my last pair) the shank actually sticks out way past my heel and I get a ton of baggy fabric. The shank then twists outward, so my feet look winged although the box is flat, and I don’t get good support… that probably contributes to the breakdown of the shoes. It also makes me get bad callouses on my pinkie and big toes.
    I have been wearing crossed elastics since the first Grishkos, but it hasn’t seemed to help the shank twisting.
    Another student and I went to a fitting with my pointe teacher, and I ended up leaving the store with two pairs of Bloch Heritage Strong in two sizes: 7 1/2 XX and 8 X. Strangely, I experienced the least twisting with the shorter, wider shoe on my bigger left foot, with the longer, narrower shoe on my smaller right foot! Really strange, but it definitely worked better that way. If I switch the shoes to the logical feet, it twists terribly. Also, as a consequence I now have two pairs of shoes which I will be alternating as suggested here. Is there something I can look into to stop the twisting? Going narrower on the Grishko Novas hasn’t helped, and is instead causing me some pain.
    One last thing… I’ve sewn one of the Bloch Heritages so far, and it seems like the shank isn’t holding to my arch like I wish it would. It feels almost like it’s independently sticking up straight while my foot is sliding down and arching. Like… like almost a D shape between the shank and my foot. Will that change as the shoe breaks in? I should probably go read that article about breaking shoes in, now. 😛

    Thanks so much!

  3. Avatar SARA says:

    My daughter is having a similar problem with pointe shoes. She has been on pointe for 3years and has found it difficult to get long out of her pointe shoes. She has one particularly strong foot – We have had Bloch serenade strong, sylphide, Grishko, and then found Capezio Airess 7/8 shank which have done well over the past 12months, but now the most recent pair lasted one lesson and the shank appears to have softened – her teacher suggested maybe her foot has become stronger. This is becoming very expensive to support her passion! We then tried Bloch Aspiration – her teacher didn’t like these and said they don’t look like they are supporting her. We have looked at Gaynor Mindens but she doesn’t like how they look on her feet. So we are back to the start! What to do?

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      I suggest trying again with the Capezio Airess. Maybe her feet have changed – but maybe she just got a faulty pair of shoes. It does happen! I’m assuming you are doing pairage (buy two pairs and alternate them – change shoes after an hour of dancing and let the first pair air-dry). If that doesn’t work, then Gaynor Mindens may be your only hope. I know they don’t look as beautiful as other shoes but I’m afraid that’s life. We can’t choose the feet we’re given!

  4. Avatar Grll says:

    I feel like Pointe shoes are getting less and less firm over the years, along with the prices increasing! A girl in my classes has gone through 3 pairs in her first 6 months, with 1-1:30 hours a week. Are there are tips that you could give for when you are over on pointe, or is the key not to keep your feet fully pointed all the time?

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      I’m not sure I agree about pointe shoes getting softer, although that may depend on the brand. I’ve always been a Freed girl, and they were never very long-lived.

      As for going over too far on pointe: no, the answer isn’t to not point your feet!

      The first thing I’d look at is the vamp. Go for a slightly higher vamp, or sew some vamp elastic across the front of the shoe, to stop that tendency to “fall out” of the shoe.

      Next, I’d review your breaking-in technique. Make sure the shank of the shoe doesn’t bend in the wrong place – it needs to sit snugly into your arch. Review the article on Breaking In if you’re not sure.

      I’m guessing you have flexible feet, and that means you need to learn how to control your ankles to stop your foot going too far over. You probably need to do ankle strengthening exercises. It may also help to tape your ankle, there’s a video on this page that tells you how:

  5. Avatar Anna says:

    My daughter has been on pointe for 5 years. She dances 2+hrs of pointe per week, which varies with rehearsals and performances. She dances a total of 16.75 hours weekly at the age of 15. The dance shoe store has told us that her feet are very strong, which is why she was blowing through a pair of Russian Pointe Rubins in less than a week. They moved her to Gaynor medium shanks. She broke them within 2 weeks. They moved her up to a hard shank because of her strong feet and she broke them in a single class. This is getting expensive! Now they have ordered her a custom Gaynor with reinforced shank. I’m concerned after reading this thread that maybe going harder isn’t the answer. What do you suggest? Should I put her through the online Gaynor fitting to see if they come back with a different result than the store? Is a softer shank the way to go?

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      Yes, I suggest going direct to Gaynor Minden and see what they say. My own view is that the purpose of a hard shank is to provide more support. A strong foot needs LESS support, not more. A strong foot will just fight a strong shank until it breaks, at least that was my experience.

      Make sure she is breaking-in the shank at exactly the right spot before she wears them for the first time, so it’s moulding to her foot before she starts. If it’s bending at the wrong point, it’s under more strain.

      The other thing to try is to buy two pairs at a time and alternate them – don’t dance for more than an hour in the same pair. Let them dry out thoroughly between wears, and never put them in an enclosed bag after wearing – they must be able to breathe.

  6. Avatar Cortnie says:

    I am having a similar issue. I have been on pointe for almost 4 years and I think my feet have gotten stronger since I started on pointe because my shoes die a lot faster. I have always had Russian Pointe Rubins and I’ve always loved them. Recently, I am finding that my shank softens out really quickly, the pair I have right now I was able to break them in enough in the first hour of class. Now only a few months later, they don’t have the same amount of support and it is difficult to demi releve (on one foot) consecutively without falling back. I am wondering if I need a harder shank? It may just be that my shoes are dying faster becuase the last few months I have been dancing a lot more than normal due to performances, but still, the first class I wore them for didn’t feel like I was wearing “super new shoes” like
    It usually feels. Do you have any suggestions? I have Giselle feet, although my big toe is a bit longer than my next two toes, not enough to be called an Egyptian foot but enough to notice. People say I have strong feet and flexible ankles, and I have a moderately high arch. I am currently wearing a flexible medium shank.

    Also I have been experiencing bruised toenails on my big toes particularly after a certain dance which includes a lot of hops on pointe. Is this because of my shoe? Or padding? I think my toenails were a bit too long the first time, but I trimmed them and they are still slightly bruised.

    I would really appreciate any suggestions you might have!! 🙂

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      Hi Cortnie, your feet sound very like mine. My big toe is slightly longer than the next two toes, but not enough to be classed as Egyptian.

      The first thing I notice is that you refer to “the pair” of shoes you have right now. Does that mean you have only one pair at a time? If you’re an intermediate/advanced student then you should be running two or even three pairs at the same time, alternating them so they get time to dry out completely between classes (they take at least 24 hours to dry, sometimes longer). If a class goes longer than an hour, you should be swapping to a new pair of shoes halfway through.

      Bruised toes take a long time to settle down, even if you remove the cause, so it may just have been those long toenails. If it persists, then it may be that the more advanced work is killing both the shank and the platform quicker than you’re used to. However, I decided to ask pointe shoe fitter Caron Jones for a second opinion and here’s her response:

      “I think the reason the shoes aren’t lasting is that the pointework is clearly more advanced than when you started out en pointe four years ago. You tend to need stronger shoes for certain steps, anyway, including saute and temps leve en pointe.

      It’s advisable to increase pairage and rotate the usage of shoes rather than use one, usually particularly comfortable, pair relentlessly.

      I certainly think you need to go up in shank/insole strength by, at least, one level or more likely two (to get that new shoe feeling again).

      You talk generally about the shoes not being quite the same as when you started wearing this make and model. It’s worth bearing in mind dancing on pointe does change your feet. They can widen, change size and joints become enlarged or prominent. It’s always worth reviewing make/model/fit now and again, or simply try something completely new.

      With regard to bruised toe nails the causes can be various; shoes that are too wide or large, a too square interior box, long toenails and shoes that are too soft. With everything else you’ve described, I think it may well be that you are just getting through shoes more rapidly, not just shanks but platforms, also. You could also create a little big toe cushion with a small amount of padding but I think the best place to begin, is simply, to try a shank with more substance and support and take it from there.”

      Thanks to Caron for this great analysis.

  7. Avatar Mikayla says:

    Well you guys at least have strong feet or ankles, my ankles are too weak and I can only last 5minutes doing a routine and then go right back to a demi arch. I have been doing pointe about 3 years and need exercises to get much stronger ankles.

    • Avatar Mikayla says:

      I wear the bloch european balance pointe shoes ,because it was the best fit for my foot and it is super strong.

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      I hate to say it Mikayla, but if you are having that problem you should not be on pointe at all. You are not ready yet. You need to drop back a class, or at least restrict your pointe work to the barre only (no centrework) until your legs are strong enough.

      Are you sure it’s your ankles that are the problem? It’s not your ankles that keep you up on pointe – it’s your thighs and hips. If they’re not strong enough then your ankles will collapse because they can’t do the work on their own. This article explains about readiness for pointe.

      The exercise in the video on the post below is the one you should concentrate on:

  8. Avatar Caron Jones says:

    If you get through shoes rapidly, I used to, there are a number of things to consider. Anything you do, however slight to break the shoes in, can contribute to them wearing out. Dancers with high arches are usually more dependent on their shoes. Many issues have already been covered but I would say a truly strong foot can support itself in very little. This could be evidenced by those ballerinas who danced through the war years and had to make one or two pairs of pointe shoes go a very long way.
    Increasing the number of pairs of shoes you wear might sound counter intuative but switching from one pair to another during the course of a class or performance means that your not hammering away at the same pair of shoes. Give the shoes a chance to recover, to air and dry out.
    Another tip is to store shoe for quite a while before you wear them. The paste matures and hardens.

  9. Avatar Lisa says:


    I have a strong feet as well as a high arch. I have been used the Bloch Suprima Strong for years now but they NEVER last long.

    I find that it is always the right shoes that breaks first (and I always alternate shoes, and dry them out all week etc)

    Would you suggest I try Gaynor Mindens?

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      Lisa, if you have a strong foot then I’m not sure why you need the Strong model. It’s called “strong” because the shank is reinforced for extra support – something your feet don’t need! You need a really flexible shank which will bend with your foot rather than fight it – because your foot will always win! Have you tried the ordinary Suprima (which has a flexible shank) – does that last any longer?

      Have you tried the Grishko 2007? They have a reputation for durability and should suit your feet. They are a 3/4 shank. Otherwise, why not give Mindens a try – they certainly score for durability. Again, don’t be tempted to go for a hard shank – go softer than you think you need.

  10. Avatar Jesinta says:

    my dance teacher told me not to get Gaynor Mindens. i got the Grishko Maya1 in hard. I am so happy with them they are so nice to dance in but once again im finding them not lasting long at all. is there anything i can do to strengthen them after pointe i leave them out to dry. help me please 🙂

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      Jesinta, I am so sorry I didn’t notice your comment earlier. It’s always a good idea to buy two pairs at a time, so you can wear one pair to one class, then the other pair to the next class, and so on. That gives each pair longer to dry out. Never put your shoes in your dance bag after class, even if it’s only to carry them home – have a separate mesh bag to carry them in, so they get air all the time. When they start to get soft, apply a very thin layer of jet glue.

  11. Avatar Taylor says:

    I have a very strong right foot arch. I have tried the Gaynor Mindens, bloch eauropean strong,and now the russian. I can’t seem to get more than one class from them before the shank on my right breaks. I really need help finding something really strong.

    • Avatar Marisa says:

      Sorry Taylor, your comment got caught in the spam filter for some reason, and I only just noticed it.

      First, I’m not sure what you mean by “strong”. If you have strong powerful feet, what happens if you buy a strong shoe is that the shoe and the foot fight each other – and the foot always wins! Strong feet are often better off with a 3/4 shank or a softer shank, which will bend rather than break. That’s especially true in Gaynor Mindens.

      However, I’ve come across people who say they have a “strong” foot, when they mean it has a high, flexible arch. In that case it’s not the strength of the foot that’s the problem, but the shape. Again, a 3/4 shank or softer, bendier shank can work – but only if the foot is strong and can manage without the support. A beautiful foot can still be weak. Grishko Vaganovas were designed for high-arched feet.

      However, do check with your teacher or your fitter to be sure your arch really is strong.

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