Gentle Reader, I’m about to totally nerd-out on some shoe shopping, so if this is not your bag, baby, skip to the bottom for the tl;dr.
Ok, here’s how it went down:
Got to dance store at 1:30 sharp. Lé assistant de la Smirnoff was already there, I recognized the ballet themed vanity-plate on one of the two cars in the lot. Dork!
This store is locally owned and operated, which is how I like to roll, but it has some kind of relationship with Capezio. Like, store carries many brands, but maybe the pointe shoe fitter was trained by Capezio? Not totally sure how that breaks down.
So! I gave lé assistant a hug, was introduced to the fitting guy- he had that kind of tatoo-ed, handsome, calm assuredness that let me know he had all the time in the world for me.
We went to the fitting area. A hardwood floor surrounded by two long benches, and a central pillar with barres all around.
Lé assistant and Mr. Fit start talking shanks and boxes while I remove my sneakers and socks and converted my leggings into tights. Really glad lé assistant is there. Adult Beginner don’t know nothing ’bout no shanks and boxes.
Did catch the phrases “strong feet” and “wide”. And “her first pair”.
Mr. Fit handed me a pack of gel-pouches. “This is our most popular padding, put them on your foot, then pull your tights over top,” he said, and headed to the back room for shoes.
They are clear and squishy. A little cup for the toes. Pulled them on. Didn’t catch the band name. A bit narrow in the toe, didn’t seem like they were going up far enough to fully protect ‘the bunion area’ as lé assistant called it. Not that I have bunions. Guess that’s just the easiest way to label that area. Better than saying ‘the knuckle of the big toe and pinkie toe’.
So I’m padded up, we try the first pair. Bloch.
Smirnoff is partial to Russian Pointe. I’m assuming because it has the word Russian and the word Pointe and what more could you need? But store is fazing them out. Not very popular in this market.
All I try on are Bloch and Capezio. And for some reason, I cannot for the life of me recall the names of the Bloch shoes. They just did not stick. Capezio names stuck just fine. Bloch, idk.
No right or left in point shoes. Just like slippers. I know ’cause I asked.
Bloch pair #1 too big. We don’t even tie the little cord in the front. Bloch pair #2 too long. We tie cord, and I put the pointe on the floor while sitting on the bench. Massive amounts of extra fabric at the back of the right heel. Slightly less massive at back of the left heel. This foot is a tiny bit bigger. Who knew? Lé assistant mentions that some people have two buy different sizes, one for each foot. We agree that that would be a drag and way expensive, luckily mine is not a major difference.
Bloch #3 looking better, we tighten the cord and I’m allowed to stand up and walk to the barre. Walking is very awkward. Almost like wearing flip-flops, heels keep coming out and the shoe doesn’t want to bend with my foot. We decide this one is too long also. I go back to bench.
Bloch #4 I tie the cord myself. Mr. Fit seems impressed. Lé assistant is proud. “She’s a quick study!” I go to the barre. Lé assistant stands beside me and says to Mr. Fit, “let’s have her go up on these.”
“Ok,” she says, “face the barre, feet parallel, hold with both hands. Now plié aaaaaaaand up!”
And I’m up! It does not feel weird. Which is very very weird. It’s just like, ok, the box holds the toes, it’s flat on the bottom, makes sense. She asks me how it feels. I notice abruptly that the big toe on my left foot is carrying the weight of the world. I mean, I’ve heard of feeling the floor, but this is more like the floor is feeling me. And not in the good way. I come down, take off shoes, switch left-to-right. Big toe says no. They agree that I’m fighting the shank and not properly situated on the box.
Bloch#5 I begin to loose count. But that’s ok, Mr. Fit is still calm, lé assistant gung-ho. I am super relieved that they’re not getting bored.
We try different widths, even 3x, the widest size of all. We try smaller sizes and larger sizes. It’s all about the big toe on the left foot. Feels like there is nothing under it at all, like the floor is rushing up to meet it. And the outer ‘bunion area’ of the left foot is feeling pressure from the top edge of the box. This means lots of permutations: Wider box, shorter length? Narrower box with longer length? Wider box with creepy gel-sleeve around big toe? Lambswool? Full shank? 3/4shank?
We talk about how less is better, how the more extra stuff I have inside the shoe the hotter and tighter it will be.
Lé assistant adds that in her day it was sterile cotton, lambs wool, or nothing. She says in Smirnoff’s day, in the Former Soviet Union, they would just be given shoes. Which may or may not be the right size. And were told to deal with it.
When I take the toe-sleeve off I can see that ‘outer bunion area’ is red. Seems like the edge of the gel pouch is lining up with the edge of the box, creating a ridge of hurt. I ask if there is any padding that comes up higher along the sides of the toes? We swap out the gel pocket thingy for an ouch pouch. Instantly better.
The ouch pouch is a thin cup of fabric imbedded with gel. I’m able to pull it up much higher along the sides of my feet, and it’s nice and thin. No edges.
Try on another pair, plié and up! Side of foot much better. Big toe worse. Because ouch pouch not as thick under toe.
Bloch#? The European Balance. A 3/4 shank. Wide box, tapered interior. Put it on, walk around. They both say it looks very nice. Feet look good. Plié and up! There is a marshmallow under my big toe where the battering ram used to be. Lé assistant says it’s working my arch nicely. It looks good. I’m over the box. I step-step-step, bend, plié, still good. I mean, ‘outer bunion area’ giving me a little trouble because apparently it is sensitized now after all the shoe-trying. Ok. We set this one aside.
Capezio #1 The Aria. A lotta noise out of this one! Clomp clomp clomp around the floor. Lé assistant says, “see, these just always look clunky to me.” Even I can see that the whole thing does not look elegant, something about the high vamp and the wide box. I plié and up anyway. Toe. Ow. And they both tell me I’m not on the box. I can’t tell what they mean about the box, but this one is clearly not the winner.
Capezio #2 The Tendu II. Tapered box, looks nice. My feet look correct walking, plié and up! And I’m not quite situated correctly, it’s a much narrower box, which means a smaller contact with the floor, but it’s agreed that this might be a good shoe for a future, more experienced me.
It’s now 3:00. We try the European Balance again. Pink, 6, 2X. It’s the winner. We all high-five each other and go out for a drink.
Too long; didn’t read: Adult Beginner tried on every shoe in the house, they were all suckas except the Bloch European Balance.