by Julie Diana

“I slept in my first pair of pointe shoes. At least, I tried to sleep in them. I actually woke up in the middle of the night, ripped the Capezio Pavlovas off of my throbbing feet and threw them to the floor. But this painful (and silly) episode didn’t dampen my excitement about finally learning to dance on pointe.

The next morning, I picked up those coveted shoes and practically ran to ballet class.

If you’ve just earned your first pair of pointe shoes, you’re probably as eager as I was to put them on and dance all of Swan Lake. But before you do, take a moment to read this guide for beginners. DS gathered advice from leading professionals about the way your shoes should fit, how you can shape them to your feet, and what exercises you can do to strengthen your toes and help prevent injury.

The Perfect Fit

Mary Carpenter, a professional shoe fitter in New York with over 17 years of experience, recommends following these guidelines for a successful first fit:

Make sure you go to a knowledgeable fitter and ask your teacher to accompany you, if possible. (If your teacher can’t go with you, show her the new pair before sewing on your ribbons and elastics.)
Bring whatever padding you plan to wear inside your shoes with you to the fitting. (Ask your teacher about proper padding and check out [ital: DS]’s tips in the sidebar.)

A properly fitted shoe should feel snug when you’re standing flat, with the toes touching the inside of the box—but toes should be straight, not crunched.

If you have narrow feet with long first toes, look for tapered shoes with very low profiles, or “crowns.” If you have wide feet with a long second toe or wide feet with even toes, look for a square-shaped box.

High arches need supportive shanks, but you should have enough strength to stand on your own without being propped up by the shoe.
Expect to spend 45 minutes to an hour at your first fitting and to try on many different kinds of shoes. “Your feet are just as idiosyncratic as the way your face looks,” Carpenter says. “Everybody’s face is different, and everybody’s feet are just as different.””

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