Ballet Shoe Basics

Choosing a pair of ballet shoes is very exciting but you must remember there are many elements to consider. The type of fabric used for the upper, the size, the type of sole, and most importantly, how well the shoe fits.

The fit of the shoe is by far the most important. Whilst its important for your ballet shoes to look good, they must also be functional and fitting them is very different to fitting a pair of street shoes. As a rule of thumb, ballet shoes tend to be small fitting so you should go up between one and two sizes to your everyday shoe. To check for the correct fit of the shoe, put on your ballet shoe and stand with one leg forward, toe pointed with the tip touching the floor. There should be ample space for you to be able to pinch the shoe at the back of the pointed foot. You should also be able to move your toes around a little without them being jammed into the end of the shoe. If you’re torn between two sizes, it’s usually advisable to go for the slightly bigger size.

The three main fabrics out of which ballet shoes are manufactured are leather, canvas and satin. Satin is a very beautiful fabric and its shiny appearance makes it very aesthetically pleasing. However, ballet classes put a lot of strain on ballet shoes and this type of fabric is not very hard wearing so should really only be used for performances or exams. Canvas is the cheapest fabric and also the easiest to clean but they do not always give the best line to the foot. Leather, on the other hand, is both aesthetically pleasing, gives a good line to the foot and is also very hard wearing. They tend to mould to the shape of the foot making them very comfortable and as leather is breathable, they don’t sweat the feet either. However, such a high performing fabric does come at a price as it’s the most expensive of the three.

Ballet shoes are held in place with either ribbons or elastics. Elastic is the most practical and therefore the most popular. The elastics, however, do not usually come attached to the shoe as they need to be in a slightly different place for each dancer depending on the shape of their foot. Though ribbons are the accepted traditional method and look very attractive, tying them can be very fiddly which makes them far less popular.

Ballet shoes are available with two different types of sole – full sole or split sole. As the name suggests, a full sole ballet shoe has a sole which covers the length of the entire foot from the ball to the heel. A split sole on the other hand has a break in the middle. Full sole ballet shoes are mainly used for beginners as they offer extra support and also force the muscles in the foot to work harder to achieve pointe. This means that when the dancer advances to split sole shoes which allow for greater flexibility of the foot, their foot has developed an elegant arch.

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