Pointe shoes are ballet shoes designed for advanced ballet dancers to dance on the tips of their toes. Pointe shoes are handmade and are a combination of several materials such as satin, leather, cotton, and glue.
The process of making pointe shoes is a highly skilled and time-consuming process, with each shoe taking several hours to complete. The shoes are designed to be lightweight and durable, providing the necessary support for the dancer to perform the intricate and demanding movements of ballet.
The process of making pointe shoes typically involves the following steps:
- Taking measurements: The dancer’s feet are measured to determine the correct size and shape of the pointe shoe. The correct fit is crucial to avoid injury and ensure proper support.
2. Cutting the materials: The various materials such as satin, leather, and cotton are cut into the appropriate shapes and sizes for the different parts of the shoe. These bits are stretched out over a mold and the different parts need to be put together.
3. Stitching: The parts of the shoe are stitched together by hand using a strong thread. The seams are reinforced to ensure the shoes can withstand the stress of dancing. In more recent times, some of the parts are machine-stitched.
4. Attaching the shank: The shank is a stiff piece of material that provides support to the dancer’s foot. It is sewn onto the sole of the shoe and is typically made of materials such as leather or plastic. In some pointe shoes, the shank can be removed (e.g. to use the shoes as demi-pointes) or replaced.
5. Applying the resin: A special glue, called resin, is applied to the inner sole and upper part of the shoe to help it maintain its shape and provide additional support. In some cases, the shoes are also baked to harden the resin, so that the shoe takes the shape of the mould and keeps that shape. This is, in fact, why you need to air out your pointe shoes: if they become humid, they will soften.
6. Adding the elastics: Ribbons and elastic are attached to the shoe to help keep it securely in place on the dancer’s foot. The elastic drawstrings are there to ensure the shoes fit properly. The invisible elastic is optional – but they to help, together with the ribbons, to give a really secure fit.
Finishing touches: The shoes are trimmed and any loose threads are removed.
Ribbons are sewn on the pointe shoes – this is something that the dancer will normally do, to give the ribbons the correct angle. Some dancers also darn the tip, although there are solutions such as leather patches or ready-made darn patches you attach to the shoe. We prefer the old-fashioned darning as there is less of a chance of that coming off, causing slipping and injury.