How to Know When Pointe Shoes are Dead

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Hi Dancers! Today I’m going to be talking about how to know if your pointe shoes are dead. One of the questions I get asked the most is “how long do pointe shoes last?” The answer to that question depends on a ton of different factors like: how often you are dancing en pointe, how strong your feet are, what brand/style of shoe you wear, how well you take care of your shoes, etc. The standard answer I give is that traditional paper-and-paste style pointe shoes typically last between 8 and 20 hours. Now, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but most young dancers who are new to pointe will most likely outgrow their shoes before they die.
So, what does “dead” mean in terms of pointe shoes? It basically means that some part of the shoe has gotten so soft that it is no longer offering the support needed to dance in the shoe. Traditional pointe shoes are made of layers of materials (like burlap or cardstock) held together with paste and covered in satin. Think of it kind of like paper mâché. This breaks down over time with use and sweat.
Certain parts of the shoe tend to die before others, depending on your foot, the shoe, and what kind of dancing you are doing. Oftentimes, the shank is the first part to die. You’ll know your shank has died if it becomes so soft that it is making it extremely difficult to rise to a relevé, or you are popping too far over the box of the shoe because the shank is no longer holding you. This is a really great way to sprain an ankle or pull the ligaments on the top of the foot.
The box of the shoe also tends to give out before other parts. You’ll know your box is dead when it becomes so mushy that it isn’t offering you any lateral support and you are sinking in to the shoe. This can put unnecessary pressure on your longest toe and can lead to bruised toenails as well as blisters on the sides of your feet caused by the chaffing of the foot slipping too far in to the shoe.
What I’ve talked about so far goes for traditionally made pointe shoes. Something like a Gaynor Minden or a So Danca Elektra is a little different. These shoes usually last 2-3 times longer than traditional pointe shoes because they are not made of layer natural materials. Gaynors, for example, are made of a flexible polymer. The shank and box are one piece of polymer and the stiffness does not change or break down over time. That is why it is extremely important to get the proper shank strength in Gaynors: they do not break in. The satin in this kind of shoe is bonded (as opposed to hung satin on traditional shoes) and it provides a lot of lateral support. The Elektra by So Danca is similar in that the shoe is made with a thermoplastic that does not deteriorate over time. While both of these shoes last longer than traditional pointe shoes, they aren’t bionic and will eventually need to be replaced. You’ll usually know these shoes are dead when the satin has begun to break down and you begin sinking in the shoes OR the satin has gotten so beat up that the shoes are not longer aesthetically fit for performance.
Dancing on dead shoes can be dangerous and lead to injury. Always take care of your shoes and replace them when they become too soft for safety. Happy dancing!

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