You’ve watched all of the dance movies and dance YouTube videos galore that show you how to break in your pointe shoes. However, you must keep in mind that many of these techniques are being used by trained professionals with years of experience.
As a beginner to pointe work, do not take your brand new pointe shoes home and try to use these ‘breaking in techniques’! It may end up ruining and or breaking your new pair in before you even get the chance to dance in them. Again, this is especially important if these are your first pair of shoes.
Breaking in pointe shoe should be done very carefully. Don’t be tempted by the techniques you see professional dancers using - slamming it against a brick wall, running water on the sides of the shoes to soften the wings, crushing the block in a door or bending the arch in half/manipulating them with your hands. Professional dancers use these techniques as they only need the pair of shoes to last for one performance! Ultimately, these extreme techniques will shorten the life span of your shoe and could cause serious injuries to your feet, ankles, knees and even hips!
Your feet need to get a feel for them and you need to get familiar with both demi and en pointe work before you really know how to articulate and break down the shoes. Your teachers will be able to give you advice about techniques and guide you through naturally breaking in your pointe shoes in a way that is right for your feet and strength.
When you are fitted for a pair of pointe shoes, you will notice that there is no assigned right and left foot. However, as you begin to wear them, they will begin to mould, creating a shaped left and right foot. This moulding process happens gradually, so it’s helpful to label the shoes right and left after your first class and wear them on the same feet each time. After several classes, you will be able to see which shoe has moulded to each foot. You may even notice that once shoe is breaking down faster. This is because everyone has one dominant leg/foot that is ultimately stronger. Your teacher may recommend that every few classes, you swap your shoes to ensure that they are both breaking down at the same rate.
Identifying Your Natural Arch: To identify where your natural arch ‘breaks’ in the shoe, doing some side tendus while leaning heavily into the foot en pointe. Once you have done this a few times, remove the shoe and you will be able to follow the shape your arch has made. Because the shoes are now warmed up from your footwork you can try GENTLY bending the shoe with your hands at the arch point. Repeat this with both right and left shoes.
Demi-pointe to Full Pointe Rises: This will help soften the block slightly and help you work on getting that natural demi pointe in your shoes. Be sure you are using a barre while you repeat several rises through the foot onto demi-pointe, continuing to full pointe from either 1st position or a narrow 2nd position.