Written and Edited By: Lesley Mealor, BPA Dance Performance
Dancers dream of getting their first pair of pointe shoes! The beautiful satin slippers are sturdy enough to support the difficult pirouettes and arabesques that dancers perform, but there comes a time (and it’s sooner than you would think) that pointe shoes become unusable.
A pointe shoe’s lifespan ranges from 2 months to one year, depending on your age, skill level, and schedule. There are some handy tips and tricks you can try to extend the life of your pointe shoes!
Remember that while they are in the same family, pointe and ballet shoes are merely cousins. Ballet and pointe shoes have different qualities to consider when purchasing, wearing and replacing them.
For all there is to know about taking care of ballet shoes, check out our article How Long Do Ballet Shoes Last? The Need To Know Info!
Why Do Pointe Shoes Not Last Long?
When the shank of a pointe shoe is broken, or the box becomes soft from wear, the shoes become unusable and must be replaced. This can happen after just one performance for professional dancers who can sometimes go through several pairs of pointe shoes a week!
Pointe shoes also don’t last a very long time because of the materials they are made from. Since pointe shoes are handmade from little more than paper, cardboard, glue, and a few nails, they aren’t meant to last forever.
Additionally, wear and tear on pointe shoes damages them quite a bit.
Think about it – a fully grown human being is putting their entire body weight onto the tips of their toes, which are supported by these shoes! No wonder they don’t last very long!
Moisture, heat, and pressure are the main culprits when it comes to the deterioration of pointe shoes, but keep reading for some tips to keep the heat and moisture at bay!
How Long Should Your First Pair of Pointe Shoes Last?
Your first pair of pointe shoes should last between 6 months to a year.
If you are still growing, you may grow out of your pointe shoes before they really need replacing due to wear and tear.
And no, you cannot buy them bigger to grow into!
Pointe shoes are dangerous when not fitted properly and to your current foot size and shape!
How Long Do Pointe Shoes Last for Beginners?
Beginners can expect to get 6 months to a year out of pointe shoes as they don’t tend to spend as much time in class with their entire weight en pointe. Therefore beginners pointe shoes don’t break down all that quickly.
Many beginner pointe dancers only use their pointe shoes in a short, 30-minute add-on class after ballet class.
Beginner pointe dancers will be focused on simple ballet steps performed mostly at the barre, sometimes not even going en pointe for the majority of the class. Much of the wear and tear on pointe shoes comes from placing your full weight on the box.
How Long Do Pointe Shoes Last for Advanced Ballet Dancers?
Once dancers become advanced and dance en pointe more often, pointe shoes may only last between 15 and 20 hours.
Advanced ballet dancers spend more time fully en pointe, execute more difficult steps, and generally have stronger feet than beginner pointe dancers. So, unfortunately, pointe shoes die much more quickly for advanced dancers.
How Often Should You Replace Your Pointe Shoes?
You should replace your pointe shoes when they are no longer able to support your feet or your work. For more advanced dancers, this may mean every few months.
4 Signs that tell you it’s time to replace your pointe shoes include:
- You feel the shank has broken or has become very soft
- The box and the wings are very soft – when this happens, you will notice your feet sinking into the shoes
- You can feel the floor when en pointe
- Your feet have grown and the shoes no longer fit
It’s also important to remember that feet can change over time and the brand of pointe shoes you have always worn may no longer work for your feet.
If you feel that your shoes aren’t the right fit anymore, consider being re-fit and check out our article Everything You Need To Know About Buying Pointe Shoes For Ballet!
What is Meant By “Dead” Pointe Shoes?
When pointe shoes are “dead”, it means that parts of the shoe are no longer supporting the feet in a safe way. Dead pointe shoes have broken or soft shanks, mushy boxes, and are extremely pliable.
It’s important to replace your pointe shoes if they are dead or even on the verge of dying, because dancing on dead shoes is a recipe for injury.
Can You Revive a Dead Pointe Shoe?
No, you cannot revive a dead pointe shoe, however, you can do a little CPR on shoes that are on the verge of dying.
Keep in mind these tricks will only buy you a very small amount of time for example for that last performance or class of the season and are not sustainable.
PLEASE NOTE: We at Dance Parent 101 love to give you tips and tricks but if you do try any of the following we take no responsibility for any injury or outcome – as we have explained if your shoes are on the verge of dying or are dead they can cause you injury if you continue to wear them so proceed with caution!!!
Use Jet Glue on Your Pointe Shoes
Jet Glue is a tried and true remedy to harden the natural materials that pointe shoes are made of.
Apply Jet Glue to the breaking point of the shank, the inside bottom of the box, and the wings to harden those areas and keep them from retaining moisture.
Pro Tip – Jet Glue comes out quickly, and a little goes a long way! Apply sparingly, because you can always add more! Ask your teacher for help if needed!
Bake Your Pointe Shoes
This method is a bit extreme but will harden your shoes quite well for just one more use.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 celsius).
- Using a paintbrush and floor polish or floor wax like Mop and Glo (amazon.com link), paint the insides of your shoes with the polish.
- Cover a baking sheet in foil, place the shoes on the sheet, and put it in the oven.
- IMPORTANT!!!! – Turn the oven off, and let the shoes sit in the oven for 8 hours or overnight.
- After at least 8 hours, your shoes should be re-hardened and ready to wear.
Keep in mind that this method isn’t perfect, and will stain the insides of your shoes yellow.
It might be best to test this out on a pair of shoes you no longer need in case of mistakes.
How Do You Make Pointe Shoes Last Longer?
Here are five tips to use before your pointe shoes are dead to extend their life!
- Use Jet Glue – You can use Jet Glue, as mentioned above, as a life-saving measure on a dead pair of shoes, but you can also add Jet Glue to newer shoes to prolong their life before they get too soft! Follow the same steps as above.
- Darn the boxes – Darning pointe shoes refers to sewing a thick layer of thread around the platform of the shoes. This trick simply provides one more layer of protection between the shoe and the floor and can help the structure of the box stay intact for longer.
- Rotate your shoes – Pointe shoes don’t have a clear right and left. By marking each one accordingly, you can rotate them each class and extend their life so you are not constantly wearing out the same areas of the shoe.
- Store shoes properly – Pointe shoes need to be aired out after every class. The moisture they retain from your sweaty feet deteriorates the shoes. Keep shoes out of your dance bag and preferably hung up by their ribbons to ensure maximum airflow.
- Always remove the padding – Regardless of whether you use gel pads, lambswool pads, or paper towels, always remove the padding from your shoes after class. This will help all materials dry out in between classes.
Pointe shoes are a rite of passage for many young ballerinas, and with great excitement comes great responsibility. By taking care of your pointe shoes properly, they will last a little longer!