Perfect pointe shoes are every dancer’s dream but when it comes to breaking them in they can bring unnecessary pain. Pointe shoes allow a dancer to spin, balance and perform at their best. Unfortunately, many dancers destroy their brand new pointe shoes before dancing in them for the first time by not breaking them in properly.

The purpose of breaking in a new pair of pointe shoes is to mould them to the shape of your foot. Breaking in your new ballet shoes will make them more comfortable when you wear them. Make sure that you are fitted by a professional because if you begin with the wrong size, achieving a perfect fit will be impossible no matter what break-in techniques you use. As each foot is different, each dancer breaks in their shoes a bit differently. If you are unsure, consult with an experienced dance instructor.

You can break in pointe shoes by simply starting to dance in them. There are, however, a few ways to cut corners and speed up the process. Try these simple techniques to break your shoes in.

1. Soften the Box of a Pointe Shoe

The first thing you want to do when you find your perfect pointe shoes is to break in the box. The box is where your toes are going to be in your shoe. You just need to soften it a little bit, so don’t overdo it. You can use your palms to crunch the box a little each way. You can also soften the box by stepping on it lightly.

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2. Break in the Shank

After breaking in the box, the next part of the shoe to break in is the shank. This is where the arch of your foot is. Put your foot up to pointe to find out where the heel of the shoe ends. This is where you bend the shank. Move your heel back and forth in the spot where your heel will rest. Use your hands to gently bend the shoe back and forth at the three-quarter point. Be extremely careful not to snap the shank! If the shank is snapped the shoe will be unwearable. ​

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3. Exercise to Break in a Pointe Shoe

After you break in the shank, the last step is to walk around and do some exercises in your pointe shoes. Walk on demi pointe and then do some roll-throughs. Starting at first position, push your arch all the way up and then switch feet. Bar work is also helpful in breaking in pointe shoes. Start in sixth position with your feet together, plié and roll up onto the box of your shoe, stretch and then lower through demi pointe before dropping to your heels.

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Before wearing in your new pointe shoes, be sure you know what you are doing and what exactly you want to do. If you are a novice dancer, ask your dance instructor for help. Do not copy professional dancers who only need to make the shoe last one performance. Do not slam them against a brick wall. Do not crush the block in a door, hammer them, or bend the shank in half. These techniques shorten the life of the shoe and could prove dangerous to the dancer if the shoe is no longer supportive. The goal is to make your pointe shoes last as long as possible.