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What Makes A Professional Pointe Shoe?

There's a lot more that goes into fitting pointe shoes than just sliding them on. In this blog post, we'll show you the anatomy of a pointe shoe and highlight some key points that fitters look out for.

Pointe shoes fit differently which is why it requires a trained fitter and a special appointment with each new pair. It's important that the appointment is made so the fitters can find, see and check the shoes to prevent injury.

The Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe

Pointe shoes are a type of footwear used by ballet dancers to create the illusion that their toes are touching the ground when they dance. Pointe shoes come in many varieties, either with leather or satin uppers and a cotton canvas lining. Pointe shoes have been around for over 100 years!

We'll discuss the anatomy of pointe shoes and how they work together in this blog post so you can learn about them in more depth.

Each Pair of Pointe Shoes Have 6 Main Parts

Pointe Shoe Box/Block Diagram

Pointe Shoe Part 1: Box/Block

  • The box/block is the part of the pointe shoe that encases the toes and provides the support the dancer needs to balance on their toes while dancing
Pointe Shoe Profile Diagram

Pointe Shoe Part 2: Profile

  • The profile of the shoe is described as the height between the top and the bottom of your foot, just between your toes and your arch.
  • A high profile is when the box of the shoe is more cylindrical, with a large space between the outer sole and the top of the box.
  • A low profile is when the box is flatter, with a small space between the outer sole and the top of the box.
Pointe Shoe Platform Diagram

Pointe Shoe Part 3: Platform

  • The platform is the part of the pointe shoe on which the dancer stands en pointe
Pointe Shoe Shank Diagram

Pointe Shoe Part 4: Shank

  • The shank is the stiff insole that provides support to your foot.
  • The shank should just line up with the length of your foot. There will be extra fabric past the shank. If the shank is too short odds are that the shoe will not fit your foot. If the shank is too long, the shoes will be too big for your foot and you will start to sink in your shoes.
Pointe Shoe Throat Diagram

Pointe Shoe Part 5: Throat

  • The throat is the opening of the shoe nearest to the toes
Pointe Shoe Vamp Diagram

Pointe Shoe Part 6: Vamp

  • The vamp is the part of the shoe that covers the tops of the toes.

What about everything else?

Pointe Shoe Drawstring Diagram

The Drawstring

The drawstring is between the canvas material on the pointe shoe. They're also on most ballet shoes. The drawstring helps to keep the pointe shoe snug to the dancer's foot. It's important to avoid the drawstring when sewing your elastics and ribbons onto your shoes so that the drawstring is still functional.

Pointe Shoe Heel Seam

The Heel Seam

The heel seam is located along the heel and helps to provide an elegant line with the foot. Our team of shoe fitters will use the heel seam to measure how well the shoe is fitting.

Pointe Shoe Outer Sole Diagram

Outer Sole

The outer sole is often confused with the shank of the shoe. It will have the shoe measurements on it (i.e. Grishko 2 XXXX) and is outside of the shoe.

Pointe Shoe Pleats Diagram


The pleats are created with the neatly folded fabric underneath the outer sole to prevent fabric bunching and an uncomfortable fit.

Pointe Shoe Waist Seam Diagram

The Waist Seam

The waist seam should line up with the arch of your foot. It helps to create a seamless line. If the fabric around your waist seam is baggy, the length of your shoe is too long. If the fabric around your waist seam is tight and you see stretched horizontal lines, then the shoe is too tight. The ideal amount of fabric around your arch will be defined horizontal lines that are sitting snuggly against your foot.

Pointe Shoe Wing Diagram

The Wing

The wing of the shoe comes in different heights. The wing of the shoe provides support while you're on pointe and is an indicator to tell if your shoe is too wide or too narrow. If the wing and width of the shoe are too wide, you will slide down the shoe which can lead to injuries.

If the width of the shoe is too narrow, it will cause your foot to bulge outside of the shoe. If the wing is too short, your foot will not have the support it needs and the shoe will break down incorrectly. If the wing is too long, it will prevent your foot from breaking down the shoe properly.

Did You Know About Sister Sizes?

Pointe shoes have sister sizes? Sometimes a shoe that is a half-size and a width different will fit the same! For example, a 6 XXX European Balance Pointe Shoe will fit similarly to a 6.5 XX or a 5.5 XXXX. The reason this is important is that (1) if we're out of stock on your size, we may be able to accommodate you with a sister size, and (2) the small difference in the sister sizes could account for a micro-fit change that actually fits your foot better. Keep in mind that although a 5.5 XXXX and a 6.5 XX may feel similar to a 6 XXX, the 5.5 XXXX and 6.5 XX may be different enough from each other to not feel the same at all.

What About Demi Pointe Shoes or Soft Blocks?

Demi-pointe shoes, also known as soft blocks, fit like usual ballet or jazz shoes, but also like pointe shoes. The length and width of pointe shoes are the same in demi-pointe shoes, but the support of a shank isn't in there.

Comments (1)

  • Paschenelle Celis on July 03, 2024

    Thank you for the descriptive information with visuals. :)

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