Best Pointe Shoes Reviewed & Compared for Performance
This list looks at the top ten pointe shoes available for purchase online. Including models by the most famous brands such as Grishko, Bloch, Sansha, Capezio and Russian Pointe, you are sure to find something that will work for you.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
In order to be able to dance well, you will need a pair of ballet shoes that fit your foot. You’ve probably seen images of ballet dancers’ feet, and they show just how much of the burden of dancing is taken by this part of the body. In ballet, not only are you expected to dance, jump, balance and turn on the tips of your toes but even more, you will need to make all of these movements look beautiful and effortless while also concentrating on other things such as your arms, head, turnout, posture, and line. This means that the pointes you choose for ballet need to give you the best possible fit, allowing you to focus on the quality of your dancing instead of worrying about your feet.
First and foremost, a good fitting shoe may not be completely painless, seeing that you will still be expected to rest your entire body weight on the tips of your toes, but it definitely should not cause too much discomfort. In order to find the best fit, you will need to look at several aspects, seeing that with pointe shoes there’s much more to look at than just length and width.
Once you’ve checked all of these aspects, you can stand en pointe in your shoes. Make sure to check whether there are any points where you feel the fit could be improved. Some of these might be adjusted by correct padding, while others will require getting a different shoe. Remember that each person will need something different from their shoes, and finding the perfect might take some effort. Nonetheless, once you’ve got it you will see that your dancing will be incomparably better and more enjoyable.
The shank of your shoes is one of the most important parts, seeing that it has the sole purpose of keeping you up en pointe. It’s a layering of materials at the sole of the shoe and is usually made out of paste, canvas, and leather, although technological advancement has brought us shanks made out of plastic or even thermo-responsive pastes which last longer and can be customized better for a superior fit.
Shank strength and positioning varies from person to person and can be based on more of a personal level of comfort. This is a feature that is important for beginners as well as professionals and usually changes in preference over the course of time, trial and error.
Depending on your teacher’s preferences, they may recommend a softer or harder shank. Most will ask for a harder shank for beginners seeing that they provide more support and require you to build strength, but some teachers will tell you to get a softer shank which allows an easier transition while requiring you to hold up without relying just on your shoes. It is very important to keep this in consideration when purchasing shoes, but you will find that as you gain experience you will have a clearer idea of how hard or soft you need your shank to be.
Another thing to note is that some dancers may be tempted to choose a shank that is harder than what they ideally need in order to maximize the longevity of their pointe shoes. However, this should not be done as the foot will have to work overtime in order to break in the shoes.
Once you start feeling that your shoes have gotten too soft in the shank, it is important to replace them. Dancing in dead shoes is a safety concern and can lead to injuries, seeing that your body won’t be supported enough to perform the rigorous movements required of it when en pointe.
The toe box is one of the most vital areas of the ballet shoe. Dancing en pointe pushes all the weight and pressure of the dancer against the toes and it takes a strong, graceful dancer and durable, reliable shoe to make this type of dance possible.
The toe box works together with the shank to provide your toes with stability and support. It is important to know the shape and size of your toes in order to find proper shoes. Your toe shape will not only determine the size of the toe box needed, but also the shape and length of the vamp.
There are 3 commonly used shapes in the design of the toe box area. They are: tapered, slightly tapered and square. The toe box should provide a comfortable, snug feel in the shoe while not being too tight or loose. Consider the fact that a lot of pressure is going to be put on your toes while dancing en pointe, so it is crucial that this area is well fitted.
The vamp of the shoe is the part which covers the tops of your toes and determines how you will stand en pointe. Too short, and you might find yourself falling over, Too long, however, and you won’t be able to stand fully en pointe. The length of the vamp depends on the length of your toes, while its shape (U-shape or V-shape) depends on your arch. A V-shape vamp may be a good choice for those with higher arches who need a bit more support against pushing too far over the platform.
Dancing en pointe challenges the arch of your foot and can apply a decent amount of pressure to that area. The shape of your arch is what’s used to determine the correct profile position and support needed in your shoes.
Your arch is an aspect that’s used to determine the right size in almost all areas of your shoe. Your arch helps to determine your shank strength, profile height, and vamp length. Dancers focus really hard on creating a deep, flexible arch within their foot and a great shoe will be able to show this off.
When choosing pointe shoes, you’ll want to make sure that the arch of your foot fits securely and comfortably into the shoe. The arch should be compatible with the profile height and the amount of compression against the shoes. Shoes that don’t fit correctly around the arch of your foot can lead to health concerns like overextending your arch and stress fractures.
While every other aspect of your shoes may be perfect, having an improper profile height will be the end deal breaker. Every dancer has a different level of flexibility and that is why profile height is selective. The higher the profile, the deeper the arch; too high and you’ll be bending your foot in a direction it’s really not made to go in.
Finding the perfect profile height for your arch will take trial and error, as it will with every other aspect in a pointe shoe. An easy method to test if your shoes are the correct profile height is to try and insert your fingers underneath the throat of the shoe. If you’re able to fit your fingers underneath, your profile is too high and should be lowered.
While ballet shoes can get very specific, you’ll be able to find many examples of the different profile and arch lengths through our best list. Just remember to pay deep attention to your foot shape and don’t listen to other people’s opinions because everyone’s feet are shaped differently. It’s truly important for a dancer to find the perfect shoes that work for YOU.
Some of the shoes on this list come with padding, while others may have built-in comfort features. As you will learn when dancing en pointe, a little bit of softness can go a long way in preventing blisters, corns and overall painful areas on your feet. Padding techniques greatly depend on the dancer - some can get away with just paper towels, others prefer lambswool, and some turn to gel or silicone. Today, you can even get special pastes that are custom molded to your foot shape, so that they give support and comfort where needed, without creating too much bulk in other sections.
You might find that you will need to tape your toes to keep them from rubbing together or even use toe spacers in order to ensure proper placement inside the shoe. Those with a longer second toe will probably need to use more padding under the big toe in order to relieve the stress that is placed on the second toe. The best padding for you will depend on the shoe you choose, so it’s very possible that what worked great with one pair of shoes will not be appropriate for another pair. It’s also important to replace your padding for multiple reasons, including flattening as well as hygiene.
While most shoes do not come ready-made with ribbons, they are still a crucial part of the shoe. Ribbons are not only used as an aesthetically pleasing part of the shoe but more importantly, they play an important role in keeping your shoes safely and securely on your feet. Correctly placing these ribbons is also important - they need to be sewn at the part of the shoe that will pull the shank closest to your arch, while also helping create a more beautiful line.
In addition to ribbons, most dancers also use elastics to get a more secure fit and to keep the heel from slipping. You can choose to sew a single piece of elastic from one side of the heel to the other, or to use two pieces in a criss-cross way that resembles what you will usually find on soft ballet shoes. Whichever of these you prefer, it’s important to make sure not to sew the material at the very back of the heel as this can lead to stress and injury. Instead, always gravitate a bit towards the side - some dancers will even sew their elastics on the outside of the shoe in order not to disturb the fit.
Top 10 Pointe Shoes
1. Russian Pointe Rubin
Russian Pointe Rubin shoes are a model which has been around for quite some time. These shoes are perfect for dancers with square toes, but also anyone with a wide foot shape. What makes them recognizable from most other shoes is that they’re made with a lighter shade of pink satin, so that they are almost white - a look that is especially pleasing in certain roles on stage.
In order to minimize break-in time, Russian Pointe developed the pre-arched shank which follows the shape of the arch and gives a more pleasant look while en pointe. Considering that it allows the dancer to use the shoes without too much manual bending, it also works to prolong the lifespan of the shoes.
Suited for a variety of foot shapes, the slightly tapered toe box can work with almost all types of feet. Still, you’ll be happy to hear that it still gives you a wide platform, while making your lines more beautiful and elongated. The price of the Russian Pointe Rubin is average on this list and gravitates towards the lower price range of the reputable pointe shoe brands. It’s a great choice for anyone with a wider foot and provides you with several options, including a U-shape and V-shape vamp, and 4 different shank strengths.
2. Grishko Elite
Handcrafted in Moscow, by cobblers who’ve worked with some of the best dancers to create the perfect shoe, the Elite is an excellent choice (and one of only two) for those with wide feet and square toes. It’s made with non-toxic materials, is hand-balanced to ensure that you’re on your leg, and are made with some of the most beautiful satin you’ll find in pointe shoes.
Unlike most Grishko models, the Elite is not pre-arched which is a great option for those who need help with stability when they’re not en pointe. This ensures an easy transition and superior floor feel for beautiful results.
With Grishko, you get to choose what makes your perfect shoe. Go with one of six widths, three shank strengths, and choose whether you prefer to have a drawstring in your shoe or not. Once you’ve tried this shoe out, you’ll find that it’s an incredibly easy model to go back to, as you’ll know what you’re getting each time. Though slightly cheaper than average, the Grishko Elite still costs a pretty penny. This, however, is justified by a high quality construction, as well as a design that many Giselle-footed dancers will welcome with open arms. Comfortable, easy to fit, and easy to break in, you’ll definitely enjoy dancing in this model.
3. Freed Of London Studio 2
Freed of London is a top quality brand in creating toe shoes. Great for intermediate or professional ballet dancers, these shoes provide the stability and support needed to perform successfully on any stage. Featuring a hard shank, a V-shaped vamp, wide platforms and a strong toe box, these shoes are made to help enhance each movement that the dancer makes. The wide platform and flat profile also create a great fit for dancers with wide feet and square toes.
These pointes are created with a strong, sturdy toe box that helps to protect the dancer's toes from any pressure or damage. The wings on the side of the shoes are also created to be strong, holding the dancer's foot securely in place.
The Studio II is a great choice for dancers with wide feet. It comes equipped with a wide platform and a deep vamp length that creates the perfect fit for all wide feet. These shoes are priced at a very fair cost considering their brand reliability and supportive structure. If you’re truly looking to enhance your performance and don’t want to take a huge chunk of money out of your wallet, these are the best choice.
4. Bloch Elegance
Made by Bloch, a company that is constantly coming up with ways of improving the traditional pointe shoe, the Elegance is a model which is advertised as a ready-to-wear option for those who don’t like to spend their free time preparing their rehearsal and performance footwear. It is the brand’s most lightweight pair, which is definitely something you will appreciate during challenging petit allegro combinations. It is available in three widths.
The upper of the Elegance uses a stretch satin that is especially important in the heel area, where you can count on it conforming to your foot without breaking the line. The low profile prevents wobbling when on flat, while the flat platform helps improve balances and turns. The inside of the model features shock absorption in the toe box and other key places, plus it is made with noise reduction technology, which does come in handy on stage.
At the core of the Elegance is Bloch’s relevéase™ insole which was developed with the intention of giving dancers a pair of points that wouldn’t have to be manipulated into allowing them to easily roll through releve onto pointe. It is coupled with a split sole outsole which is laser-scored traction pattern that improves control. In terms of price, it definitely ranks above average, as do most models by Bloch, but for those looking for something fuss-free, it’s an excellent choice.
5. Grishko Maya
This shoe is perfect for those who are really looking to enhance their dancing performance. The ¾ length shank and lighter box wings provide flexibility and comfort during each movement. Featuring a medium platform and a medium length v-shaped vamp, these shoes also have a tapered toe box which makes them the perfect choice for those dancers with a longer second toe. An added bonus is the fact that they don’t squeak like some other models.
The V-shaped vamp may be a little difficult to master at first, but overall it is a great feature for constant movement en pointe. The strong yet flexible shank also works hard to adapt to your movements to provide support and stability.
These pointe shoes come equipped with cotton drawstrings that help secure the shoe onto your foot. Much better than elastic (at least according to some), this feature won't cut off your circulation. The shoes are also held together with innovative, strong glue that helps to keep the focus on the elegant design while also protecting the dancer's feet. These shoes are of average cost. Coming from a reliable brand and made with quality, these shoes will provide all the support and stability needed to perform on stage. They are still decently affordable while coming with features that make the shoe a top quality choice for all ballet dancers.
6. Bloch Sonata
One of the brandćs most advanced pair of pointes, the Sonata is one of those shoes you’ll fall in love with after breaking them in. It’s a great choice for a number of foot types, thanks to the TMT technology, but if it’s the Rose Adagio you’re preparing for, you’ll definitely appreciate the wide platform perfect for long balances. It features a narrow heel that won’t crease, as well as a flexible shank that you can mold to match the exact arch of your foot.
A genius way of incorporating a new type of paste into the construction of a pointe shoe, TMT is thermo-molded plastic that you heat up and shape to fit your foot and arch. Once you’ve got the best fit and shank strength, you pop your shoes in the fridge. You can do this after every class, and can expect the lifespan of the Sonata to long outlive any other shoe you’ve ever owned.
One of the things the Sonata focuses on is providing you with a beautiful line, which means that the heel was designed in a way that would prevent it from bunching and creasing (such a common and irritating occurrence). The ¾ shank is flexible at the metatarsals, but strong under the arch, plus, the unsecured insole at the heel allows for perfect transitions. The Sonata by Bloch features a higher initial cost than you’d expect, but overall, it’s definitely worth the investment. First and foremost, this is thanks to the TMT technology that allows you to get the perfect fit and level of support, and then keep it that way by cooling your shoes after every use. Depending on how often and at what level you dance en pointe, this shoe can last you for months.
7. Bloch Serenade
Bloch is a top leading brand in dance shoes for all styles. The Serenade is a great example of the quality and reliability that Bloch provides. Featuring a firm shank and a longer vamp, these shoes were made to help balance the bending of flexible feet. The long vamp is great for dancers with squared toes, and those who tend to sickle will benefit from a wide platform.
For those dancers with wide feet, this shoe is a great choice. The wide platform helps dancers attain better balance by giving them more space on which to distribute their weight. Not only does this relieve pressure from the metatarsal area, but it also makes for more pirouettes.
Having a flexible arch is an important feature of ballet en pointe, however, too much flexibility can be damaging to the foot. The wide profile in these pointe shoes allows the dancer to be graceful and elegant on pointe without pushing the arch too far forward. The strong shank allows for plenty of use before you see these shoes dying on you. Considering that they’re made by Bloch, and the fact that they provide some good features, these shoes are an excellent investment. They rank above average on this list when it comes to price, but this is understandable seeing that they’re made by a reputable brand.
8. Capezio Ava
Capezio pointes are used by students and professionals alike, and the Ava is one of their latest releases made for those with a forefoot that’s medium to wide in width, and with toes of equal length. It’s available in four width options - narrow, medium, wide and extra wide, and features a #2.5 strength shank which should work well for those who prefer a medium level of support. The vamp is U-shaped to accentuate the arch, and features an elastic drawstring for the most flattering line.
The upper of the Ava is made with plush, ballet pink rayon-backed satin that is the perfect material for this type of footwear. These synthetic fibres have high moisture wicking properties, speeding up the time it takes to dry your pointes between wears. As for the toe box, you will benefit from a moderate vamp and full wings, while the platform is high and wide, a trend in modern-day pointe shoes.
As for comfort and functionality features, the Ava uses a shank that combines leather board with redboard that offers excellent arch flexibility, making it more pliable than traditional models. Other benefits include the medical grade gel cushioning in the toe box which can be removed if you prefer to use your own toe pads. The price point may be expensive for students, regardless of being one of the cheaper models listed, but those still after that perfect fit may want to try this model out.
9. Grishko 2007
The 2007 is one of Grishko’s most popular pairs of pointes, and they advertise it as being suitable for all foot types. The tapered toe box, however, makes these a better fit for Grecian and Egyptian feet. These shoes come in five width options and three different shank strength options, ensuring that you can get something that is just right for you.
There’s nothing as beautiful as a perfect roll-through when going en pointe, and the 2007 by Grishko has the technology to allow you to do just this. These shoes are the perfect combination of flexibility and support - something that will definitely take your dancing to the next level.
Another great thing in the shank of these shoes is the shank which is cut at the ¾ mark, allowing a more beautiful arch and a better level of support for those dancers who prefer this type of fit. Do note, however, that some teachers will not allow beginner students to use pointes with a ¾ shank. These shoes rank high on this list when it comes to price, which is understandable seeing that they are made by one of the top dancewear companies in the world. Featuring plenty of technology that is intended to make your experience more comfortable, the Grishko 2007 is definitely worth giving a try.
10. Capezio Plie 2
The Capezio Plie II is a pair of toe shoes most suited for feet with even toes. Available in medium, wide and extra wide, they boast a wide platform that makes balancing and turning much easier, while the shank is of a medium strength, allowing for good support and a considerable lifespan.
These shoes are made for those with average sized toes and features a medium height, U-shaped vamp and an elastic drawstring for an improved fit. You’ll be especially happy to hear that these have a quiet toe construction, meaning that your jumps will sound much more elegant.
For those with wider feet struggling to find a good shoe, this is the answer. These shoes come equipped with a wide platform and a broad toe box for a snug fit that allows a pain-free experience en pointe. These shoes rank average on this list when it comes to cost. They’ve got plenty of good features, making them an excellent choice for both students and professionals, and the wide fit is especially important to note, seeing that these will be comfortable for those with square toes.