700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

If the Shoe Fits: Going En Pointe

Oct 08, 2018
image of en pointe shoes

For most children who start ballet, the goal is to dance in pointe shoes (or go en pointe). Hours are spent practicing proper technique at the barre and being able to perform flawless choreography to make every performance look effortless. But, to safely go en pointe, it takes more than just desire.

Criteria for Going En Pointe

Dancers start en pointe when they have met all of the following criteria:

  • Are 12 years old or older
  • Have full range of motion in hips, knee and ankles
  • Have strong core and leg muscles
  • Have had at least four years of ballet training consisting of at least two classes per week of ballet

Screening is Still Necessary

Even if a dancer meets the above mentioned criteria, a pointe readiness screening is recommended. Pointe readiness screenings allow a performing arts medicine specialist, such as an athletic trainer, to evaluate your child’s strength, range of motion, balance, control, power, endurance, form and technique. 

A dancer needs enough motion in the ankle to be able to lift up en pointe and plenty of strength to stay up. Screenings are designed to be high repetition of skills that will challenge the dancer’s ability to maintain balance, control and power without fatigue or technique becoming sloppy.

Fitting a Pointe Shoe

Multiple factors are considered when looking at pointe shoes: material, length, width, rigidity and ability to go on pointe. One must also look at foot shape, foot strength and prior injuries. Each manufacturer makes a pointe shoe a little different, so it is important to try a variety of shoes to ensure the best fitting shoe. 

A pointe shoe should be comfortable and should not tightly squeeze the foot and toes. It is always better to have a professional fit the shoe to make sure it will not increase the likelihood of injuries.

When it is correctly fitted, the shoe will help decrease the stress being placed on the body when en pointe. Incorrectly fitted shoes can decrease the dancer’s ability to perform and achieve full pointe. An incorrectly fitted shoe can also increase the likelihood for certain injuries. For instance, a box which is too loose will cause the foot to slide around and may contribute to stress fractures in the lower leg. However, a properly fitted pointe shoe can help the dancer with correct form and technique.

Staying En Pointe

Like with any sport, dancers can suffer athletic injuries. A dancer who has been diagnosed with certain ankle injuries will need a properly fitted shoe to achieve and control full pointe. Pointe shoes will wear out throughout the season and dancers should not dance on a “dead shoe” (or shoes that have broken shanks, boxes and no longer support the foot as intended).

Relevé to the Top

To ensure that your ballerina is ready to rise (relevé) to the top, they should be screened before going en pointe to ensure safety and the demands on the body.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Ashley Minnick, MSAH, AT, ATC
Sports Medicine

Ashley E. Minnick, MSAH, AT, ATC, received her bachelor's of science in education from Wright State University. Currently, Ashley is an athletic trainer at New Albany High School. She is also involved in the pediatric sports medicine athletic training internship program at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.