How to dance in ballet shoes

How do Ballerinas Dance on Their Toes? — School of Ballet 5:8


Written By Ballet 5:8

If you recall from the previous blog post about the history of pointe – the pointe shoe began as a soft shoe with stitching called darning around the tips of the toes to create support. The dancers were able to stay up on their toes for just long enough to balance or do a pirouette. Pointe shoes have come a long way since then! Dancers are now able to stay on their toes for long periods of time – turning, balancing, and even jumping en pointe! And yet, the hard shoes have the appearance of being soft as a ballerina dances across the stage.

How do they do that?

Along with the strength of a dancers feet and ankles, dancing on pointe is accomplished through the support provided by the pointe shoe. The box of the shoe – the part that encases the dancers toes – is made of paste and layers of different kinds of fabric. The paste that is used is specially formulated to dry in a semi-flexible state. This allows the shoe to be stiff enough to support the dancers foot, but flexible enough to allow the dancer to move fluidly. The top of the box, called the platform, is carefully shaped and flattened to provide a surface that the dancer is able to balance on.

The shoes are also equipped with a reinforced insole, called the shank. Along with the box, the shank provides support for the dancers body weight as it supports the arch of dancers foot, allowing them to stand upright on their toes.

If a shoe is fitted correctly, the box and shank wrap around the dancer's toes and the top of the foot, providing enough support to allow the dancer to balance on the platform of the box, thus dancing en pointe! It is very important for a dancer to find a pointe shoe that correctly fits her individual foot, so that the box and shank can provide the support she needs. Pointe shoes are now made in many different shapes and sizes that accommodate wider or narrower feet, longer or shorter toes, square toes or tapered toes, and different combinations of all of the above.

How are pointe shoes made?

As we noted above, pointe shoes are constructed with layers of paste and fabric. Today, many varieties of pointe shoes are made by hand, just like they were historically - this video includes a detailed look at the process of constructing a pointe shoe by hand. As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into constructing a pointe shoe! Though modern technology has come a long way since pointe shoes were first made, classical ballet dancers still largely prefer handmade shoes to some of the factory-made varieties now available. Some of the specific details available in the shape and feel of the handmade shoes are more desirable than the generally more stiff, boxy construction of the ones that aren't handmade.

Former Ballet 5:8 Lead Artist Lauren Ader-Cumpston was a founding member of the Ballet 5:8 professional company and performed 2012-2017.

pointepointe shoes

Ballet 5:8

Types of Ballet Shoes: How Many Are There?

We all know that a good pair of ballet shoes is crucial to every dancer's growth as a performer.

What if you don’t know what type of ballet shoes to buy?

It can get overwhelming really quickly when you’re faced with plenty of choices but don’t have any idea which to choose.

Sometimes, dance instructors have their preferences, making it easy for students to buy their ballet shoes according to what is required.

You should also know that beginners and experienced dancers wear different types.

Confused, yet?

Before we talk about each type of ballet shoes used by toddlers, young and adult beginners as well as professional dancers, let’s go back to the basics.

Do you know what are ballerina shoes called?

What Are Ballet Shoes Called?

Professional dancers wear pointe shoes, the ballet footwear that provides them with sylph-like attributes.

This type of footwear is designed to allow dancers to perform on tiptoes for extended periods.

Before dancers go en pointe, though, they typically start with ballet slippers.

These are lightweight shoes designed for ballet dancing.

In general, male dancers wear ballet slippers throughout the training.

Similarly, female dancers also wear ballet slippers from the start of classes but eventually transition to pointe shoes.

Parts of Ballet Shoes

Now that you know what are ballerina shoes called, let’s talk about their different parts.

It’s good to know the parts that make up your ballet shoes so that it’s easier to determine which part needs repair or is having an issue.

1. Drawstring

The drawstring is the part in a flat ballet shoe used for tightening, ensuring that it stays on your feet.

2. Elastics

Some ballet shoes do not come with a pre-sewn elastic, leaving the dancers to attach it themselves for a more secure fit.

3. Ribbon

The ribbon is usually attached to the shoe.

It is tied around the dancer’s ankle during a performance for added security.

4. Sole

The sole is the bottom part of the shoe, generally made of leather or suede.

Newbies wear full-sole footwear and transfer to split-sole after gaining enough knowledge and training.

5. Box

You will find the box in pointe shoes, covering and supporting the dancer’s toes.

These are layers of materials, often fabric, cardboard, or cotton, that are glued together.

6. Platform

The platform is the flat portion of the box that supports the dancer’s entire body weight while performing en pointe.

7. Vamp

The vamp encloses the box and platform in a pointe shoe.

It is the entire length of the box starting from the platform to the throat.

8. Insole or Shank

The shank functions as the stiff sole supporting the feet en pointe.

It is commonly made of cardboard, leather, or plastic.

9. Throat

The throat is the shoe’s opening.

10. Wings

The wings are the side portions of the box.

11. Cover

Once all the parts are assembled, it is carefully wrapped with either of the three materials for ballet shoes.

How Many Types of Ballet Shoes Are There?

Ballet shoes come in different styles appropriate for each dancer’s level of training and experience.

Knowing each ballet shoe type allows you to choose the perfect pair that’s suitable for your needs.


A full-sole ballet shoe is the perfect choice for new dancers, as it provides the support and stability they need.

In fact, even those with a little more experience also like using this shoe type.

It has a full leather sole that runs the length of the ballet shoe.

Most dance teachers suggest this type, especially for girls between ages four and seven, to help build foot strength.

Full-sole ballet shoes offer sufficient traction and resistance needed by these little dancers’ tiny feet.

It’s a lightweight and flexible footwear that is comfortable to the feet and allows the dancers to manipulate the dance floor with ease.

Typically used during the early parts of the dance training, full-sole shoes provide an excellent balance, developing strength for the dancer’s instep.

A full-sole ballet shoe offers appropriate support for the arch, forcing the dancer’s foot and muscle to work.

This movement teaches them the right skill while helping to maintain muscle memory as preparation for advanced training.

Full-sole shoes such as the Capezio ballet shoes are usually made of leather material.


A spit-sole type of ballet shoes has different heel and toe pads made of rough materials for traction, which divide it into two parts, hence the name.

The bottom of each sole has soft materials to protect the feet since the shoe’s center lacks enough support.

This design makes the shoe flexible, eliminating the risk of getting injured.

This lack of support also allows the dancers to flex and point their feet, emphasizing the arch’s curve.

Students who have gained more experience and training are more likely to use this shoe type.

Split-sole ballet shoes allow the dancers to perform cleaner footwork and techniques with ease, which are crucial during competitions and practical examinations.

Dancers who use this type of shoes have more balance and confidence as they try to develop their spins and movement.

Usually made of canvas, it is the perfect pair for intermediate and advanced dancers who have already completed several ballet training years.


These ballet shoes do not come with a shank but have a leather outsole instead.

This design provides more resistance, requiring the dancer’s feet to work harder.

There are some arguments among instructors if this type of ballet shoes is even necessary for their students to use.

Some allow their students to wear this to transition to going en pointe to strengthen their muscles.

Others do not recommend this shoe type for students who do not have sufficient training and experience yet.

Inexperienced dancers might not know the proper techniques to use the right forefoot muscles when executing foot works and positioning.

Still, most instructors agree that wearing demi-pointe ballet shoes dramatically helps build the right muscles, as long as the dancer knows which to use and how to do it properly.

Pointe Shoes

Pointe shoes come with a shank, offering support when dancing en pointe.

Only experienced dancers who have completed several years of ballet training get to wear this ballet shoe type.

These shoes provide sufficient support for the dancer’s feet and ankle as they perform all their en pointe choreographies.

Professional ballerinas appear weightless and floating when they perform wearing these specialty ballet shoes.

Pointe shoes make it easier for ballerinas to dance on tiptoes.

Don’t be fooled by the dainty appearance of this exceptional footwear, though.

It has a rigid toe box made of thick packs of layered cardboard or fabric and then hardened with glue.

The sturdy but comfortable construction of this custom-made ballet shoe supports the entire body weight.

What Materials Should I Choose?

Ballet shoes are made of different materials, which are canvas, leather, and satin.

Ballet dancers may look fragile while performing, but they possess exceptional endurance and strength.

Ballet shoes’ material is one factor that can impact a dancer’s performance.

For this reason, ballerinas make it their business to pay attention to their footwear’s construction.

Let’s check the different materials commonly used for ballet shoes.


Ballet shoes made from canvas are easy to clean and maintain.

You can toss it in the washing machine after every use, ensuring clean footwear each time.

These lightweight canvas shoes nicely hug the feet, emphasizing the lines and shape, and are perfect for beginners.

However, these shoes do not last long and can easily show wear and tear through constant use.


Leather ballet shoes are more durable than canvas.

It is a hard-wearing material that helps in strengthening the dancer’s feet and ankle.

This sturdy material has a higher price-point than canvas but allows you to use the ballet shoes longer, saving you money in the long run.

It also needs sufficient time for breaking in before conforming completely to your feet.


This attractive-looking fabric is the most delicate among the three materials.

Therefore, dancers only use satin ballet shoes on special occasions.

Traditionally, satin ballet shoes come in light-pink tones.

Today, they are now available in several colors, depending on the performance’s required theme.

How To Clean Your Ballet Shoes

Ballet performances are highly technical—all the dancers involved in the production endeavor to perfect everything, including their dance attire.

Ballet shoes are the most vital accessory in any performance.

It is the determining factor in a dancer’s footwork execution.

As a dancer, you must ensure that your ballet shoes are in perfect condition and must look flawless at all times.

Ballet shoes are made from three different materials, and each one requires specific cleaning methods.

Canvas ballet shoes are machine-washable, making them easy to clean.

Spot-cleaning is perfect for leather ones, while you can use baking soda for satin.

Here are some guidelines on how to properly clean each shoe material.


As mentioned, canvas shoes are machine-washable.

Using a mild detergent, run it on a delicate cycle but never put it in the dryer.

Spot-cleaning with either a detergent or dish soap is perfect for small stains.


Leather shoes are not resistant to dirt.

Spot-cleaning is perfect for superficial marks by applying a damp cloth to the surface.

You can apply a mild detergent or a dish soap to the spot for deep stains, then wipe off the traces immediately with a clean cloth.


The beauty of the satin fabric is unbeatable. However, cleaning and maintaining its shine are complicated.

You can conceal scuff marks as a precautionary measure by dabbing calamine lotion or foundation in the same tone.

You can also mix a small amount of water and baking soda and apply it on the spot in a circular motion using a toothbrush or a cloth.

Leave it overnight and then wipe it off with a damp cloth, ensuring that every trace of the solution is removed.

Different Types of Ballet Shoes

Now that you know the different types of ballet shoes, it would be easier to find the right pair that will fit you perfectly.

In short, look for the one with the most comfortable feel.

The shoes play a significant role in how the dancers perform while being safe.

Check out some of our ballet shoe reviews and find the best that suits your needs.

Features of ballroom dancing shoes

Features of ballroom dancing shoes

For a professional dancer, shoes are the main element of the costume. If the shoes are chosen correctly, then the dancer can safely move around the stage without fear of injury. Comfortable shoes give the dancer the opportunity to work out every movement, bringing the performance to perfection.

In the online store "Komilfo" you can buy high-quality shoes for ballroom dancing inexpensively wholesale or retail. But at the same time, it is important not to save money and choose professional ballroom dancing shoes, as they have a number of specific features.

Features of dance shoes

Ballroom dance shoes for adults and children must meet the following criteria:

1. Good grip on the floor.

To ensure tight grip with the floor, the sole of dance shoes can only be made of genuine leather (split leather). This sole looks like suede, it does not slip. The dancer in such shoes feels the floor surface well. If the sole is made of plastic, then the foot will slip, and the rubber sole will interfere with many dance elements or rotations.

2. Features of the arch support.

The arch support is an element built into the sole. Its function is to support the shape of the foot.

If in simple shoes the length of the instep reaches the middle of the foot, in dance shoes this element has its own distinctive features for each type of dance:

  • For Latin American dances, where many movements start with the toe, shorter arch supports are used.
  • 3. Matching the lift of the dancer.

    The artist's foot must feel the insole throughout its entire length. Therefore, shoes for ballroom dancing need to be chosen according to the length of the artist's foot.

    4. Features of the heel.

    The heel of the ballroom dance shoes is hydraulically screwed firmly.

    The height and shape of the heel depends on the direction of the dance program. For Latin American incendiary dances, where there is a large load on the toe, thin high heels are often used.

    For beginner dancers, it is recommended to buy a heel no higher than 5 cm. This will make it possible to maintain a stable balance during the movements.

    Criteria for choosing dance shoes

    When buying a suitable pair of shoes for dancing, you need to follow a few simple rules:

    1. shoes match the size of the foot;
    2. material strength;
    3. softness and comfort;
    4. wear resistance;
    5. attractive appearance and design.

    Material selection

    The manufacturer usually uses strong natural fabrics for dance shoes. It can be natural and artificial leather or satin.

    Satin shoes look more beautiful, bright and attractive. But keep in mind that satin gets dirty quickly and is very difficult to clean from stains, dust and dirt.

    Men's leather shoes are more practical and easy to clean. The most practical are shoes made of genuine leather, which are moderately stretched when worn, the foot breathes in them, and treating them with shoe cream returns them to their original appearance.

    Color features

    Many ladies who compete try to choose skin-colored shoes that can hide the flaws made during the execution of movements. Shoes in black or white, on the contrary, will emphasize all the movements of the legs. They can only be worn by dancers who are confident in their abilities.

    Moscow dance store Komilfo offers to buy dance shoes of any kind, color and design style. Site managers will help you place an order and arrange delivery in a convenient way.


    However, before you go to a sports or children's store, check what requirements the leader of the circle places on children's shoes.

    Children's Czech shoes and their features

    Czech shoes are good, first of all, for their cheapness, availability and abundance of colors. They are quite comfortable, but, alas, short-lived: the leather and leather substitute from which these shoes are made quickly wear out, stretch and become unusable. It is advisable to pick up Czech shoes with a special rubberized sole: so the chance that the shoes will “live” longer increases.
    The average service life of Czech shoes (as well as ballet flats) is 2-3 months. In professional dances, they are used only as a kind of intermediate option before acquiring full-fledged dance shoes.
    When buying Czech shoes, make sure that no seams stick out of them so that they fit perfectly on a child's leg. You should not take them "for growth".

    Another possible minus of Czechs is the unreliability of their fixation on the leg. They are held in place with just one elastic band at the instep.
    Children's ballerinas and their features
    The key difference between ballet flats for dances and Czechs is that they have a separate sole, which somewhat prolongs the life of the shoe, and, in principle, is more convenient. They are firmly fixed on the child's leg with the help of additional rubber bands and straps, so the risk that they will fly off is significantly lower. Their top layer is usually made of cotton fabric or leather: these materials "breathe" and absorb sweat.
    Ballet shoes also do not tolerate too large or too small sizes - like Czechs, it is unacceptable to purchase them "for growth". The child should feel as comfortable as possible in sports shoes. It is acceptable to take ballet shoes half a centimeter more than the child’s leg, but this is the maximum.

    In most sports, gymnastics and dance sections, ballet flats or shoes are strictly required. They are convenient, simple, inexpensive. When giving a child to a circle, take care to purchase really high-quality shoes and sportswear - this is one of the guarantors of future success.

    Is it possible to dance in ordinary street shoes?
    It is not forbidden to dance in normal shoes in most dance classes, but it will be much more difficult for you to perform various dance steps in them than in special ones. This is because normal shoes are not as soft as dance shoes, and you won't be able to perform many movements correctly in them.
    The biggest difference between regular shoes and dance shoes is the sole. The soles of special dance shoes are made of either leather or suede, which provides the right interaction with the floor. Therefore, you will move easily enough, but you will not slip and fall. Leather soles are popular with swing dancers, while suede soles are popular with Latin dancers. Because leather shoes slide on the dance floor more than suede shoes.

    In addition, dance shoes usually have an extra insole to absorb moisture, which will give you more comfort. While some ordinary shoes can be comfortable and stylish, they can easily lead to injury. Impractical soles often lead to injury. Well, some dance studios install special expensive floors for classes, on which they will not be allowed to step in anything other than clean dance shoes that you do not wear on the street.

    Ballet shoes are shoes for choreography, ballet (rehearsals), and they (besides the material) are structurally different from Czech shoes.
    Unlike them, they have special rubber "holders" on the instep of the foot (as well as drawstrings for tightening the toe), which does not allow them to "lose" during training.

    They also have a sealed toe (and this is important for choreography, ballet, when exercises are performed on the toe), as well as special (separated for the heel and toe) leather inserts, which are an anti-slip element.
    The Czechs go in for physical education, if not sports, acrobatics. To do this, it is desirable to have leather shoes, so the teacher's requirement is to have special shoes in the form of ballet flats for choreography.

    Dance shoes are a matter of principle, so the choice of shoes must be approached with special attention. Classical dance is done in ballet flats. Ballet flats are soft shoes made of fabric, which are sewn according to a special pattern.

    Learn more