Refers to the length of the shoe. English Pointe Shoes sizes are about 2 sizes smaller than street shoe sizes. Most USA made shoes follow this rule. Gaynor Minden attempted to match street shoes sizes and is often a size large than street shoe size.

For traditional shoes, "width" refers to the width of the shoe with X being narrow, XXXX being wide. For Gaynor Minden, "width" refers to the width at back of shoe - the amount of fabric, not the width of the entire shoe, and is N (narrow) M(medium} or W(wide). The width at the front of the shoe is reflected in box sizes that are 2(narrow) 3(medium) or 4(wide). There is also variation in box shapes between 2, 3, and 4.

The center bottom of the shoe that should hug the instep of the foot. Most USA made shoes are "pre-arched." They arrive new with the shoe sole arch shaped. English and most non-USA shoes are not pre-ached. The USA arched style can be found in ad pictures as early as 1925. It has gone by different names. Leo called it "Hollow Arch"and Capezio "Concave" in 1928; Advance Theatrical Shoe Co. called it "Rainbow Arch"in 1934. Maria Dare’s pointe shoes of 1930’s-40’s vintage include Concave Arched shoes by Capezio, Nicoline by Capezio, and Landi. A Nicolini Romeo made in Italy has no arch. The Gaynor Minden pointe shoe arrives pre-arched but can be adjusted to flat or any shape by heating the shank's arch area with a hair blow dryer.
Beginners may find the pre-arched shoe easier to use at first. Dancers who are shank snappers, (have strong or over developed arches) will find the flat style offers better results.

Ballet Basics

Pointe (Toe) Shoes

Purchase & Wear Only


ith Instructor Permission

Pointe (Toe) Shoes are NOT toys.  No one should ever "play" in them. No child under age 10 should stand on “tippy toes,” with or without pointe shoes.  The bones in children’s the feet are not hard enough to endure the pressure of supporting the body until about age 10.  After age 10, only wear with instructor permission for there are other factors - balance, alignment, muscle strength, spinal cord development.  Ballet technique must be habit, something that happens without thinking.  Pointe classes teach how to place the body over the pointe of the shoe, which can prevent a twisted ankle or other problems. Pointe (Toe) Shoes should only be used as a teacher instructs.

Pointe Shoe Terminology

The part of the shoe that surrounds the toes and knuckles. A snug fit around the knuckles distributes body weight to the entire shoe rather than crushing down on the end of the toes. The shape of the box varies. Many pointe shoes have a "square" box, that works well when all toes are approximately the same length. Many other pointe shoes have a "V" shape, that works great when toes vary in length. Grishko offers a "U" shape.

The front of the box, often referred as having a "short" or "deep" vamp. A short vamp works for short toes, while a deep vamp is best for long toes.

 The back of the shoe.  The amount of fabric at the heel varies by maker.  A “high heel” comes up higher on the back of a foot than a “low heel.”  Best height depends on the shape of the dancer’s heel

Do Pointe S

hoes damage feet?

Pointe shoes are lovingly nicknamed as "torture chambers" by ballerinas. They are not as bad for the feet as most believe. Their bad reputation stems from poor fit, poor technique, starting too young. In fact I suspect that proper use of properly fit pointe shoes does far less damage than wearing high heel street shoes with pointed toes. A well fit pointe shoe distributes body weight over the entire foot so what's the problem?

Ever hear a dancer tell a story about removing her pointe shoe and pouring blood out of them? It happens but don't blame the pointe shoe. 1) Using toe padding that does not absorb moisture will cause the foot to slip in the box and the slipping is like using sandpaper on the skin. 2) Gradual increases of time on pointe allows the skin to thicken and results in a layer of protection. Take a leap from a few minutes of pointe work to hours of rehearsal and there will be blistering, often bleeding blisters. 3) Rather than having several pair of pointe shoes broken in, the dancer has just one pair. Surprise the old comfortable broken in pair just dies at rehearsal, so a new pair is used. New shoes are like wear sharp edges.

What Does





et over your pointes!


These words echo thru every beginning pointe class in every studio. It means that if one drew dots on the supporting leg's toes, ankle, knee, hip, and then connected those dots, it would produce a straight line. The pointe shoe platform would be flat on the floor. (Some people have an extra bone in each foot, located between heel and ankle. For such persons, it is physically impossible to get over their pointes, no matter how hard they try.)



ads, Cushion?

Toe pads or cushions fit inside the box to protect the toes. They also help to glue the foot into the box in a comfortable way. There are many kinds.  Lambs wool has been used for decades and it still works well.  The only ones that I cannot recommend are ones made from materials that do not absorb moisture for they can cause blisters. (Some solve the problem with a moisture absorbing fabric lining.)


oe Caps

Toe Caps are not pads or cushions. Dr. Alan Woodle DPN invented Toe Caps. They benefit dancers who have one or more toes longer than the others. Toe caps distribute the weight of the body as if all toes were even length. The dancer takes her feet and pointe shoes to Dr. Woodle and he makes them to fit the dancerÂ’s unique feet. Since toes tend to grow in proportion, many dancers can get years of use out of a set of toe caps even tho feet are still growing.

How can I Protect my feet while on Pointe?

The best protection is a well fitted pointe shoe. A well fitted pointe shoe makes all the difference in performance and in protection from injury. Getting the right combination of options in a pointe shoe, while learning about the unique aspects of your feet can reduce injury. The secret is to make the shoe conform to the foot rather than making the foot conform to the shoe. The goal is to use the shoe to distribute body weight over the entire foot. If this is done, then standing on pointe is not that much different from standing on demi-pointe. The shoe too big allows the foot to slip down inside and all body weight becomes focused on a small space that can cause damage over time. The shoe too small can cut off circulation.
Pointe Shoe History
Makers of Pointe Shoes

The support inside the shoe, under the arch / bottom of foot. Some shoes have shanks that run almost the entire length of the from toe to heel. Others have a 3/4 shank that extends from toes thru the instep only..
Updated: Feb. 21, 2021
© = R. W. Faulkner