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How to maintain your pointe shoes?

The first pair of pointe shoes is a sacred moment. It embodies the mastery and maturity of the technique. Nothing is more rewarding than putting them on.

However, the long-awaited first rehearsal can turn into a nightmare. The tape cracks, the elastic does not hold the liner and the latter becomes a painful clog that is not very malleable and unsightly. We then hurry to bend the sole and crush the upper to get back on it as quickly as possible. The steps follow one another and the feet cause less pain. But the slippers no longer have the sparkle or beauty of the first day. They no longer support the feet, they degrade the dance and lower morale.

The dream will not last long. This is the particularity of the pointe shoes. Its lifespan certainly depends on its quality but also on its maintenance and especially on the foot that puts it on. Like a ballet, we weave through the acts a preparation and maintenance of them.

The prologue - The preparation of the points

The prelude to mastering pointe shoes is sewing. An introduction often relegated to our mothers, or even to the neighborhood alterations shop...

Where to place your ribbons?

The back of the liner or the fabric is folded inside the liner. The location of the ribbons is at the level of the fold, on both sides.

The stitches are small and form a square on the end of the ribbon as well as inside the slipper.

For lovers of the sewing machine, use the sewing stitch or the zigzag stitch. However, the seam must not prevent the drawstring from sliding.

And the elastic?

The addition of rubber bands is necessary to hold the liner in place. They are usually located at the back of the liner and wrap around the ankle. They can also be sewn crosswise as on the slippers. The stitches can be made on the outside of the liner to avoid any risk of chafing. For dancers who do not want ribbons, the shoe can only be held in place by rubber bands. Provide elastics of a substantial width sewn crosswise and a third wrapping the ankle.

What material to use?

Satin will catch the light on the instep, but sometimes it's less convenient to tie. For cotton, the clip will be more practical but the color often less natural. For the elastics, keep in mind that they should not spoil the aesthetics of the ribbons overlapping the ankle.

Depending on the material, the ribbon can sometimes be ironed. The ends of the ribbons are cut diagonally. If the fabric begins to fray, the flame of a lighter or the brush of a varnish is welcome. Once the tip is perfectly laced, the excess ribbon is cut so as to slip the end under the tie.

How to personalize your ribbons?

To allow the fastener not to compress the ankle, an elastic of the same width is sewn to the slipper for about 2 centimeters and followed by the ribbon. In the same idea, an elastic can be sewn to half of the ribbon about 15 centimeters from the start. It will be located at the attachment on the Achilles tendon to reduce the risk of tendonitis, as in the photo above.

How to hide the small ends of the ribbons once tied?

To prevent the ends of the ribbons from coming out during a performance, there are various tricks such as making a small stitch, sticking a small adhesive plaster over the knot, putting hairspray... You must also hide the knot located in top of the vamp, called drawstring. If you don't want to cut them after tying them, secure them with a sticking plaster inside the slipper.

Soften your tips

Fitted and laced, pointe shoes remind us of their particularity: hardness. So we break them, we break them, we bend them, we crush them... This consists of softening the materials of the tip to make it more comfortable.

Depending on experience and foot strength, this step will be of little or no importance. Similarly, depending on the brand of shoes, a simple course will suffice to shape them. Talk to your teacher about it.

The main step is to model the liner and acquire the slippers. To do this, push your foot hard on the 1/2 pointes or chain the statements on 1/2 pointes. The passage through the latter should be easy.

The foot heats up, sweats, the tip softens creating the shape of the toes. The foot creates its space, begins to feel the ground and the weight of the body. You can also put on your pointe shoes at home. Covered with big socks so as not to damage them, go about your business.

The crushing of the shell and the bending of the sole are also possible but depend a lot on your choice of tip types. The possibilities and forms are more and more diverse. If the "breaking" takes time or is too important, the choice of pointe shoes should be reviewed. You don't have to support your shoes, just wear them.

Take care of your pointe shoes

As time goes by, the satin on the toe gets damaged. You can cut it as you go or remove it all around the platform.

In this case, varnish the edges. The end can be personalized, either by a glued leather tip or by embroidering it.

How to embroider your shoes tips?

The embroidery of the tip is for some of haute couture. A flick of the wrist is to be taken. Despite the ease of the stitch, its realization takes some time.

You need a large tapestry-type needle with a point and a fairly thick cotton thread. Tie a knot at the end of the thread.

  1. Plant the needle at the end of the platform of your slipper, from the bottom to the top.

  2. Loop from right to left. The needle will be inside the loop.

  3. Then poke the needle from the bottom up next to the previous stitch.

  4. Pull the thread and repeat the operation.

  5. Conceal the stopper knot of a point and cut the excess of the first knot once the seam is complete (technique performed by a right-hander). You can perform it around the platform, in a spiral or in a line.

Embroidery can also be done on the top of the shoe to enlarge the upper of the shoe and hug the foot better. With the same yarn, sew from right to left to form a web. On one side the stitch will be made over, on the other under. Attention: the embroidery is an addition on the toe, it will modify the aesthetics of your shoe.

How to clean your pointe shoes?

The satin of the shoe attracts light but also traces. To clean it, rub with a cotton ball soaked in acetone. Other dancers prefer to mattify their tips, either to adjust them to the color of the tights or to wear them bare-legged. Think of powder or compact makeup to optimize the color of the tip. There are now spikes with a fabric coating.

Similarly, there are color tips. You can dye them yourself with fabric spray. In this case, take a 1/2 size above because the product can shrink the fabric.

And the sole?

If your shoes are slippery on the flat, make small notches on the outsole with a cutter.

If the insole hurts you, hinders you or prevents you from feeling the fulcrum at heel height, you can cut it, always inside the liner and to the length of your heel.

To do this, peel off the very thin insole which reveals a hard insole. Cut it on the first 2 to 3 centimeters (no more) using a cutter and sand the end of the sole to have a less rough effect under the foot. Test and recut if necessary. This operation is impossible on plastic soles.

Epilogue - Keep your tips as long as possible

You have to dance the prologue and the actual act. The white act can be followed behind the scenes. But the return to the scene for the epilogue is essential.

Pointe shoes require attention after each use. They need to be airy because the glue, the heat and the perspiration of the foot soften the liner. Leave your ends in the open air or in the refrigerator. You can also stuff them with paper (toilet, kitchen or newspaper).

Depending on the shape of your foot, favor the alternation between the right and left slipper. Similarly, alternate your pairs.

When your shoes are sufficiently softened and comfortable, you can consider varnishing them. Wood varnish or hardener will be applied inside the liner on the sole and/or on the toe of the liner. You can also use Super Glue.

Before applying these products, check that there are no impurities, cotton or other remains. Do not impregnate the satin of the rear part of the slipper so as not to stain it. When drying, you can leave the slippers flat, or on the end against the wall.

Each dancer experiences over time the best preparation of slippers according to her tastes, her foot and her way of working. You are the only person who feels what is right for you.

Personal advice from Julie Charlet, Soloist at the Ballet du Capitole.

"If I have the impression that my tips are a bit fragile when I receive them, I sometimes put them in the oven for a bit. 60°C, no more!

More traditionally, I start by sewing the ribbons and rubber bands. Then I cut the insole at the heel for more comfort on a flat foot.

I varnish the inside of the slipper (sole and upper) so that they stay hard as long as possible, then I let them dry for a few days.

Before putting them on for the first time, I soften them at the heel and demi-pointe.

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