Teaching Tips

7 Pointe Shoe Hacks Your Students Need to Know

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Pointe shoes can be tricky for new students. Share these helpful pointers before problems arise.


Hack #1: Nail polish

To prevent ribbons from unraveling, use this easy-to-find cosmetic item. Good for a manicure and it's a cure for ragged ribbons—Kristen Lewis offers the tip of "painting the edges of ribbons with clear nail polish to prevent fraying."

Hack #2: Extend the life of shoes in one, easy step (no Jet Glue involved)

Encourage students to not just toss damp, sweaty shoes into their dance bags. "This will cause the shoes to weaken faster (not to mention smell!)," Lewis explains. She recommends that dancers first "air-dry them in mesh bags tied to the outside of their dance bags."

Hack #3: How to fix snapping stitching on ribbons

Have you seen students' ribbons detach from their shoes during class? Or worse—at an audition or performance? Hopefully not. But to prevent this from happening (or happening again), sew the ribbons with something more durable than the thread used to mend the holes in leotards. "Advise your dancers to use thicker thread—or even dental floss—when sewing their ribbons, to keep them securely fastened," writes freelance dancer Taylor Gordon.

Hack #4: Take time to talk shoes, shoes, shoes…

Tell your students to see what's working with their classmates. "Talk to someone who has a foot shape similar to yours, especially if you like the way her shoes look," advises Lesley Rausch, principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet. "Find out what she wears and what her tricks are. It's really a matter of trial and error."

Hack #5: Simple ways to take care of toe pads

Ah, toe pads…where would we be without you? (In a lot more pain, for one thing!) Professional pointe shoe fitter Mary Carpenter recommends "keeping them dry, washing them regularly and rotating among multiple pairs." How do you safely wash toe pads? Here's how: "Pro tip: Hand-wash gel toe pads in cold water, not hot, so they don't melt. And sprinkle them with baby powder afterward to avoid a seriously sticky situation."

Hack #6: Reconsider crisscrossed elastics…

Carpenter admits that some teachers don't find this look aesthetically pleasing, but she nonetheless "suggests crisscrossed elastics, particularly for dancers with high arches, narrow heels or ankle injuries."

Hack #7: Remember—your shoes don't have to be "popular"

Explain this to your students: Even if no one else at your school or company wears the brand or model that you do, that's OK. It's kind of like Cinderella, isn't it? "Don't just follow what's trendy," says Dusty Button, principal dancer with Boston Ballet. "I think it's silly when people tell you not to wear a certain brand or type of shoe. Encourage students to find what actually works for them, regardless of anyone else's thoughts or what their favorite dancer wears."

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