Pointe Shoes – personalised to perfection

The delicacy of pointe shoes are synonymous with female ballet dancers and so it may be surprising to learn that they are made out of fabric and something akin to papier-mâché!

At a glance they are aesthetically pleasing, but on the inside layers of cotton silk make way for functionality.

Within, a shank runs the length of the shoe similar to how an insole would lay in a regular shoe. In Freed of London shoes, which are worn by almost all of Northern Ballet’s dancers, the shank is made of a thick cardstock and is incredibly rigid and difficult to bend at first. It is the shank which stiffens the sole of the shoe and helps to support the dancer’s foot when she is en pointe.

New pointe shoes and the inner shank

Like most dancers at professional ballet companies, Northern Ballet’s dancers have custom made pointe shoes which enable the dancers to tailor the shoe to their exact requirements to perform at their absolute best.

This is possible as pointe shoes are handmade and, with Freed of London shoes, dancers are able to specify which ‘maker’ will create their shoes ensuring they fit perfectly time after time. The ‘maker’ is identified by a stamp on the sole of the shoe which can be anything from a single letter, a little fish, an anchor, or even a wine glass!

Pointe shoe soles

However when the shoes arrive, they are absolutely rigid and require breaking in to mould them to the dancer’s foot and make them pliable enough to dance in.

Each dancer has their own method for breaking in their shoes. See how dancer Miki Akuta prepares her shoes.

Every year Northern Ballet uses up to 3,000 pairs of pointe shoes; each pair so intricately personalised to perfection that you may think our dancers are walking on water. A single pair of hand-made shoes costs £35, and depending on the rigorous demands of training, rehearsals and performances, may only last a day!

With your help, our dancers can follow in the little mermaid’s footsteps and continue to find their own feet, season after season.

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