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Paleblueleotard

Pointe shoe shopping in London

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We’re heading to London for DD’s first pair of pointe shoes. A very exciting rite of passage as I must admit I am a bit jealous as I never had the opportunity to go en pointe when I did ballet way back when.

 

 Am I right in thinking Dancia, Bloch and Freed are the places we should go to? Would it be better to go to Dancia first as an over view as such and then if they suggest Bloch or Freed shoes, to go to the specific brand shops? Are there any other dance shops worth trying in central London? 

 

Any other first pair shopping tips?  Should we get elastic and ribbon or see what the fitters suggest? Does one generally get ouch pouches for first shoes or try starting off with lambs wool or something else?

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Personally, I would start in Dancia. They have a range of shoes including Bloch so you can take your time and see which shoes suit your Dd’s feet best. They give very good fitting advice and service. You might then want to put some aside while you truck down the road to Freeds, as they will have the full range, just in case they are the perfect shoes for her. Bloch has never been amazing when it comes to service in my opinion. The shoes should be fitted with the pouches from the beginning. Most dancers wear pouches, but of course there are some who like wool etc. We have always used the fabric pouches as they absorb sweat and allow the dancer to feel their toes in the shoe. Most teachers are happy for dancers to wear pouches but I do know an RBS associate teacher who isn’t, so worth checking with your teacher first. The elastic is only necessary if the perfect shoe falls off the heel which is hard to determine in a first fitting. Ideally you shouldn’t need it at all but best to have some at home just in case. Ask plenty questions about the correct way to sew the ribbons and elastic as they should be giving the foot plenty support.

Top tip is to leave plenty of time for fittings and to remember that it takes many years to find the perfect shoes. What is perfect for a first pair is unlikely to be the ideal 3rd pair and so it goes on. We are only just getting it right 3 yrs down the road! Getting a good fitter is the most important thing! Have fun!

 

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Don't forget Capezio in Endell St

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Go early for your pointe shoe fitting rather than walking round for a while beforehand, feet change shape as they warm up.

Expect to wait especially as it is school holidays. Our last, unsuccessful, fitting at Bloch we had to make an appointment that they made no effort to fulfil but wouldn’t see Dd without. Don’t assume that if Dancia suggest a Bloch shoe the Bloch shop will have it.

  Take convertible ballet tights to wear for fittings. Purchase toe protection in first shop and use for every fitting. Make sure toe nails are short. 

 

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1 hour ago, LinMM said:

Don't forget Capezio in Endell St

 

Unless things have changed drastically in the last few years, I wouldn’t recommend Capezio for pointe shoe fittings; especially first shoes.

 

My first stop would be Freed but like all the dance shops in London, the less experienced fitters should probably be avoided when a student is just starting out en pointe.  In Freed I would always ask for Sophie or Beth or, failing that, a Senior Fitter.  If you phone the shop the day before they can usually tell you who will be in when you visit.

 

Dancia is great because of the sheer number of shoe manufacturers that they stock, including Bloch, Grishko, Merlet and Gaynor Minden (although the price of the latter means they are not ideal for beginners who will probably outgrow their first few pairs of pointes long before they’re worn out).  Again, my dd has had some very good fittings and some poor fittings at Dancia and at Bloch.  

 

Bloch has a huge range of shoes too but I believe you do have to have an appointment there so don’t risk just turning up.  

 

The main thing to remember is that you don’t have to buy the first pair or even the fifth pair in the first shop you visit.  You can say you have another appointment but could they write down the make/model/width and size for you so that you can come back.  

 

If your daughter is really struggling to get over onto the platform then she probably needs a softer shank or shorter vamp; if she looks as if she’s going over too far or “falling out” of the shoe then the opposite applies.  The fitter should ask her to do a demi-plié in the shoes to see where her toes go to.  

 

Finally, buy ribbons and whatever padding she is wearing when the shoe is fitted BUT don’t sew the ribbons on or let your dd wear them around the house until her teacher has checked them.  

 

Good luck and enjoy! 

 

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Thanks Anna ....I have no idea about individual fitters in the different shops and how good they are etc. but obviously if you do then stick with them! 

 

 

 

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Couldn’t agree more with Anna C regarding Beth at Freeds. What you want, is not just a brand new, shiny pair of pointe shoes, but a complete understanding of your Dds feet - shape, arches, insteps,

shallow heel, any bumps and bulges etc, which will help you to narrow down the brand that suits best.

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Thank you, this is all really helpful, I really appreciate your advice! Will allow several hours for shoe shopping and ask for those fitters at Freed and book a Bloch appt, so we can make the best decision. 

 

DD has wide feet so it’s always been a real challenge when shopping for normal shoes right from her first pair of baby shoes, so I’m hoping we do ok!

 

Have looked up up a few general pointe shoe websites so am vaguely familiar with the shoe part terminology now.

 

Teacher hasn’t specified any brands or padding as I think she’s happy for what works for DD which helps. Will definitely wait to sew on ribbons though! Good tip re buying padding at the first shop.

 

I assume Capezio sell mainly their own brand of shoes? I’ve not really heard of them as a brand of pointe shoes.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Paleblueleotard said:

 

DD has wide feet so it’s always been a real challenge when shopping for normal shoes right from her first pair of baby shoes, so I’m hoping we do ok!

DD also has incredibly wide feet, and her first pair of pointe shoes were blochs. Can't remember style though! Sorry! 

I wish all dance shoes came with such a choice and variety of size/width/etc! 

( in fact, i wish all shoes came in such a wide range of choice! ) 

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My dd (now at uni) has wide metatarsals and wears both Freed and Gaynor Minden, having had bad experiences with Grishko and then both good and bad with Bloch in her first couple of years en pointe.   I think she had Bloch Jetstream and Bloch Hannah at some point which were good.  

 

Capezio do sell their own shoes but the shop staff are always ex jazz/tap dancers and we’ve never had any luck finding anyone in there who knows about or has experience with pointework.  Good shop for leotards and Bunheads accessories though! 

 

It would be lovely to only need one make and model of shoe forever but your feet change as they grow and as you do more pointework so you might find yourself shopping around every so often until feet stop growing and your dd gets to know what feels right and what doesn’t.  

 

Dd’s best fittings have been with Michelle (now retired), Beth and Sophie at Freed and Sheila at Just Ballet (now in Wisbech) for Gaynors.  I always think the first few years of pointe shoes are a bit like double glazing; it’s all down to the fitters!  

 

It does all get much easier as dds get older; for quite a few years now dd has been fitting herself in Dancia and re-ordering her own shoes in Freed.   Enjoy the shared shopping experience while it lasts! ☺️

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Agree Capezio is very good for lots of other Dance accessories ...they have a lovely range of ballet skirts just now ...and for the older dancer too! So nice for a bit of a ballet browse!

 

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Dd2 had a good fitting in Capezio by a man called Diva. Sadly, she outgrew them a month later. I have never had a good fitting in Dancia. I always find they try to sell pointe shoes that are too big.

We always go to Dancique in Birmingham. They stock a very wide range and have knowledgeable fitters. You could go shopping there instead? It is a short walk from there to the Bullring.

 

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I've never been fit in London, but I can absolutely highly recommend Dancique in Birmingham and The Dance Shop Edinburgh in Edinburgh! If anyone finds themselves in those areas 😂

Very knowledgeable and caring fitters, and a huge range of lovely leotards too!

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Posted (edited)

I watched this Youtube video recently by Kathryn Morgan (who says she has wide feet and wore pointe shoes that were too narrow for years, even as a professional). Even though it's under the name of Suffolk, she talks quite generally about the importance of getting box/vamp/profile right — and has a handy tip about checking the shank.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7TLF2PxkIs

 

I would also add that any fitter should be looking at the feet with no shoes on first, and seeing how they spread/compress as the dancer rises to demi-pointe. If they don't, it's like a hairdresser trying to cut your hair when they've only seen it after it's been washed!

Edited by Cara in NZ
Didn't quite make sense!
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Thanks for all your tips and suggestions the other day. I thought I’d report back now we’ve acquired DD’s first pair of pointe shoes! We’ve been watching Kathryn Morgan (thanks Cara) and other you tube videos by Lisa Howell and by various other dancers and experts since!

 

We ended up doing the rounds which seemed to take most of the day. We went to Dancia first which was good and they came up with some Blochs that were ok (also tried Merlet and Grishko but they were not so great although early on in the day DD didn’t know what felt right or not as everything felt strange and new), but given that was just the first shop out of several, we kept on looking. Next we went to Capezio where we had no no joy in spite of DD liking the snugger fitting elastic edge rather than drawstring on some of the shoes; however the fitter was lovely and very thorough. Then we visited Freed and lastly went to Bloch.

 

It was hard to compare all the shops really as they all had fitters who had a slightly different idea about things and thus different focus on what to look for or what might be best for a beginner. As DD and I had no clue it was a case of trusting that they are right and that what feels ok on DD in a shop works to dance in as well, as surely an unbroken in shoe feels very different to a broken in one?  

 

All the fitters were really thorough, and it was really impressive the way they could just look at her feet and instantly work out her size, a suitable style and also gauge the correct width pretty accurately. If only normal shoe shops were as detailed in their assessments and variety of products! When we said the teacher hadn’t specified padding, some fitters offered a variety of padding, whereas the lady at Freed was keen to suggest lambs wool for beginners and very anti anything else for beginners, although did also show us thinner pro pads. Freed had a senior fitter/manager available which was great as she really knew her stuff (while in the shop there was a stream of very professional looking dancers buying shoes as well which was interesting), whereas the other fitters elsewhere were a bit more junior ones, but also really competent.

 

It seems DD has wide, square, peasant feet with a bit of a taper but they are more square than tapered apparently. Also we discovered they all instantly could pick her stronger leg/ankle and said she has good Achilles so that was encouraging.

 

She ended up with Bloch European Balance strong and pro pads as they were the most comfortable and supportive as others were either too tapered and uncomfortable or had too much room. We are still trying to work out how to break them in at home (as teacher is ok if the shop is ok as such). Seems to be a lot of shoe you tube hacks for the more advanced dancer but our plan is just to wear them around with socks to start with as we don’t want to do anything drastic. Although given the shank is a strong one they are not really softening much as yet and we are scared to try flexing them too much in case they snap!

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DDs teacher says NOT to 'break in' your first pointe shoes, because until you dance in them, you don't know how they feel/should feel. They should have been correctly fitted and will be fine to dance in as they are. If they need to soften too much, then you should have been fitted with a 'softer' ( not sure If that is the technical term! ) shank. DD liked the firmer shank, but the fitter and DDs teacher said a firmer shank would do all the work for her, and she needed to learn it for herself and then she could have a firmer shank.

DD has not done anything other than dance in her shoes/ or practice exercises at the bar. She was also encouraged NOT to wear them around the house etc as that can apparently shorten the life of the Pointe shoe. 

 

I know nothing particuarly about pointe shoes, just what we have been advised.

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I think it’s one of those things that teachers have OPINIONS on. My policy is do what I’m told by my teacher until I eventually work out what’s going on myself.

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Sounds good! I believe Bloch often work best for wider feet. But your DD will gradually figure out what works for her, with the help of her teachers. My DD went through 5 styles in 4 years without ever finding the perfect pair. We were told just to wear them round the house with socks at first so that the feet warm them up and they mould to the feet a bit better. But don't try any dancing at home in them to start with! Good luck with it!

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Pro pads are very good.  Out of interest, what shoe did they suggest in Freed; can you remember?

 

Sounds as if you had a very good and productive day!  Well done.

 

Yes, wearing them round the house with non-slip socks over the top is perfect; the heat from your dd’s feet will soften the shoes.  

However, do make sure your dd is VERY careful on stairs and please tell her NO going en pointe at home!  It will be very tempting but she must resist and only go en pointe in class under supervision.

 

Hopefully the shoes will be fine; with a strong shank she may outgrow them before truly breaking them in.  For her next few pairs, don’t assume that the same shoe will be fine again as her feet will change as she progresses en pointe. 

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Sounds like you had an interesting and successful day! Breaking in pointe shoes is a bit like buying them in that it is an ever evolving process. As others have said, people/ teachers have very different ideas and I’m certainly not going to advise you on this as it’s personal to every dancer. Several years down the line your Dd will know how she likes her pointe shoe to feel on a first wearing and how to achieve it but for now it’s trial and error and picking up tips as she goes.

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Thanks. Yes she is being very careful on the stairs and also sensible thankfully re not trying anything en pointe. She’s taking it very seriously which is a good start. Sounds like we will need to shop around for subsequent (different) pairs for the next year or two, so more trips into London! Must say I now can’t wait for watching week at the end of term!

 

Anna, we don’t recall the name unfortunately and looking at the Freed website the style names all seem a bit similar which doesn’t help. After having a look at DD’s feet and seeing her plié and stand on Demi pointe, the fitter lady just made a judgement and brought out a good pair first time, and then got a second pair in the same style with a slightly better snugger fit. 

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