Pointe Shoe History

In 1681, all ballet shoes had heels, making large leaps and turns difficult or impossible. Mid-18th Century, Marie Camargo (Paris Opera Ballet) wore the first non-heeled ballet shoe, which let her do more complicated things. In 1795, Charles Didelot created the first "pointe shoe"- which lifted dancers up and on to their full pointe before leaving the ground. Anna Pavlova, who had an especially flexible instep, inserted tough leather soles and softened and flattened the boxes. This made dancing easier and safer for her, because of her arched feet, but many of her fellow dancers thought of it as "cheating" Pierina Leqnani created the box at the end of the shoe, made of layers of fabric that made for a sturdier, more stiff sole. They were also put together with nails and since they were only stiffened at the toe, they were quiter than the usual pointe shoe.

Anatomy of the Pointe Shoe

Everyone has different feet. That why when making pointe shoes, each one is created, handmade, for a different type of foot. From shoes with soft shanks, tapered boxes, and high vamps, each cobbler makes their shoe differently. So what are tall the different aspects that make each pointe shoe unique? And what are they even made of, anyways?


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The box of a pointe shoe is made of hard, layered paper glued together that support the feet when going on pointe. They are covered in a layer of pink satin that most dancers cut off, as to prevent the sliding the slippery satin causes. The vamp is also part of the box, and is basically how far up the shoe goes on your foot.


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The sole of the pointe shoe is just like the sole of a regular shoe, except it's made of leather and is usually very thin and small, in an attempt to be inconspicuous. The sole of a pointe shoe is very important beacause it holds the shoe together. Without the sole, the pointe shoe is just a pile of satin!


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The shank of the shoe is one of the main differences between pointe shoes.Their strength varies from shoe to shoe. For instance, a dancer with very flexible feet will want a shoe with a strong shank for lots of support, and vice versa. The size and shape of the shank will vary from brand to brand and maker to maker, also. For example, the shoes can have full shanks, or they can have 3/4 or even 1/2 length shanks, and be long and thinner to thicker and shorter.

An especially useful thing about different size, shape, and strength shape is that they can be helpful in different types of choreography. In a piece with lots of aggressive turns and large jumps, a dancer would want a shoe with a strong shank for extra support, wheres in a softer piece with more adagio steps , a dancer would prefer a shoe with a softer shank.

Ribbons and elastic band

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The ribbons and elastic band secure the shoe to the foot, so it doesn't come off when a performer is doing complicated choreography! The shoes don't come with the ribbons and elastic attached, so each dancer has to sew the ribbons and elastics on her/his own shoes. This can be a it tricky at first, but helps the shoes to fit you better and becomes a second nature quickly.