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A well-fitting, properly laced shoe is integral to achieving correct technique and preventing injury on pointe. A shoe that is too short, too narrow, too long or too wide hampers a dancer's ability to get her body into alignment on pointe and can cause ailments ranging from blisters and tendonitis to a sprain or even stress fractures. Once they're professionals, dancers will make their own choices about how their shoes look and feel, but as teachers, you can guide students to prioritize safety over aesthetics, and to listen to the advice of experienced fitters.

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A fitter for 25 years, Carpenter learned her craft under a Repetto master fitter.

In our November health column we share 3 pointe shoe safety tips from pro fitter Mary Carpenter. One of her best pointers is that a too-big shoe is just as bad as one that’s too small.

“I get asked a lot about growing room,” Carpenter says. Not a good idea. “It has to be fitted snug. For the parents who don’t quite understand, I say, ‘Like a cast fits a broken limb.’” That snug fit, she says, is around the metatarsal—not the toes. It keeps toes from collapsing down into the box.

Without that firm support from the shoe, most dancers will struggle to get properly up on pointe. “They can’t get their hips over their legs,” Carpenter says. “They can’t get into correct ballet alignment.

Other common problems with loose shoes are blisters and bruised toenails. Additionally, if the fit isn’t secure enough, a dancer will instinctively tense her feet to keep them from slipping around. That increased tension can cause tendonitis.

Photo courtesy of Carpenter; Thinkstock

For more pointe shoe safety tips, subscribe to Dance Teacher and get the November issue.

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