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Soft blocks or de-shanked pointe shoes?


Anna C
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Evening all! :-)

 

The dance physio has advised my dd to start wearing soft blocks for all her classes (except pointe, obviously) and as money is somewhat tight, I have successfully de-shanked a pair of pointe shoes which were just grown out of. They were fine in the length but just a little too narrow for pointework with ouch pouch pro pads.

 

They fit perfectly as soft blocks, but the teacher has said that they are very hard in the box, and that we should shut them in a door or in a vice, to soften the box.

 

Never having bought a "real" pair of soft blocks, I was wondering how much softer they are in the box than de-shanked pointes. Is there a big difference?

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I've never de-shanked any pointe shoes so can't make a direct comparison but my DD's soft blocks (Bloch) have always been far from soft when we've got them. We've always had to bash the boxes quite a lot to soften them up, so I'd hazard a guess that there's not much difference. In fact I'd think that a pair of well worn pointe shoes might well be softer. Good for you for successfully de-shanking, was it difficult?

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When I was training we didn't have a choice! We would never have thrown a pair of pointe shoes out, always went on to use them as soft blocks. I used to put mine in the door or smash them up with a large hammer. If you put the pointe shoe in an old sock you won't mark the satin.

Enjoy ;)

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Thanks both! They were surprisingly easy to de-shank; they are one of the Bloch models where the shank and innersole are only glued to the first 3/4 of the shoe - the very back is intentionally left to come away slightly. That meant that once I'd got the nails out (and used a bit of brute force at the front!) everything came out very neatly. :-)

 

It's because DD's teacher refers to them as "the very hard softblocks" that I wondered if "real" softblocks are in fact much softer!

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When I deshanked my pointe shoes to use instead of slippers I removed the shank (as you mentioned). Then I took the round head of a hammer and pounded away at the box (which was really quite soft by then). Next I got a thin foam rubber insole (like Dr. Scholl's) and placed inside because after I had removed the shank the inside was rather rough.

 

How soft you make the box is up to you. By the time I got done with a pair of pointe shoes - and then using them as slippers - they were literally ragged. At the very end I took the ribbons off, washed and ironed them and used on the next pair of pointe shoes. Some of my ribbons were decades old.

 

Some shoes have a glued shank, some a nailed shank and some a bit of both. The nailed ones are a bit trickier - especially if the nails occur at the toe end. However, my husband showed me that if I put a pliers - slightly open under the nail head and then hammer - the nail will pop out. Well, it worked for me - but it was much easier to go bake something while he was doing it. (Husbands are good that way!) Since it will be 50 yrs this June for us- I guess he didn't mind!

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Soft blocks are hard when you buy them but the layers of fabric and glue are much thinner so they soften more quickly. Or at least that was the case when I had them years ago! I deshanked points shoes too and banged them with a mallet (after covering with a towel!). They never went as soft as proper soft block ended up though, especially under the box where the pleats are because the fabric and glue were so dense there. I'd say deshanked pointe shoes are fine but would go for proper ones if needed for an exam.

 

Out of interest, why has the Physio recommended them?

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Soft blocks are very hard initially but after use they do end up as flexible as regular satin shoes.

 

I have deshanked a couple of pairs of old pointe shoes for my daughter, placed a tea towel over them and then bashed them with a heavy hammer a few times just to get things started. Seems to do the trick!

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Wow, thanks everyone! Firstly...why has the physio recommended them - because dd is very hypermobile and while she has fantastic strength in her core and back, she is weak in her feet and the backs of her legs. She's given dd a rigorous exercise regime which has made massive improvements so far. :-)

 

The physio asked to see dd in pointe shoes and flat shoes and told us to give the splitsoles to the dog to play with (!) and that unless you already have very strong feet, they give the foot nothing to work against. She said that the rigid sole of a softblock gives the foot a surface to work against and that even balancing in them in adage work is more difficult and will help strengthen feet, ankles, legs and core. So dd is wearing them for both grade 6 and Intermediate classes now.

 

I do intend to buy her a "real" pair of softblocks for the exam. :-)

 

Anjuli, she grew out of these for pointe while they were still hard, so they haven't gone at all mushy yet. I love the idea of recycling ribbons but at the moment she hangs every pair of pointe shoes - in order - from the end of her bed. :-)

 

And congratulations on your 50 years in June! What an achievement! My parents reach theirs in August....they are doing indoor skydiving to celebrate. (Don't even go there!)

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We have only deshanked one pair of pointe shoes - they were Grishkos and so hard to do! So thanks to Anjuli for the tip about the nails (and getting the husband to do it!)

 

One word of warning about softening shoes: my dds ballet teacher (who is fantastic) said run them over in the car. I dutifully did this (while they were in a plastic bag!) and the shoes just did not fit right after that. So from now on my dd sticks to a combination of softening by wearing and with her hands, and a bit of bashing with a small mallet if necessary.

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Oh my goodness! Running them over? Not something we have been advised to do! :-)

 

Yes, I once deshanked a pair of Grishkos which were a nightmare, partly because the innersole was glued right around the shank. The Blochs were much easier! :-)

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I was just about to do that the other day, when my husband came upstairs and caught me! I was reprimanded on the potential damage to softwood doors and frames. He does spend hours making sure our paintwork is perfect, so fair enough. ;-)

 

Oops - edited for typo!

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I surely don't recommend a car going over shoes! ACK

 

I also don't recommend door frames - I've seen the door pulled off the frame! Another ACK

 

The shoe box needs to be softened in an organized sort of way; with your hands, a round head of a hammer. To help break it down you can use a cloth damp with rubbing alcohol and then hammered.

 

Spanner: everything your physio is telling you is correct. Just learning to stand in a pointe shoe is difficult - the entire feel is difficult. It's like learning everything again from the beginning. You know that part of Act II Giselle where the ballerina is standing by herself and doing extensions and then does a promenade and a penché - that is the hardest part of her solo.

 

As for sky diving - I am certainly NOT going there!

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Ha ha Anjuli....no, when I booked the skydiving for my parents, the lady did a kind of double take over the phone, and said "sorry, did you say they're celebrating their GOLDEN wedding??"

 

My husband has wrapped the shoes in a clean teatowel and taken them into the garage, to do something......fortunately it seems to have worked! I didn't hear the car revving up though. ;-)

 

Yes, the physio is marvellous - you can positively see the difference in dd's leg muscles and feet after only 3 sessions. I must admit I was surprised that our local teacher has always been in the camp for learning the intermediate syllabus in split soles, rather than getting used to soft blocks immediately (not to mention wearing them PRIOR to starting pointework, as preparation).

 

Still, fortunately she is happy to go along with the physio's recommendations. :-)

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We have regularly deshanked pointe shoes and softened the vamp but actually find that they appear bulkier on the feet esp the vamp area compared to soft block shoes which appear 'dainter' on the feet

 

 

This is to be expected since the shank took up a bit of room inside the shoe. When it is removed there is more space for the foot - sometimes too much space. The foam rubber insole will help with this as well as making the inside bottom more comfortable. Sometimes I have also worn thin socks over my footed leotard.

 

edited for typo

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have also soaked de-shanked pointe shoes in water which softens the glue - and after that you can completely remove the hessian from the inside of the box if you choose. By putting your foot in the shoes while they are still damp, you can stretch them and make sure they fit nicely (although it feels a bit gooey and strange!). My friend put her pointe shoes in the washing machine to clean them once (we were about 15!) and discovered that this softened them quite a lot!

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This may be a stupid question (as I am a complete ignoramus where the technicals of ballet is concerned) but if girls use soft blocks to strengthen their feet, what do boys do? Or do boys not have the same need for strength because they don't do pointe? Or perhaps don't tend to have big arches so problems are not so severe? As mother of a DS with naturally high arches I am curious. I am pretty sure he mentioned borrowing the girls pointe shoes to practise with sometimes but not sure if this is just him being daft... NB normally he uses split sole ballet shoes so I am wondering whether this is perhaps not very good for him?

Thanks for info....

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This is not at all a stupid question - but quite a good one.

 

There are a couple of roles in the ballet which call for a male dancer to wear pointe shoes such as the role of Bottom in The Dream. They have also in some productions worn pointe shoes in the roles of the step sisters in Cinderella. The male dancers of Les Ballet de Trockedero wear them all the time.

 

It is not unusual for men to work on pointe in ballet class for a number of reasons. It does strengthen the feet in a different way. A man might want to know how it feels and how to teach pointe if he wants to be a teacher. It would be of benefit if he wants to choreograph including pointe work or teach pas de deux. I'm not saying that all men mustr take pointe if they want to do any of the above but some do find it helpful since the center of balance and timing is quite different on pointe then in slippers.

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This may be a stupid question (as I am a complete ignoramus where the technicals of ballet is concerned) but if girls use soft blocks to strengthen their feet, what do boys do? Or do boys not have the same need for strength because they don't do pointe? Or perhaps don't tend to have big arches so problems are not so severe? As mother of a DS with naturally high arches I am curious. I am pretty sure he mentioned borrowing the girls pointe shoes to practise with sometimes but not sure if this is just him being daft... NB normally he uses split sole ballet shoes so I am wondering whether this is perhaps not very good for him?

Thanks for info....

At WL y DS had to wear hard soled shoes for a tie to strengthen feet. Split soles were definately no no but he wears them now he is dancing professionally.
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so you mean something more than just full soles? I have wondered what is behind the split sole/ full sole debate and now it appears there is a third option! how even more confusing! should I be worried if DS is wearing split soles at 14? (not that I imagine I have any say at all in the matter....)

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My DD's previous school's principal was firmly against split soled ballet shoes. She had seen foot problems in her dancers and thought they are a fad and not really safe for developing bones.

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CeliB - I'd never seen them before, or since. They were full-soled ballet shoes, but the sole was hard - the theory being that it made the boys work their feet harder I suppose. I wouldn't worry as such about the use of split-soles, but it certainly seems to be the general way of thinking that full-soles make the feet stronger - but this could just be an "urban ballet myth" :)

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From what I can gather, split soles are fine for those who *already* have strong feet and whose feet don't need strengthening. There are a couple of girls in dd's Associate class who seem to have very strong metatarsals so for them I guess splitsoles are ok to work in. My dd needs to continue strengthening hers hence the physio's advice to "give the splitsoles to the dog to play with" (we didn't) and to wear soft blocks for everything except pointework.

 

I once asked the RAD why splitsoles are not allowed in Vocational exams and they said it was simply because working against a full sole helps to strengthen the feet for the pointework required in the Vocational exams.

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