Every little girl loves her ballet shoes! We're even willing to bet there are a few bigger girls out there still harbouring dreams of white tulle and pink silk shoes.
If you're serious about taking up ballet, you need to remember that ballet shoes are designed for dancing. Their purpose is much more than purely cosmetic.
Types of Ballet Shoes
There are three main types of ballet shoes:
- Soft Ballet Shoes. These are the shoes you'll wear as a beginner. Soft shoes slip easily onto the feet, and come with or without straps, depending on how you want to wear them.
- Pointe Shoes. Once you've gained some dancing experience, you'll move on to wearing pointe shoes. Pointe shoes allow the dancer to balance on the toes, with the foot and toe supported by the shoe itself. It's absolutely crucial that a pointe shoe fit properly. For this reason, most are custom-made for the dancer who'll be wearing them.
- Full and Split Sole Ballet Shoes. The soles of your ballet shoes will be reinforced with a material such as suede. On a full sole shoe, the suede will cover the entire sole of the shoes. On a split sole shoe, the suede will cover only the toe and heel to give the shoe a much greater degree of flexibility. New dancers will normally choose a full-sole ballet shoe, for the extra support it gives. Experienced ballerinas will typically go for the split sole.
Choosing Your Ballet Footwear
Have you ever seen a picture of a ballerina's bare feet? You probably don't want to. Ballet dancing places a huge amount of strain on the feet. Many dancers wind up with feet which look like they could do with a pedicure, to say the least. Because of the hard work your feet will be doing when you dance, choosing your shoes is of the utmost importance. If you're buying ballet shoes for the first time, it's best to go to a professional shoemaker or take your teacher with you to advise on fit. You'll be doing a lot of work in these shoes, so it's important that you choose the right ones!
Your ballet shoes will be made out of either canvas, satin, or leather. While satin certainly looks pretty, leather and canvas are much more durable. Another thing to consider is that satin and canvas don't have a whole lot of "give" in them, however leather shoes will stretch and mould to the shape of your foot. If you really love your shoes, buy a pair in each material.
Where to Buy
As mentioned above, it's best to have your first ballet shoes custom-made by a specialist shoemaker. As you become more experienced, online stores such as Discount Dance have a selection of shoes you can choose from.