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What makes a pointe shoe break?


Jellybeans
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This is a spinn off from the thread about how long shoes last as it was probably lost in there!

 

What is it exactly that breaks a pointe shoe? I know that poor technique can make a shoe break/wear out in certain ways, but what causes what, exactly? Does the way you dance effect the life of the shoe as well as the amount you dance? Does the fit of the shoe have anything to do with it?

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For my daughter, the box of the shoe becomes 'soggy' and soft therefore eventually not supporting her when she goes up on point. Her shoes go this way from using the shoes continually. For her it is nothing to do with fitting or technique, just the life of the shoe is finished.

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I agree Tulip. Pointe shoes made of traditional material (paper, card, leather, burlap etc.) have a shorter life than Gaynors or similarly made Blochs purely because hardworking feet sweat en pointe, moistening and softening the box of the shoe, and making it "mushy". Shoes like Gaynors have a one piece box and shank made of a plastic-like material so it stands to reason that this will stand up to sweat better.

 

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It can be a number of things. A broken (worn out) pointe shoe most often means a broken shank and/or a soft box or the shank separating from the body of the shoe. I've also seen splitting side and heel seams.

 

A good fit helps both the dancer and extends the life of the shoe. A strong technique helps too. Alternating pairs helps as well as letting them dry out thoroughly between use.

 

How the shoe is made is a factor and those made by hand will be different every time.

 

I've had some shoes last only a few minutes (seams split - obviously a defective shoe) and one miraculous pair that lasted for six months of heavy use. Strangley, I bought that pair in an "emergency" - and they were of a style that was definitely the opposite of what my foot needed. I tried another pair of that style and they didn't work at all.

 

The life of the shoe can be extended by alternating with other pairs. Also - remember that there are no lefts and rights in ballet slippers or pointe shoes, so if you switch them regularly this, too, will help the shoe last. And, you can take the odd one that hasn't broken and pair it up with the odd one of another pair and create a new pair.

 

As for GMs - if they don't absorb moisture (sweat) does that affect the skin of the foot?

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they do absorb sweat. My DD has seriously sweaty feet and her feet don't get wet or anything in her GMs!

 

Is it the satin and/or cotton lining that absorbs sweat in Gaynors, pups_mum? I'm guessing the actual shank and box don't though?

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Anjuli, I was particularly interested to know if there are any particular technique issues that cause the shoe to break in any particular way.

 

The ideal is for the platform to be in total contact - squarely in contact - with the floor. A stance in which the platform is either too forward, hanging back, or off to one side or another will not only cause the dancer grief, but cause uneven wear on the shoe and thus stress its structure.

 

A foot which needs to depend upon the shoe for support greater than normal will unduly stress the structure of the shoe. The shoe lends support - but should not be the major support.

 

The foot and shoe need to be seen as one organism - one implement - one tool - not two separate entities.

 

It's sort of like an automobile and its tires. The automobile is able to stand erect on its own and provides power to move. The tire - though filled with air, cannot move productively on its own but it can allow the auto to move. Both tires and auto need to work together - fit one another. Each contributes somethng. if the tires are not aligned correctly they will wear out more quickly. If the tires are not strong enough they will not hold up the auto - but if the auto is not strong enough to provide power - the tires will not move.

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Can you tell by looking, either at the dancer or the shoe, if the shoe is giving too much support, and if so how? Is this what is meant by sinking into the shoe?

 

Sinking into the shoe is a good example. Also if the shank is too stiff it will impede the rise to pointe as well as the descent from pointe.

 

Whenever movement takes place - whether it is a foot - a shoe - or a rubber band, there is always the push/pull of needing enough flexibility to move whilst having enough strength to impel and/or maintain the movement. That is the cruz of the problem. A too stiff/supportive shoe or a too inflexible a foot is as problematic as when either is too flexible/not supportive. Since most people have either a bit too much of one (flexibility) or the other (inflexibility, though this is a stronger construction), the shoe needs to supply (as much as possible) the bit that is lacking. Thus, a very soft foot (high flexibility) needs a stronger shank while a stiffer (but stronger foot) needs a shoe with a less supportive shank.

 

I found that it was usually recommended that a beginner be put into a highly supportive pointe shoe. I disagree with this. I don't think a beginner needs more support because they usually don't have a problem staying on pointe - it's getting up to pointe which tends to be more of a problem. I think a beginner should not be fitted with a shoe which will impede the rise to pointe - or a smooth descent.

 

One should choose a shoe based on the foot - not based on whether one is a beginner or not. Time is not the problem - the working of the foot is.

 

A student who sinks into the shoe - and has difficulty with that for some time even after the concept is understood and worked upon - is not ready for pointe. Finding a super supportive shoe is not going to correct the problem.

 

I hope I understood your question. :)

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Well, I was kind of wondering how you know these things are happening by looking at the shoe and/or the dancer while en pointe!

 

It is indeed by looking at both - shoe, dancer - and how the two come together - how one uses - aids or impedes - the other.

 

One of the ways one teaches ballet is by entering the student's body. This is almost impossible to explain - but you know it when it happens. The teacher sees the student externally - from a distance - but also internally. When I was teaching, I could "feel" where the student was - the impulse of the body, the force or lack of force, the stance, the core of balance, the weight distribution, the verticality, even the excitement/eagerness, or lack thereof. Hesitancy. It's almost like entering another person's skin and mind. Yes, it is also a mental (think Spock from Star Trek) mind meld.

 

Sounds goofy -- but it is a reality.

 

And - at the same time it is as mundane as looking at how the shoe has worn - the eveness of wear on the platform of the shoe. Look at the dirt marks on the platform - wear do they occur? How markedly different are they from one foot to the other?

 

Now look at the marks (dirt) on the satin on the big toe side of the wings of the vamp. If the dancer stands on one foot whilst the other is pointed behind her - that is the part of the shoe which comes into contact with the floor. That back pointed foot while touching the floor should have no - or very little - weight on it. However, if it is very heavily marked - then she may be putting too much weight on it which means she is not keeping her weight forward on the supporting leg.

 

One can also look at a worn shoe and see how the "last" of the shoe has been skewed to accomodate the foot. A twisted last means a twisted foot.

 

Look at your well worn street shoes - examine the wear on the heel. How off center is it? How about the toe tip of the shoe - is the wear slightly off to one side or the other? Now line the shoes up - is one skewed off center? (the degree of this also depends on the flexibility of the sole - obviously an inflexible shoe will not warp as much as a more flexible one).

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