Learning to dance en pointe is a huge achievement for any beginner ballet dancer, and it really marks the transition from a true beginner to feeling like someone serious about learning ballet. And getting the right pair can make all the difference when it comes to learning to dance because their construction is so important. So if you’re looking for the best pointe shoes for beginners that suit you and your needs, read on for our handy guide.
What are pointe shoes?
Pointe shoes are instantly recognizable as a hallmark of ballet dancing. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine ballet without any pointe work. But early ballet wasn’t danced en pointe at all. In the 1500s, when ballet was first brought to France from Italy, the ballet dancers all wore heeled shoes. These were replaced by flat shoes when more impressive leaps became fashionable.
The first ballet dancers to dance en pointe were in the 19th century, and they were actually suspended from wires, It caused such a stir that there was a push for dancers to be able to dance that way without the aid only wires. This is where the pointe shoe that we know of today began. For dancers to be able to appear to float on their tiptoes, they needed shoes that were sturdy and could support their feet and toes. So a box was created at the toe of the shoe, tightly packed with fabric to support the toes, and a sturdier sole was introduced to support the foot.
Since these early pointe shoes, there has been constant progress in refining and perfecting the design of the shoe, so that you can be pretty confident that a modern pointe shoe will support your feet and toes enough for you to be able to dance comfortably.
Traditionally, only female ballet dancers dance on pointe (men have sometimes danced en pointe for comedic effect), although this is beginning to change as gender fluidity and expression are becoming more common and accepted.
What are pointe shoes made of?
Pointe shoes look deceptively delicate, and that’s kind of the point (pun intended!). The goal is to create the illusion that the dancer is floating and is lighter than air. To that end, pointe shoes are usually wrapped in pale pink satin, but once you look under the hood, you can see that they are actually extremely strong and sturdy and have to be.
The box is the part at the end of the toes and is contained in the front end of the shoe. This part of the pointe shoe is vital for the dancer to be able to dance on their toes and is usually made of tightly packed layers of fabric, cardboard, and glue.
The shank is the shoe’s inner sole and helps support the arch of the foot while it is vertical. It is made of stiff cardboard, leather, plastic, or cardstock.
The vamp is the part of the shoe that runs along the top of the toes. It is made of fabric/satin and can be longer or shorter depending on the length of your toes.
This is the edging of the vamp on the top side of the shoe above the arch of your foot and it can either be v-shaped (for high arches) or round (for low arches).
The drawstring is within the boundary of the throat and is used to tighten the shoe. It can either be made of elastic or fabric.
The bottom part of a pointe shoe is made of a thin layer of material, usually leather. This can either be smooth to allow for effortless gliding around the floor or it can include some grip to prevent slipping.
How to choose a pointe shoe
Sizing is very important when choosing a pointe shoe. If you get the wrong size, you might end up in a lot of pain or you might not be able to execute all of the moves that you could be able to. A pointe shoe needs to fit very well for it to work the way that it should.
If you are buying your pointe shoes online, make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Some of them will tell you to choose the same size shoe as you usually wear, but others will tell you to choose a size larger to take into account any additional toe padding (often made of silicone).
If you are still unsure of your size, you can have your feet measured professionally in a dance equipment shop or ask your ballet teacher for advice.
A harder shank can be better if you have a wider bend to your arch (i.e. your arch is more flexible), but these can also be harder to break in if you don’t yet have the muscular strength in your foot and ankle. A softer shank is often better for beginners but you will need to progress to a harder shank later if you want to improve.
You might hear about different foot types when it comes to ballet pointe shoes, and your foot type does make a difference when it comes to choosing the shape and size of your shoe.
Greek – if your second toe is longer than your big toe, then you have a Greek foot type
Egyptian – if your big toe is the longest, then you have an Egyptian foot type
Square – if your toes are even, then you have a square foot type
All the different foot types can either be wide or tapered. If your toes are tapered, then you will see a tight angle in size from the longest to the shortest. If your toes are wide, then the angle will be much flatter.
Generally speaking, if you have Egyptian feet, you should aim for a platform that is medium or wide. If you have Greek feet, your platform should be medium or tapered. If you have square feet, you should go for a platform that is wide.
If your toes are short, you should look for a shorter vamp. And if they are long, then a longer vamp is better. Vamp length is important because if the vamp is too short, then you risk rolling over the box. But if it’s too long, then it will be difficult for you to get your foot into position.
It isn’t just your toes that are important when looking at vamps, however. You also need to take into account the flexibility of your arch. Generally speaking, the more flexible the arch, the longer vamp you will need to prevent your foot from rolling over.
The ribbons on pointe shoes look beautiful but they are also important for making sure that the shoe stays in place. Some point shoes allow you to sew on the ribbon yourself so that you get the perfect fit. You should bend your foot in the middle and find the point at which the fold crease appears. The ribbon should be attached at this point, diagonally and facing towards the front of the foot.
Many pointe shoes come with elastic at the back of the shoe. This is to secure your foot when you are in demi-pointe. If you are attaching the elastic yourself, attach one end and then bring it around the back of your foot so that it is tight but doesn’t cut into your foot too much.
Some pointe shoes come with separate toe pads included, or you can buy your own. These will restrict the inner portion of the shoe and make it a smaller fit, which needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to sizing. Toe pads are often made of silicone gel and their purpose is extra cushioning for your toes to protect them when you are in an en pointe position.
Some dancers swear by sheep’s wool instead of silicone toe pads and the benefit of this is that you can exactly match it to the shape and size of your foot so you know that the fit is perfect.
Breaking your pointe shoes in
Some dancers swear by using their hands to break in their pointe shoes, by massaging the box and the front end back of the sole (leaving the middle part of the sole hard). Some people even take a hammer to the box to make sure that it is broken in!
Many people, however, maintain that pointe shoes are best broken in by completing pointe exercises while wearing them as this will break them in at exactly the areas that you will be using them.
How long do pointe shoes last?
You shouldn’t expect your pointe shoes to last for too long. They receive a lot of wear and tear, especially if you are dancing often. Professional ballet dancers who dance all day every day go through hundreds of pairs in a season! Some dancers have multiple pairs of pointe shoes, with some for practice and some for performances, but either way, you should expect to go through a few pairs a year if you dance regularly.
The 17 best ballet pointe shoes for beginners
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1) Ijonda Adult Pointe Shoes for Girls and Women
These pointe shoes come with silicone toe pads and a mesh bag to carry the shoes in so that they don’t get damaged. They have a wide toe box, so are suitable for a wider foot and toe. They also have a short/average vamp, so are suitable for shorter to average toe lengths.
The sole is anti-skid and is made of leather, and the elastic and ribbons can be adjusted depending on your size. They even come with a needle, some extra thread, and some fabric for you to make any adjustments that you need!
Included are two silicon toe pads that fit between your toes and the box for extra support and comfort. If you do need to use the silicone toe pads, you should choose the next half size/full size up from your usual size. You should also do this if you have wide feet. Otherwise, choose your usual shoe size.
2) DoGeek Satin Pointe Shoes for Girls and Ladies
These pointe shoes come in both child and adult sizes. They have a strong shank, so are suitable for people with a more flexible arch and a short box. The throat is v-shaped so suitable for higher arches, and they have ribbons that are pre-attached.
They come with gel silicone toe pads for more comfort and protection and, if you will be using these, you should buy a shoe size higher than you would normally wear.
These shoes are highly rated as feeling and performing the same as much more expensive professional pointe shoes, but to dance long-term with them you may need to add an elastic band to the heel yourself.
3) Wendywu Professional Ballet Slipper
These pointe shoes have a tapered box so are suitable for narrower and tapered toes and they have a stiff shank which works great for more flexible arches. You get a carry bag included to keep your shoes protected when you are going to and from class or practice.
The ribbons are already sewn on and they come with gel toe pads included. The soles are made of leather and are non-slip. They come in both children and adult sizes and you should choose the same size as you would normally wear.
4) Daydance Ballet Pointe Shoes
If you don’t want to go with the usual pale pink, these pointe shoes come in a variety of colors: red, black, pink, or beige. They are made of satin with a cork sole and the shank is 3/4 hardness, which is suitable for a less flexible arch or for beginners.
They come with silicone toe pads, and this affects the sizing slightly differently to other pointe shoes. If you will be using the toe pads, you should buy the shoes in your usual size. If you don’t plan on using the toe pads, you should buy a size smaller than you usually would.
5) Nexete Professional Vanassa Ballet Pointe Shoes
These are satin pointe shoes that come in red, black, or pink. They are made of satin with a leather sole and they have a wide box that is suitable for wider toes/feet. The shank is strong so suitable for a more flexible arch.
They also come with toe pads. If you plan on using them, you should order a half size or full size up than you usually would. If you don’t plan on wearing them, then you can order your usual size.
6) Bezioner Ballet Pointe Shoes
These pointe shoes have a split leather sole, which allows for more flexibility. The ribbon is pre-sewn and the outer material is pink satin. They run a little large when used without the included silicone toe pads, so you should buy a size down if you don’t plan on wearing them.
They come in a gift box so are perfect as a gift for the ballet dancer in your life!
7) Kukome Ballet Dance Shoes
These pointe shoes are pink satin with a leather sole and they come with silicone toe pads included. They run large, so you should get a size smaller than you usually wear.
Included are ribbons but you will need to sew these on yourself. This can be beneficial for you to get a better fit because it means that you can decide the best ribbon placement for you.
The shank is stiff so can take a while to break in for beginners, but is good for people with a more flexible arch.
8) Wewesale Blue Ballet Pointe Shoes
If you really want to stand out from the crowd, or you need pointe shoes for a specific costume, then you can’t go wrong with these blue pointe shoes. They have a full leather sole and the outer material is satin. They come with the ribbons pre-attached.
They run a little small, so you should order half a size larger than you would for normal shoes.
9) FR Duval 3.0 Updated Professional Pointe Shoes
These pointe shoes are a fair bit more expensive than many of the other pointe shoes available on Amazon, but they are high quality. They come in three different shank strengths: flexible, regular, or strong. So you can be sure that you are getting the right shoes for your foot shape and/or strength.
They have a handy sizing guide to help you choose the right size for you, but if you have wider feet you should choose half a size (0.5 cm) up. But they do also come in normal, wide, or extra-wide sizing.
They are made of pink satin with a latex sole and they have an elastic band placed on the back (which is necessary if you will be doing a lot of dancing) and have ribbons already attached.
10) Beginner Ballet Pointe Shoes
These pointe shoes are specifically designed with a soft shank, which is much easier for beginners to use while they are strengthening their foot and ankle muscles.
They come with toe protector pads and are made of pink satin with a leather sole. They run a little small so you should buy half a size smaller than your usual shoe size.
11) Soudittur Ballet Pointe Shoes
If you’re at all worried about getting your sizing right, these shoes are a great choice because they have a very useful sizing guide that takes into account the shape of your feet.
They are made of pink satin with a leather sole and they have a medium-stiff shank that can be helpful for a beginner. They also come with two different toe pads – one that is stiff and a softer silicone pad. They also have elastic fastenings so that you can make sure the fit is tight to your foot.
If you will be using the toe pads, the manufacturers suggest getting a size larger to account for the extra material. They have pre-sewn ribbons included on the shoe.
12) Msmax Women’s Pointe Shoes
These pointe shoes come in red, pink, or beige. They have a medium shank so are great for beginners and they are made of satin with a suede non-slip sole.
They have elastic fastenings and ribbons that are pre-attached. They also come with two different toe pads (if you choose that option) – a silicone toe pad and one made from sheep’s wool with a seam. If you are buying the option with the toe pads, you should choose a size or two larger than the shoe size you would normally wear.
13) Juodvmp Ballet Pointe Shoes for Girls
You have a lot of choices with these pointe shoes. They come in black, red, or pink satin. Or you can get pink canvas if you prefer your shoes to be less shiny. You can also choose between a spongy toe pad or a silicone one, or no toe pad at all.
They have ribbons that are already sewn on and the shank is made of multiple layers of cardboard, which makes it easy to break them in. The size chart provided can help you to choose the perfect size based on your foot length, but if you have a wide foot you should choose a size higher.
14) TXJ Sports Ballet Pointe Shoes
You can check out the useful sizing guide before you buy these shoes and the best part is that if you do get the wrong size, you can send them back and the company will send you out a free replacement. This is great for taking away the worry of buying pointe shoes online! They do advise buying a size larger than you would for normal shoes in the first instance.
The ribbons also don’t come pre-attached, which can be useful for you to get the perfect fit (although they don’t include the needle and thread so you will have to supply those yourselves). They also come with silicone toe pads for extra comfort when you are en pointe. The outer material is satin and the sole is made of non-slip leather.
15) Sansha Lyrica Pointe Ballet Shoes
These pointe shoes are a little more expensive but they come from a respected name in the ballet world. They are made of satin with a leather sole and they come in peach or pink. They are flexible and hard-wearing.
They have a higher vamp and a strong shank, so are better for people with longer toes and/or a more flexible arch. They don’t come with ribbons included, so you will need to attach these yourself. And they also don’t come with any toe pads. You should buy a size larger than you wear in street shoes.
16) Capezio Women’s 121 Aria Pointe Shoe
These pointe shoes are, again, a more expensive shoe from a well-respected name. They are made of satin in a petal pink and they have a leather sole. The shank is a number 3 hardness, so can be used by beginners because they are more flexible, or for people with a less flexible arch.
The box is a traditional feathered box that may be more suitable for people with tapered toes. The throat is in U shape which is suitable for people with low arches. They also have a low-cut back and sides to prevent the material from gathering.
You will need to attach your ribbon yourself and they don’t come with toe pads included. You should order true to your normal shoe size.
17) Bloch European Balance Pink Pointe Shoe
These pointe shoes are in the European style, which means that the shank has a more pronounced curve. This can help to reduce your chance of injuring yourself, especially if you have a less pronounced arch. They are made from satin with a diagonal seam to prevent the fabric from bunching.
The box is tapered so is better for Greek-shaped or narrow feet. The throat is open, which is perfect for people with high arches, and they have a streamlined fit.
They don’t come with ribbons or elastics, so you will need to fit and attach these yourselves. Nor do they come with toe pads. You should fit the shoes to your normal shoe size, or a size up if you have wide feet.
Finding the right pointe shoes can be a challenge but taking into account the size and shape of your feet can help you to make the right choice, as well as the level of strength in your feet. But there are lots of different options out there for you to choose from so it is absolutely possible for you to find the exact pair that you need and at a reasonable price!