Should I bring my child in to be fitted for dance shoes?
Yes, it is always easiest to bring your child in to be fitted for any kind of dance shoe. (Ballet, tap, jazz...etc.) Most of them run a little bit differently than a street shoe so trying it on is recommended.
If you can't bring your child in, here are some helpful hints so you can get the right shoe the first time!
- Know your child's current street shoe size.
- Bring in their last dance shoe so you can compare to the new one.
- You can trace your child's foot and bring in the drawing.
We will do our best to try to find the right shoe for your child. If the size is incorrect when they try it at home, unworn shoes can be returned or exchanged within 14 days of purchase with a receipt!
Do I need to make an appointment to be fitted for pointe shoes?
No, you do not need an appointment to be fitted for pointe shoes. There is always someone at Motion Unlimited who is able to fit you in pointe shoes. However, we do ask that you arrive at least one hour before we close so we can have enough time to properly fit you.
Do you have a fitting fee for pointe shoes?
Yes, we do have a fitting fee of $25.00 when more than two shoes are tried on and no shoes are purchased. This fee will go toward the next pair of pointe shoes you purchase with us.
If you come to us to get fitted and buy shoes, there is NO fitting fee!
Why can’t my daughter go en’ pointe with her pre-pointe shoes?
Though only a select schools offer pre-pointe ballet classes, pre-pointe shoes really do provide the student with a comfortable adjustment from ballet flats to pointe shoes. Pre-pointe shoes were designed to help the student learn what pointe shoes are supposed to feel like on their feet. While wearing pre-pointe shoes, the dancer can take ballet class in them without going en’ pointe and they will learn to get used to the snugness of the box along the feeling of having a thicker sole to stand on.
The construction of the pre-pointe shoe is very much like a pointe shoe except that it does not have a shank (the thick innersole of the pointe shoe that offers the foot its support while en’ pointe) and the box is not quite as hard as the pointe shoe’s box.
To replace the shank of the shoe, the pre-pointe shoe has layers of cushioning as the innersole, and it offers a unique way of helping the student learn to balance in the pointe shoes while standing flat.
Even though it may be tempting, ballet students should NEVER go up en’ pointe in pre-pointe shoes, as they may drastically injure their feet which could result in permanent damage keeping them from ever being able to do any real pointe work.
When is a dancer ready for pointe work?
Though the decision is always left up to the instructor, there are a few guidelines as to when a ballet student is ready to begin dancing on pointe.
First, age is very large factor when contemplating putting a student up on pointe. After fitting pointe shoes for over ten years, it has been my experience that in general, anyone under the age of 11 should not begin pointe work. The main reason for this opinion (and many teachers would agree) is that a child’s bones, tendons, and ligaments need to be mature enough (or strong enough) to withstand the kind of pressure, strength and mobility required to dance on pointe. If started too young, when their bones are not fully formed, the dancer could end up with unnecessary injuries or even debilitating structural problems with her feet!
Physically, a ballet student should be able to pull up and out of their hips properly, proving that there is strength in their core as well as the flexibility in their joints required to withstand the repetitive technical movements a new pointe student is required to do. The dancer that is ready for pointe shoes must also have an understanding of their center, never leaning and gripping the barre, and when in tendu, the foot and arch should show strength and flexibility.
Lastly, the student must show dedication, ambition and a real desire to progress in ballet class. They should be taking ballet class at least 3 times a week (sometimes more often, depending on the instructor) and will rarely miss their classes and will feel positive and energetic about attending them. Those that show a true passion for dance only want to excel in their art and pointe work, at that time, is naturally the next step!
While being fit for my first pair of pointe shoes, what can I do to ensure that it is an easy process?
Getting your first pair of pointe shoes is a very exciting endeavor! To help ensure that you get the best fit possible, follow these simple guidelines:
- Always get professionally fitted - especially for your first pair of pointe shoes! It is virtually impossible to order pointe shoes unless you have worn them for some time.
- If you are unable to travel to Motion Unlimited for your first pair of pointe shoes, be sure to check around and only go to a store that has a good reputation for fitting pointe shoes.
- Educate yourself on the different brands, styles and shapes of different pointe shoes. Understand the type of foot you have as well. Your fitter will have all the necessary information, but it never hurts to come prepared!
- Trim your toenails. You do not want long toenails pushing on the end of your pointe shoes.
- Allow at least an hour to get fit for your first pair of pointe shoes. It may not take that long, or it may be a bit longer!
- Try to go to your fitting in the afternoon. Your feet will swell throughout the day and you want to be fit for your pointe shoes after your feet have swelled a bit to ensure a proper fit.
- Ask your instructor if there are any types of pointe shoes or padding he/she will not allow for you to wear.
- Tell your fitter what types of shoes and padding your instructor will or will not allow you to wear (if any).
- Wearing your tights to your fitting is a plus. You will have a better idea of what your feet will feel like inside your shoes with your tights on.
- If you are the nostalgic type, bring a camera! Getting your first pair of pointe shoes is a memorable moment- treasure it, no one will mind!
- Most importantly, COMMUNICATE with your fitter. Ask any questions you might have! You and only you are wearing your pointe shoes, be open and honest about how they feel so that you leave feeling satisfied.
- HAVE FUN!
What is the proper way to sew my pointe shoes?
After purchasing your pointe shoes, you will have to sew on the ribbons and elastic. This may seem intimidating at first, but after sewing a few pairs, you’ll get the hang of it! There are a few tips to ensure that your ribbons & elastic are sewn on in a manor that will help prevent injury & will remain in tact for the length of your journey together.
- Cut your ribbon in four equal lengths (two for each foot).
- With adult supervision, singe the ends of the ribbons with a match or lighter. This will keep the ribbon from fraying & falling apart.
- Fold the satin of the heel of your pointe shoe down (towards the box) so that it is completely flat against the insole. The crease on either side of the pointe shoe is where you will sew the ribbon. Generally, they are sewn just behind the side seams.
- Always sew your pointe shoe accessories (ribbons & elastic) at an angle towards the front of your foot; not only will it help alleviate undo pressure on your ankle joints, it will also help create an unwrinkled, smooth line while working on pointe.
- Make your stitching around the perimeter of the fabric, creating a “square” with your stitches. This will help keep them secure.
- Do NOT sew the ribbon in the binding where the drawstring is located, this will prevent you from being able to pull your drawstring securely!
- After putting your pointe shoes on, wrap the ribbon around your ankle two times and tie a knot at the inside of your ankle. Cut all but two inches of the ribbon that is extra.
- Always sew your pointe shoe accessories (ribbons & elastic) at an angle towards the front of your foot.
- While your pointe shoe is on your foot, put the elastic around your ankle placing the ends about three inches from each other on either side of the back seam. Be sure there is a bit of tension, not too much, but enough so that it will feel secure on your foot while working on pointe. Mark the area on the elastic where the elastic meets the satin.
- Sew the elastic about three inches apart from each other on either side of the back seam of your pointe shoes.
- Do NOT sew the elastic in the binding where the drawstring is located, this will prevent you from pulling your drawstring securely!
Why can’t we allow growing room in our pointe shoes?
If you allow growing room in a pointe shoe, not only would the dancers foot be improperly supported, but the friction of the foot rubbing against the box of the pointe shoe would literally leave your dancer with a raw, bloody foot! A teacher friend of mine always says to her students, “no bloody ballerina’s!”
In order for the dancer to perform at their best, and to be as comfortable as possible, their pointe shoes must fit very snug and secure. When relevéing on to pointe, the shoe must be at one with the foot. There shouldn’t be any allowable movement in a pointe shoe. The box of the pointe shoe should always give support to the foot while on pointe and the dancer should never feel their foot sink into the shoe.
Your shoes are too big if……..*
1. There is gapping of any kind!
2. The satin is wrinkling by the side seams.
3. There is too much “pinch” in the heel of the shoe while on pointe.
4. There is so much space between the upper box and the toes that you can slide you finger into the shoe.
5. You can wiggle your toes while wearing your pointe shoes.
6. The tips of your toes are not just touching the platform of the pointe shoe.
* There are always exceptions to the rules! Everyone’s feet are unique so be sure to always have your shoes fit by a trustworthy reliable source! Remember, your feet will be with you for a lifetime, so take care of them and respect them as you would your best friend!
What if I have two different sized feet? Will I need to buy two pairs?
If you have one foot that is at least a ½ size different then the other, then yes, you will need to buy two pairs of pointe shoes. If you have a foot that is less than a ½ size different than the other, there are ways to secure your smaller foot in the pointe shoe that is slightly too big. Always buy your pointe shoes to fit your bigger foot, and make adjustments for your smaller foot as needed.
When I come across two feet that are different sizes, and I decide that I don’t need to fit them in two different shoes, I look at where the extra room lies in the shoe. It will most likely be near the box of the foot, or if their foot is wide, more towards the heel of the shoe. There are pointe shoe liners that are extremely thin (perfect for filling up the slightest amount of room) that I will either cut to fit the ball of the foot near the box, or the back of the foot near the heel, depending on where the extra space lies. I do not recommend filling up the space with extra toe pads or lambs wool, this will only make the toes feel crunched when that may not even be the area that needs filling!
If you think that your feet are two different sizes, always see a professional pointe shoe fitter to have you’re your feet thoroughly analyzed to ensure that you get the right shoes for your feet.
Once I am fit in a particular style or brand of shoe, should I always buy the same kind?
My general recommendation is to always stick with a shoe that works best with your feet; causes the least amount of discomfort and supports the arch of your foot the best. So, if you purchase one kind of shoe and it gives you little or no discomfort, continue purchasing and working with that shoe until you notice discomfort, or if your foot has grown or changed in shape (which happens frequently). It can be very difficult to find a shoe that you are comfortable with so if and when you do find it, be happy that your search is over (at least for the time being). As you advance as a dancer, you will most likely want to purchase a different type of shoe than the one you wore as a beginner. This is necessary because the pointe work you will be doing as an advanced dancer is longer in duration, more complex, and your foot will be stronger and more flexible than it was as a beginner.
How do I know when I need new pointe shoes?
There are a few ways that you can tell whether or not you’re due for some new shoes. Many dancers will come in thinking that their shoes are too small, and when I begin fitting them, it turns out that they are in the exact same size they were in originally. Amazing, right? Not really. The reason your shoes may begin to feel too small is because the box of the shoe has broken down so much that it is not supporting your foot anymore. Your toes are literally jamming into the platform because the box is soft and it is not holding your foot back into the shoe. Also after dancing and sweating in your shoes for some time, the structure of your shoe has altered. The moment you notice that your shoes are beginning too feel too small is the moment you need to speak up and purchase a new pair. Some dancers will break down the platform of the shoe. As soon as you notice that the platform of your shoe is soft: buy a new pair! This could cause many problems including bruised toenails and much discomfort! The shank of your pointe shoes should also be supportive. If you can roll over the platform of your shoes, then they are too soft and you could risk tendonitis, or even a sprained ankle. Many dancers will have a period of time when their shoes feel quite comfortable and there is little or no discomfort, then after some time, their shoes will start to bother them a bit (the shank is getting soft, the box is mushy, etc..). As soon as your feet start telling you something isn't working anymore, listen to them, and purchase a new pair!
What can I do to help break in my shoes?
This is a question asked very frequently by dancers who have been on pointe for a couple of years and have a decent understanding of what their feet require and which pointe shoes work best for them. It is crucial that the dancer knows her foot, how her shoes break in, and is mature enough to take care of her shoes as she is breaking them in using caution while trying some of these suggestions. For newer students, break in your shoes under the supervision of your instructor.
First, the box of the shoe could be softened and widened a bit because it is generally very uncomfortable in the beginning. To do this, put your pointe shoes on and slightly step on the box (the top) of the pointe shoes so they can allow a little more room for the width of your foot. Walk in them on a high demi pointe, which is uncomfortable at first, but this will allow the box to soften and shape to your foot. You can also add a small amount of rubbing alcohol or water to the wings (the sides of the box) of the pointe shoe to enhance the comfort of the shoe even more.
Next, you could break in the shank. Hold your pointe shoe in your hands and bend the shank gently at the top of the shank (above the side seam by the heel). Do not bend it in the middle of the shoe! You will want to make the shank flexible at the top portion to the shoe to ensure that while you are dancing on pointe the shank is not breaking too low on your foot. Do some relevés on pointe while your foot is warm to soften it even further.
More advanced dancers may be interested in modifying the shanks of their shoes. There are a few ways to “break” the shank. One way is to make a cut in the shank or take a portion of it out, and then reattach the remaining shank. This will help the dancer get up and over the platform of the shoe and also to create an appealing and esthetically pleasing look while on pointe. Motion Unlimited can provide these two services for you for a minimal fee! There are certain tools needed to perform these procedures and it is best to bring your shoes into a professional and learn what is needed to perform these tasks.
*Remember to always ask your teacher or a professional before performing any of these tasks on your shoes!
How Long Will My Pointe Shoes Last?
The longevity of a pointe shoe is determined by quite a few factors. Many parents of new dancers do not realize the wear and tear placed on a pointe shoe far exceeds that of a regular shoe! Secondly, the make of a pointe shoe is such that is actually intended to break down as the dancer uses them, which helps to make them more comfortable as they are used but will also result in a short term relationship with the dancer’s foot.
When asked how long a pointe shoe will last, I ask the following questions:
How old are you? This will help me determine whether or not they may grow out of them soon.
During the course of a week, how many classes do you take en pointe? The more classes that are taken, the more the shoes will break down.
Will you be having any performances coming up that will require more use of your shoes than usual? If there is a performance, then there is a lot more time being spent dancing in the shoes which will give them a shorter life expectancy.
I also look at the strength of the dancer’s foot, how they store their shoes while they are not being used and also what level the dancer is at. A pointe shoe will not last as long with a strong foot as it would with a weaker or more flexible foot. If the shoes are stuffed into a dance bag with their toe pads left in the box of the shoe after being worn in class, all of the perspiration will sit in the pointe shoe and cause it to soften prematurely. Finally, a more advance dancer who is using their shoes more frequently than they did when they were first beginning pointe will notice much sooner then a newer dancer if their feet are not feeling supported correctly, thus resulting in the need to purchase shoes more frequently than they did when they were first beginning pointe.
One more final factor is the make of the shoe. A harder shoe will generally get the dancer through more hours of pointe work than a softer shoe will, though not all feet are made for hard shoes! One cannot necessarily buy a harder shoe just to make it last longer if it doesn’t fit their foot properly.
A beginner can usually count on their shoes lasting anywhere from 6-9 months as long as their foot hasn’t grown since their first fitting. However, as a student advances, a professional fitter would need to look at their foot and ask all of the above questions before being able to answer how long they can expect their shoes to last.
Is it normal for the platform of my pointe shoe to get soft?
It is a known fact that no two feet are alike, therefore everyone will break in their shoes quite differently. It has been my experience that when a pointe shoe gets soft in the platform, the foot is generally putting an excess of pressure on the platform of the shoe as apposed to distributing it evenly throughout the entire shoe. Yes, there is always A LOT of pressure put on the platform of a pointe shoe, but if it goes soft quickly, then the shoe is most likely not the best fit for you.
Many times, when the vamp is too deep for a dancer’s foot, the platform will get soft at the pleats of the shoe because she is unable to get up and over her shoes and all of her weight is sitting directly on that lower portion of the platform. When the weight is distributed more evenly in the shoe, the pressure is distributed throughout the whole entire platform instead of sitting one small area.
Another reason the platform of a pointe shoe will go soft can be related to the strength of the dancer’s foot compared to the strength of the shank of the shoe. If the dancer has strong feet, and she is wearing a flexible pointe shoe, the shank of the pointe shoe may not be supporting her foot as well as it should and the weight of her body is being supported most entirely by the box and platform, thus causing it to break down quickly.
In most cases, seeing a professional pointe shoe fitter and buying a different type of shoe that works better for your foot should solve the problem.
How can I make my pointe shoes last longer?
This is a question frequently asked by parents of ballerinas who are reaching a more advanced level and are going through pointe shoes at a faster rate than they once were. Here are a few tips to help save your pocket book.
Always air out your pointe shoes! The moisture from the perspiration of a dancers foot is what really helps to mold the shoe to her foot, but it also will break the shoe down quickly if it is left damp, stuffed in a dance bag. It’s always recommended to purchase mesh bag to hang on the outside of your dance bag and let the shoes air dry after each wearing.
Many companies offer their pointe shoes in various shank strengths, so unless the pointe shoes are breaking down in an uncomfortable or inefficient way (the shank is bowing, the platform is softening, etc...) you may be able to order your shoes in a harder shank. It is important that the shank of the pointe shoes are not hindering the productivity of the dancers foot, so the shank still needs to conform to her arch while still offering enough support through the ball of the foot.
Lastly, as long as the dancer has been wearing pointe shoes for a few years and feels quite confident and knowledgeable about where her shoes break down, she might be interested in trying Daniel's Pointe Shoe Glue (moisture repellant glue that hardens as it dries). Very carefully apply a thin layer of glue in the area of the shoe that breaks down quickest. It is best to apply it before the pointe shoes have been worn, to ensure proper function of the glue.
In any case, it is important to understand that every serious, advanced dancer will begin to wear through her shoes at a faster pace than she once did. It isn’t uncommon for a dancer at this level to go through a few pairs of pointe shoes a month depending on how frequently and how demanding her classes are.
What can I do about blisters, bruised toe nails and bunions?
If your pointe shoes fit properly, you should have minimal amounts of blisters, bruises and the like. However, as you get used to your feet and begin to know what is problematic for them, what shoes are working and what shoes are not, here are some tips for caring for your feet along the way.
Blisters occur when tender skin is rubbing back and forth on the box of the pointe shoes. Usually a blister will break open and bleed creating a lot of discomfort for the dancer. It is advisable to stop dancing and tend to the blister as soon as possible. Sterilize the blister and cut off any excess skin with sterile scissors. You can purchase second skin, a thin layer of cooling gel, and place it directly onto the blister. Then using moleskin, cut out a small hole (a little larger than the size of the blister) creating a ring, and place it over the blister securing it with adhesive tape. You can use two layers of moleskin for added protection. If you get blisters often, tape the toes most prone to prevent future blisters.
Bruised toenails occur when either the pointe shoe is too short or the box is too wide for the shape of the foot. First, it is very important to have your shoes fit by a professional fitter, one with experience to be sure that the shoe is appropriate for your foot. No one should suffer from bruised toenails. Generally, a different shoe will correct the problem.
In the meantime, while a dancer is experiencing a painful bruised toenail, pad the toe with a gel tip to cover at the end of the injured toe.
Also, if the bruised toenail is on the longest toe (it usually is), try padding the shorter toes with some lambswool to even out the weight of the pressure inside the shoe. It's very important that the foot is not over-padded; this will make the bruise even worse!
Bunions are caused by undue pressure across the metatarsals of the foot creating inflamed big toe joints. It is important that the pointe shoes (and street shoes) are wide enough and that the toes lie straight inside the pointe shoe. To alleviate the pain, use a toe spacer between the big and second toe. This will help to keep the big toe from curving in towards the other smaller toes.
Why does my longest toe always get bruised after I wear my pointe shoes?
The reason your longest toe gets bruised after wearing your pointe shoes is caused by one of three reasons. One, is that your shoes are too small, meaning too short. Your longest toe should just touch the platform (or end) of the shoe. While standing flat, your toes shouldn’t curl or push against the box in any way; it should be touching the platform lightly. Secondly, your shoes could be too wide, which would affect the support you have while standing on pointe. Your shoes should be snug enough in the width of the foot to properly support your weight without allowing slippage while standing on pointe. If your shoe is too wide, your foot will most definitely sink into the pointe shoe causing a lot of unnecessary pressure on your longest toe. Lastly, be sure that your shoes are not too square for your foot. In many cases, one will find that a squarer shoe feels more comfortable at first, but then after wearing them for a period of time, you realize that your foot is sliding in and out of the shoe and is not being supported properly, causing blisters and bruised toenails. Make sure that if you have tapered toes, your shoe resembles the shape of your foot with a tapered box. To eliminate the problem of bruised toenails, have a professional fitter look at your shoes, and decide what the exact problem is. Purchase a shoe that fits properly and go from there. It is possible that this could always be a problem for your foot type, but there’s no reason to live in pain. Try balancing out the pressure that is inside the shoe. For instance, if your big toe is the longest toe, add a little lambswool to the tips of the rest of your toes so that the weight will be evenly distributed while you are on pointe. Or, as long as the shoe you purchased fit properly, try adding padding to the longest toe and see if a little extra cushion helps elevate the pressure, just make sure that the shoe is long enough so that the added cushion isn’t causing more pressure than necessary.
What is a foot stretcher?
A foot stretcher is a clever devise that was invented to help with the technique and flexibility of the instep and arch of your foot. It is constructed with a solid piece of wood, about 12”-18” in length and it is covered by a soft sponge like material and then wrapped in a soft fabric. Across the top of the stretcher is a sturdy, thick canvas-like strap that wraps from one side of the stretcher to the other.
To use the foot stretcher, sit on the floor with your legs apart and slide your foot through the strap. Slowly, while using your turn-out, engage your core muscles, and straighten your leg until you feel a nice stretch across the top of your foot and hold this position for 30 seconds or so. Release, relax your muscles, and repeat 6 times, gradually increasing the repetitions. Be sure NOT to sickle your foot! Beware of stretching too far- this could injure your tendons, ligaments or muscles! Do this stretch everyday, before and after class and you will see a remarkable improvement over a short period of time.
NOTE: To use a foot stretcher, you must always take the advice of your instructor to prevent injuries!
If you have a difficult time getting over the box of your pointe shoes, or you want to improve the overall esthetic look of you foot, use a foot stretcher! Motion Unlimited sells a variety of handmade foot stretchers that have been made with love, by Homer Hans Bryant, founder of Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center.
Do you offer student discounts?
No, we do not have any discounts for students. However, every month there is always something on sale! Visit our Sales page for more info!
Do you sell used shoes? Can I give you my old shoes?
No, Motion Unlimited does not accept or sell used or worn shoes.
Do you take phone orders?
Yes! Call us anytime during our business hours and we will gladly take your order right over the phone!
I can't make it to the store, can you ship some items to me?
Yes, order online or give us a call and we can send your merchandise to you. We ship through UPS and as long as we have all the items in stock we usually send them out that day! We cannot ship to PO Boxes, so please have an alternate street address available for us to send your items to. Shipping charges start at $10.50 and go up with weight.
Need your items fast? We offer express shipping! Extra charges do apply.
You don't have the item I need in stock. What are my options?
There are a couple of things we can do. First of all, we can always order merchandise that we carry in the store. Sometimes items are in high demand and it is difficult for us to keep them in stock. As long as we stock the item, we can get it in the store in about two weeks (As long as the company it comes from has it in stock). If you need the item sooner we can rush the order with a $10.00 fee and we can get it in about a week.
We also do special orders of items we do not carry in our store. All we need is at least a 1/2 deposit and we can place an order for your merchandise. Please note that special order items can not be returned or exchanged!! We will do our best to work with you to make sure we can get the style and size correct.
We do our best to get your orders in ASAP. However, sometimes items get placed on back order and we have no control over how long it takes for them to come in. We always keep our customers informed on their orders and if you have any questions it is best to call or e-mail!
Do you have any other locations?
No, we only have our one location downtown in the Chicago loop.