New pointe shoe styles can be a great draw for eager young ballerinas, but understanding the differences in styles is essential for the perfect fitting. While customized pointe shoes are all the rage for professional ballet dancers, the beginner and intermediate levels will need guidance on the best starter shoes. We spoke with four pointe shoe manufacturers for the inside scoop on what’s new in pointe shoes, and what retailers should know about these styles when fitting their young customers.
For years, Gaynor Minden has made a shoe suited to dancers with a very narrow heel, or as Eliza Gaynor Minden describes it, the ‘triangle foot.’ But until now, Gaynor Minden has only offered the Sleek Fit with the tapered heel and the Classic Fit with a more generous heel. “Now, the new Sculpted Fit is the ‘Goldilocks’ shoe—it’s right in the middle,” explains Minden.
The Sculpted Fit is a great shoe for dancers with an hourglass shape to their foot. The “fitted waist” hugs the middle of the foot, not only from the sides, but also from underneath the shoe. “If you have a high arch, the shoe wraps securely underneath your foot, providing extra support,” Minden says.
The extra support at the arch also means many ballet dancers will find they can go with a softer shank, which allows for a more pliable demi-pointe. While not every size is available yet, the increased demand for this new style means production is expanding very quickly.
Known primarily for its line of leotards, Wear Moi also has a completely customizable pointe shoe, La Pointe. Although the shoe originally became available in 2011, Wear Moi has continued to make different options available to customers for vamp, shank, wing, length and width to accommodate all levels from pre-pointe to professional. “Retailers can buy shoes in stock to the specifications of their market,” explains Petr Orlov, Wear Moi’s general manager in the U.S. “Different specifications won’t affect the order time, and with the shoe being one model, you can carry just one set of specifications in different sizes to then adjust personally to every dancer who comes in the store.”
Within the next year, Wear Moi will be providing video tutorials and guidelines for retailers to follow when fitting the shoe on dancers. “Only retailers can request custom orders, so dancers have to go through your store to buy a customized shoe,” Orlov says. Wear Moi does offer recommendations for how to make the shoe appropriate for different levels of students, such as an extra-soft or soft shank for beginners, but a reinforced hard shank for professionals. “Our most recent addition to customizations is the high wing, which helps achieve more balance at the metatarsals, rather than creasing at the pinky toe or bunion,” says Orlov.
Wear Moi also offers to provide the shoes with presewn ribbons, either cotton or satin. This addition may be appealing to beginner students who are inexperienced with a needle and thread. Elastic ribbons are not yet an option.
While retailers may be familiar with Grishko’s Nova line, NovaFlex, released in the U.S. this year, has been taking the pointe market by storm. The shoe was developed in response to teachers and students complaining about the lack of arch shape in pointe shoes when pointing the foot. “Teachers want to see that when you’re pointing your foot, the shoe goes with it—that’s why we created a different Nova style with more flexibility in the arch,” says Grishko master fitter Judy Weiss. “There’s now very little break-in that dancers will have to do to fit the NovaFlex to their foot.”
Both the Nova and NovaFlex offer flat platforms for an easier balance pointe, which will help dancers during pirouettes. Extra support under the metatarsal, along with a supple glue, allows for an easier rise through demi-pointe for pointe dancers. However, the supple glue might wear out faster if dancers don’t allow their shoes proper time to dry. “I suggest advanced dancers buy two pairs to alternate and support with Jet glue when needed,” says Weiss.
Weiss also warns that the NovaFlex is not for dancers with overarched feet. But for dancers who are new to pointe or need help finding more arch flexibility, the shoe will work wonders. “Very few dancers could use a soft shank with this shoe, because they would push too far over the box,” says Weiss. “Beginners should probably start in a medium shank of the NovaFlex.”
Over the last two years, Capezio has introduced two new styles: the Airess and the Cambré. “The Airess is the strongest Capezio pointe shoe—both box and shank strength,” says Melissa Brannan, vice president of design and merchandising at Capezio. “Capezio has never offered a shoe this strong.” The Cambré is similar to the Airess but has the standard Capezio box and shank strength. Both styles can be purchased with either a tapered or broad toe, depending on the shape of the dancer’s foot.
In addition, two new styles will be launched sometime this fall. “One complements our older generation of shoes and is reminiscent of the discontinued Studio model. The other introduces a new toe shape that fits into the Broad/Tapered matrix that the Airess and Cambré offer,” explains Brannan.
These four styles are launched from Capezio’s new manufacturing facility in Thailand, where it now makes all of its pointe shoes. The new location has introduced changes in certain Capezio shoe styles. For example, several of Capezio’s shoes, including the Tiffany and Aria, now have a rose-colored lining that keeps the shoe cooler and allows for an easier foot grip. “Logo changes and new sole markings will help the retailer identify shoes during fittings,” Brannan says. “The shoes have the traditional look, but they feel cleaner, more modern.”
Amy Smith is a writer and dance teacher based in Greensboro, NC.
Another Way to Customize
For dancers who like to customize their shoes, Gaynor Minden has developed Instant Wings, a new accessory that lets dancers insert wings into the pointe shoes themselves, providing extra support along the sides of the shoe. The product gives pointe dancers the ability to customize the comfort and support of their box without the production delay of a customized shoe.
Photos courtesy of the manufacturers; Gaynor Minden: photo by Eduardo Patino