How to Break in a New Pair of Ballet Pointe Shoes
How to break in a new pair of pointe or toe shoes to make dancing easier.
New pointe shoes are stiff, hard and uncomfortable. They are actually made with a "paste" that is specifically designed to soften with moisture. That's why dancing in a pair of shoes makes them softer and helps them form to your feet. But there are also some shortcuts to help break in those shoes and make dancing a little more comfortable.
Breaking pliable pointe shoes in is important because softer, more pliable shoes are easier on the feet. Fewer blisters and calluses certainly make taking ballet class more comfortable. A broken in toe shoe will also have a more flexible sole, so you will be better able to point the foot, rise up on point, and show off that gorgeous arch.
Many professional ballerinas have extensive routines they use to break in their shoes. Perfected over years of dancing and hundreds of shoes, they know exactly what works for their feet and the brand and style of pointe shoes they wear. It is a process of trial and error. Below are some commonly used ways to break in a new pair of shoes.
Dance in them! The best dance steps to break in the shoes are done at the barre. Do a lot of plies and releves, bending the knees and then going up onto point. Make sure to spend extra effort rolling through the foot. Walk around on demi-point, varying the levels (very low to very high), in order to soften all parts of the shoe.
Hand massage can be done to soften the shoe. Simply press and rub on the shoe in different areas. You can even step on the shoe and use the full weight of your body. You do want to be careful not to actually flatten the box however. You still need support in the shoe. Focus more on the sides and shank. Also take caution not to completely break the arch/shank (bend the shoe in half), as this may make some shoes lose their support and can harm your ankles and muscles.
Similar to massage is banging the shoes on the ground. This can help make the sound of the shoe quieter as well. Again, you want to focus on the bottom and sides of the shoe and not completely flatten the toe box.
Because the shoes are made to soften with the moisture of the foot, some dancers use water or rubbing alcohol on the shoes to soften them. This may be done by applying alcohol or water to certain areas (ie the pinky toe or your big toe), or just slightly dampening the shoe before doing some releves in them. Light moisture seems to work better than completely immersing them in water.
One thing you do not want to do is allow anyone else to wear your shoes. Because the goal of breaking them in is to have them mold to your foot, this would obviously defeat the purpose. Remember, you are not trying to simply stretch them out, you want them to actually take the shape of your foot.
And finally, if you are a student you should always check with your instructor for help first. If this is your first pair of toe shoes, you should only dance and wear them while supervised by your teacher until you know the proper technique. Shoe manufacturers and sales agents at your local dancewear shop may also be able to help you break in your shoes and may know what works for a particular brand.