How to Extend the Life of Your Pointe Shoes

Tips on how to extent the life of your pointe shoes

Pointe Shoes are a major investment in a ballerina's training and career. Whether you have crazy strong feet that rip through a new pair of shoes in a day or dropped them in a toilet (I'm just saying...), there are several ways you can extend the life of your point shoes, and save money in the process.

Pointe shoes wear out quickly by nature, but the time it takes for them to die can depend on how you break them in, how strong your arch is, and how often you practice or perform in them. One of the easiest ways to make your shoes last longer is to buy two or more pairs and rotate them so they are allowed to dry thoroughly between uses. Sweat will break down your shoes quickly, so drying them out is imperative. If they get too wet (as in the toilet scenario), they can shrink and will be useless. Whether or not you can afford multiple pairs of pointe shoes, you should always carry them in a mesh bag to allow air to get to them to aid with drying. Never leave your shoes in front of a heater to dry them out or use a hair dryer. They might shrink or lose their shape a bit.

Pointe shoe boxes start to die rather quickly thanks to both regular use and sweat. Many dancers choose to harden up their boxes by using shellac or something called Jet Glue (Instant Jet). Both add a thin hard layer to the inside of the box and will allow for a few more uses. Most ballerinas use this method on their class shoes, and not their performance shoes. If you don't like using pads in your shoe, using shellac or Jet Glue might make the inside of the box too rough to use comfortably. Of course using padding at this point isn't an option for people with properly fitting shoes, because it would make the box too tight.

If you are worried about protecting the satin on the platform, you can either cut off the satin from the platform before you use them for the first time, trim the satin as it erodes to maintain a pleasant look, or you can avoid the hassle by trying out shoes that have a suede platform. Unfortunately most shoes don't come with this option.

If you use your shoes at home (which you probably shouldn't be doing, but you already know this), you might want to buy a pair of Capezio pointe shoe covers, which currently cost $6.80 at DiscountDance.com. I can't imagine a teacher allowing anyone to wear these in his or her studio, but if you must practice at home, these are a good way to keep the satin from fraying. It keeps them clean too. Capezio's pointe shoe covers have a suede platform. Do not try regular socks over your shoes, as you might slip and fall.

If you use Kryolan make-up to dull the shine of your satin, be sure you set aside enough time for the shoes to dry before you wear them for the first time as this process can cause your shoes to die quickly if they get too damp. Once again, do not use a heater for the drying process.

Pointe shoe ribbons also wear and fray if not tended to. One way to keep them from fraying is to fold the cut edges down once or twice and sew them. This has worked for me in the past, although most people choose to use a clear or pink nail polish on the tips. I've seen people use strong hairspray for a last-minute fix if no polish is available. I've also used a cigarette lighter to lightly singe edges. This works quite well if you do it right.

Girls who have made the switch to Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and even the new Capulet D30 shoes find that their shoes last longer, partly due to good construction, but mostly due to the new materials used. The extra padding in the box and platform, and the material used in GM's shanks make them last up to months longer than a traditional shoe. I don't have personal experience with the D30, but my friends say they feel a lot like GMs. I can't attest to the shank in D30s, but like the box, they too are padded, which may lengthen the life.

If none of these suggestions work for you and you aren't lucky enough to dance for a company that foots your pointe shoe bill (no pun intended), I would look into buying shoes at discount stores.