The Anatomy of Pointe Shoes

Learning to dance ‘en pointe’ takes incredible strength from so many parts of your body and the bones in your feet need to be fully developed, too. Many dancers will have been dancing for a number of years before they’ll be ready to dance en pointe. Once your ballet teacher has told you that you’re ready to dance en pointe, it’s time to get yourself a pair of your first pointe shoes.

It’s common for ballet teachers to accompany their students when they’re purchasing their first pair of pointe shoes. This will ensure that they get the perfect fit, which is absolutely crucial when dancing on pointe.

Pointe shoes are very different to conventional ballet slippers, with a number of additions to allow dancers to be able to complete more advanced dance moves. The different parts of pointe shoes include:

pointe shoes

Box

The box sits in the front of the pointe shoe and lightly encases the dancer’s toes. The box serves to support the toes in order to allow the dancer to dance en pointe.

Platform

The platform is the flat exterior of the box that the dancer balances on. It is usually made of multiple layers of stiffened paper and fabric and covered with delicate satin.

Vamp

The vamp of a pointe shoe is the length of the toe box from the platform to the throat. The vamp allows the dancer to tailor her pointe shoes according to the shape of her foot and experience en pointe.

Drawstring

The drawstring is designed to keep the pointe shoe firmly in place. The ribbons and the drawstring work together to ensure that the pointe shoe is securely fitted to the ballerina’s foot.

Shank

The shank is a piece of stiff material, typically made from redboard or leatherboard. The shank is used to stiffen the sole of pointe shoes to help support a ballerina’s foot as she dances en pointe.

Throat

The Throat is the opening of the shoe nearest to the toes. The throat can be v-shaped or rounded, depending on the preferred aesthetic of the shoe, as well as the anatomy of the dancer’s foot.

Wings

The wings are the stiff sides of pointe shoes which help to provide lateral support while dancing en pointe.

Ribbons

Although they make the pointe shoes look incredibly elegant, they aren’t just there for show. The ribbons help to secure the pointe shoe onto the dancer’s feet.

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