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Super-hard shanks can make new pointe shoes feel like bricks on your feet. That's why dancers have come up with tons of clever ways to bend, cut, score and tape their shanks—adjustments that can ificantly improve a shoe's performance. It's a highly personalized process, and often a complete game-changer.


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All cute patterns, right? Spending numerous hours either aggressively dancing or standing around awaiting rehearsal in pointe shoes, I needed a tape option that would stay on my feet all day despite blood, sweat. Hence, the introduction of duct tape into my dance supplies. Florescent pink used to be my most exciting option, but now they have everything from paisley florals to macaroni and cheese always discussed amongst my friends as a great option, but then again, I feel awkward putting images of pasta with melted cheese all over my foul smelling feet….

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By Leilani Tian. Perhaps you have witnessed the etherealness by which ballerinas stand, hop, and turn on the tips of their toes. Perhaps you have asked how they do it.

The tedious beginning years of proper pointe shoe technique training is a crucial foundation for later years of quicker, grander, and more complex footwork demanded by classical and contemporary works alike. The preliminary step, common among all ballet dancers, is sewing ribbon and elastic on so that the shoes remain secured on the foot while hopping and turning and balancing.

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Dancers can either criss-cross the elastic, preferred by Lizzie or use a single band, preferred by Sam. Both use dental floss to sew on their ribbons to their shoes, as it provides a stronger hold than normal sewing thread. Finally, they both use a lighter to burn the end of their ribbons and elastic so that they do not fray. Another common preparation is the stiffening or softening of the shank — rigid material on the sole of the shoe necessary for arch support. A brand new shoe comes in its stiffest form and there are varying degrees of shank stiffness from soft to hard that can be selected in a pointe shoe.

How to make pointe shoes out of duct tape

When the shank is too soft, it feels like dancing with ballet slippers. If the shank is too stiff, it feels like dancing with blocks on your feet.

Maintaining the right shank, one that is supple but still supportive, is a balancing act. Lizzie bends the shank with her hands at the point where her foot bends when she goes en pointe. Some people step on their shoes or put them under heavy objects to soften them.

As soon as the shoes start to break in, she puts jet glue in the tips and along the sides of the bottom to harden the shoes. Jet-gluing is a common hardening method dancers use to maximize the life of their pointe shoes.

There are various ways to pad the feet inside pointe shoes. Toe p can be in the form of cloth, gel, lambswool, or even paper towels. Sam describes her paper towel padding like wrapping a present — she folds the sides and then the top over before putting her feet in the shoes.

Lizzie does not use any padding so that she can feel her toes in the shoe a brave feat! When blisters emerge, both wrap their toes in duct tape.

Shank strategies

While it may seem strange to tape up toes, dancers do the most to protect their feet and prevent blisters. Yes, that means keeping callouses! In general, the lifespan of a pointe shoe is brief. Some may last for only a few hours or one performance depending on the nature of the pointe work and how well they are maintained. Ballet Austin dancers make a point of it!

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To the pointe: the special shoes that help ballerinas dance on their toes

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