Breaking the law, breaking the law

My teacher doesn’t believe in breaking in pointes.
He says it’ll happen naturally as you work in the shoe.
I have come to the conclusion that he is crazy.
So I got out the camera and the internet. To the bat cave, pointe shoes!
Here is the right, not broken in but worn in class at least seven times:

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Observe, that sole is doing it’s own thing. It is not even paying attention to my foot.
Here is the left, also worn in class at least seven times, (I mean duh, it’s not like I wore one and not the other) Plus broken in below the heel following the instructions described by Lisa Howell here at The Ballet Blog.
(She has such a lovely voice, doesn’t she? I like pointe questions as an excuse to go hear her speak.)

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Seems better visually, but not exactly forming a platform for my heel like she describes in the video. Will see if it feels any different in class. Guess it’s possible that this shoe is already too far gone at the mid-shank and it’s a little too late for breaking in at the heel.
That shank is so stiff though! Maybe I need to bend it more.
Don’t really want to buy another pair yet, as I don’t quite trust this class to stay together long enough to justify my purchase. Although considering I bought this pair in 2011, they have amortized out pretty ok.
Hmm.
Also, look at those gross puffy heels! Never noticed that before! The stuff a foot close-up will show you. Those things are super tight on flat, hot dang.

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About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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8 Responses to Breaking the law, breaking the law

  1. You have a strong foot and a weak foot, you need a different kind of pointe shoe and you need to strengthen your feet. Your instructor is correct, unless you wore out your shoes directly before a performance, you break your shoes in naturally with your feet during class. Doing otherwise will shorten the already short lifespan of your shoes.

  2. Rori roars says:

    I’m a huge Lisa Howell fan… Then again, tell me anything in an Australian, Scottish, British, Irish, etc. accent and I’ll probably agree with you! Seriously, though, I love her advice and wish more dancers learned about how their bodies work and how to get the most out of them.

    My feeling on the whole pointe shoe breaking-in thing is that if you’re trying to emulate some crap ballet movie in which dancers slam the boxes in a door or crack the shanks in half or whatever you’re wasting a pair of shoes unless you’re an old pro who knows this is what you need to do for your particular case AND are working with a shoe budget that doesn’t come out of your own paycheck. But Lisa’s thing with the breaking in under the heel thing… I feel that’s totes legit. You need the shank to do its job of supporting the foot… if it’s not touching the foot, how can it do its job? And the fact that it makes your foot look better in the process? Yeah, I need all the help I can get in that dept., so I’m totally on board.

    • Totes. It makes sense structurally that left to its own devices the shank will break in the middle, but if you introduce a weak spot, all the stress will go there and the rest of the shank will remain sound.
      And yes on accents.
      I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh how I looooove American accents.” Sad.

  3. I only break in my shoes a little so I can function in them. It’s important to break in my metatarsal/demi area in the box and the shank. Specifically with my grishkos I bent the shank to support my arch but it always just broke after several wears. That’s why I like my spotlights, I don’t have to break in the shank, it’s already half shank and the glue they use is so flexible I don’t have to worry about wearing it down prematurely. I just massage/smoosh the box and push my demi point and I can dance away! A lot of my friends who have tried my shoes exclaim their comfort. They don’t believe comfortable pointe shoes exist, but mine are lovely! They are my favorite pointe shoes to date!

  4. wedoballet says:

    It depends on what you mean by “break in.” SURE they’ll break in naturally as you wear them, but unless you’re ordering custom shoes they probably aren’t perfect for your feet, so they need some pre-wearing-prep so that you CAN wear them well enough to let them break in properly.

    I have a low profile foot. Most shoes have a box that is far too round/tall for my metatarsals. So I wear a narrower shoe, but then stand on the box which loosens up the paste, flattens it out, and starts to break them in. I have bunions so I put water on my big toe joints and dab it across where I break for demi… otherwise it won’t naturally break in the right place. And I wear 3/4 shanks AND still soften the last tiny top bit under my heal.

    THEN they can break in properly in class.

    But you have to know your feet, which you can’t with your first pair of shoes… with the next pair, you’ll know your shank didn’t break in where you needed it, and you’ll help it find your foot.

  5. Cbells says:

    This is why I was glad I worked with 4+ different instructors when starting pointe. The first one told me to get Gaynor Mindens, which I did. I didn’t even know I hated them until I started dancing with another teacher, who was so nice she went with me to the local dance store and helped me find the perfect shoe for me: Blochs!

    And then she showed me how to break them in correctly. Since I was doing maybe an hour or two of pointe per week (if I was lucky), they lasted me a while, even with a broken shank. I have short, wide feet with high arches but strong muscles (that sounds way better than my feet actually look), so I don’t need a whole lot of shank support.

    But, man, I can’t imagine not touching the shoes at all. I can’t image the shank naturally just forming to my arch. That is how the Gaynor Mindens were, and it’s exactly why I switched! The arches were not aligned with mine at all, or as you so eloquently said, “doing their own thing.”

    I know it can be pricey, but I HIGHLY recommend maybe doing a private lesson with another teacher you like. From my experience, they get super excited about adults learning pointe, and several of my teachers offered to work with me after class, even for free.

    But I think a half-hour private lesson after class with another teacher could be invaluable. Teachers all have their “things” — that’s good and bad. The only way to get around that is to work with several at a time.

  6. Carla Escoda says:

    Pointe shoe technology has come a long way, baby. All that soaking, smashing in the door jamb, jumping up and down on the box, shredding the soles, etc. is generally pointless (hah) and probably just shortening the life of your shoes. All you need to do to break in pointe shoes these days is walk around for a few minutes on demi-pointe. But ballet dancers can be a superstitious lot, and habits handed down from one generation to the next often become SACRED RITUAL. (I can list other sacred rituals in ballet that are just a lot of unscientific hogwash, but whatever…)

    That bunching at the heel might mean that you need to tighten the drawstring further – best to do this on demi-pointe rather than on flat. Or you may simply have an extra narrow heel, in which case you need to find a model that fits better. There are so many options today in terms of brands and models, and types of padding/corrective devices, that it makes sense to experiment – though that can be costly. (Of course we all dream of a lovely silver-haired cobbler who custom-makes our shoes in a quaint little shop on a back street in Milano…)

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