A question we get all the time when we fit pointe shoes is how long will the pointe shoes last. Well, the answer to that question varies wildly because there are a variety of factors that affect the lifespan of a pointe shoe. One unchangeable fact is that traditional pointe shoes are meant to break down. That is how they work. We recently looked into just how long pointe shoes are meant to last and were surprised to find out just how short the lifespan actually is. Freed of London says their pointe shoes are meant to last 6-8 dance hours, while Grishko says theirs last 8-10. Obviously the more the shoes are used, the more quickly they will break down, but the lifespan is also affected by the way the shoes are broken in, the strength of a dancer’s foot, and very importantly, the way the shoes are cared for.
Breaking in pointe shoes is a personal thing. Most professional dancers have their own way of breaking in their shoes, and some resort to extreme measures, which should not be copied by beginning or intermediate dancers. One thing to remember is that professional dancers are not paying for their shoes and don’t need to worry quite so much about making them last as long as possible.
Most companies recommend breaking in their shoes by gently using them at the barre. One thing that is uniform is that the break in process should be gentle. No slamming pointe shoes in doorjams, driving over them, clobbering them with a hammer, etc. Doing these things is a guaranteed way of killing your shoes. In our YouTube Fun category, we have a video by Lisa Howell on the break-in process. You can find it here. Keep in mind, that everyone is different, so this might not be necessary for everyone. Always be sure to have your teacher help you with the break in process.
As a dancer advances on pointe, she will start to go through shoes more quickly. There are some things that can be done to help prolong a pointe shoe’s life. This process often goes along with the initial breaking in of the shoes. Jet Glue is often used on the inside of the box to help keep the box strong. Freed recommends darning the platform of the box to help reinforce it and to aide with stability for pirouettes. Cutting the shank at the 3/4 mark (just under the heel) is another thing that can help keep the shank from breaking down as quickly by taking off unnecessary pressure on the entire shank. (This works very similarly to Lisa Howell’s break-in method). There are even more tricks that people use. If you have any that you would like to share, feel free to send in your pointe shoe tips!
Lastly, we want to discuss pointe shoe care. Whether you know it or not, feet sweat a lot – up to a pint of moisture a day. Moisture breaks down the glue in pointe shoes, so it is exceedingly important to let the shoes completely dry out in between classes. Some manufacturers even recommend letting the shoes dry up to 3 days in between uses. In order for the shoes to dry out properly, take them out of your dance bag and be sure to take out all padding such as Ouch Pouches in the shoes. (Storing your pointe shoes in a mesh bag is perfectly fine). In order for the shoes to maintain their shape, loosely tuck paper towel inside the box. If you have pointe class several times a week and are concerned about whether your pointe shoes are able to dry out completely between uses, you might consider buying two pair at a time and alternating pairs between uses. While this presents a greater upfront cost, this will help your shoes last longer and save you money in the long run.
With the many variables affecting pointe shoe life, it is ultimately very hard to predict how long a pair of shoes will last. Some students have reported having their shoes last for an entire year, and some some have said that their shoes broke down in a day. In any case, breaking in your shoes properly and treating them well will help you get as much dancing out of them as possible.