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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet slippers/footwear -- Advice please??


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For ballet class (flat -- that is, not on pointe) I have a dilemma or problem: in my few years of ballet study I've tried about 4 different brands of ballet (soft) slippers, all canvas split sole (those are the most prevalent I've found for sale and they seem popular among students.)


In every type (and especially when they are new-ish) the suede 'patch' at the toe/metatarsal part of the split sole, I feel keenly on the bottom of my foot. Sort of like you'd feel a stone in your shoe or some bothersome object picked up on the sole of your shoe - you'd try to pick it off. it feels as though my foot except for the area right over the suede patch is spilling out to the sides of the shoe and the part where the suede patch is, though actually a millimeter or two only probably higher than the canvas edge around it, feels significantly higher due to that suede patch..... Really disconcerting and not comfortable. But everyone uses these shoes and accepts them, so I wonder if my solution is just to get used to it? Or should I try something else, such as plain, ordinary socks? In my class I don't think that dress-code-wise it would be a problem, but I don't want to look sloppy or unprepared. I also think if I perform on stage at some point, I'd be in ballet slippers then (again flat - not pointe) so it might be good just to get used to any condition those present.....? Then again in class you can try to work the feet just as well as is possible and concern about the look is perhaps secondary.....?


I know it's not all about being comfortable but having effective footwear as a student for training, seems really worth doing -- when I try a few plies at home my feet feel so good and so engaged compared to being in the slippers w/ a patch on the sole that feels so awkward! I've tried a few sizes of these shoes also so is not the sizing -- i have the perfect canvas shoes for me -- but I still find them really awkward-feeling. I prefer not to go to leather though. To me those have other issues.


I've seen some students wear something that looks almost like 'diving gear', rubbery looking foot cover that may or may not have individual toes. (I have not been able to ask about those, and don't want to stare....) For me something flat (without patches, seams or level changes on the sole) I would like to at least try. The footwear w/ split sole canvas shoes is so distracting I wonder if I might just concentrate better in class without the sole of my shoe seeming to prevent the sole of my foot from really working as I feel it could (and does, when I am at home and doing a few simple tendus, etc either barefoot or in simple, regular socks) for weight shifting, plies, jumps, everything....I have a feeling it might allow me a whole other level of flexibility and strength in my feet if they could simply feel the floor which they can't, now.


Any advice? Do you think that plain socks would look too casual to be serious, in a serious class? Does anyone know what that 'diving-gear' looking footwear is called or where to get it? Because I am concerned about keeping a serious and neat look in my dance wear, I'd like to ask if any teachers could comment first whether a student in plain, though clean, athletic-type socks would look sloppy or careless? Or does a teacher truly only notice the footwork the student does, only and not the footwear...? Though for ballet, it seems not difficult to wear some proper ballet footwear.... Hence my dilemma...... :nixweiss: Any feedback or comment would really be appreciated!!

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Proper footwear is essential, Ludmilla. I would suggest trying a full sole rather than a split sole and see if that works better for you.


And yes, any good teacher will absolutely notice the footwear. I would not allow anyone in socks or athletic type socks in my classes.

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Ms. Leigh,


I really value your opinions, and thank you very much for answering both my questions. I'm really glad to know how you'd view the socks/athletic socks as a teacher. I will nix the socks idea and look for full-sole alternatives that might alleviate the feeling of having two half-soles on the bottom of each of my feet.


kr12, yes I wear tights in my shoes..... I don't care for bare feet inside my ballet shoes...

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Are you talking about Vibrams (the diving-gear shoes)? Those are running shoes and meant to be worn outside. I'm surprised your studio allows them to be worn on their studio floors.


Do you buy your shoes online or in a brick and mortar shop? A good dance store should be able to help you find shoes that don't bother your feet. Some shoes have longer pleats than others, or are bumpier under the ball of the foot.

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Totally second the dance store idea - I got some fairly good ones online, but went to the local dance shop, they put me in a half size smaller, and slightly different style. They are so much better, so I'm one happy mouse! :huepfen:

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LumiLissa27 -- What I have seen can't be Vibrams, as you described. These things I have seen are more a sort of sock-like covering and soft, or rubbery-looking... but thin and very glove-like. I've seen gray and black ones. They are not shoes with hard soles in any way.


Your idea is good to go to the physical store. Thanks for mentioning that some have longer pleats than others! That is exactly what I mean about some having such bumpiness on the sole (as well as that split-sole issue). This helps point me towards what to look at and ask for at the store.


doormouse -- So glad to hear the store solved your issues and found you just the right thing! I'll take this to heart and get myself there very soon!

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Ludmilla- I have experienced the exact same problem you are describing. My feet are very sensitive to the suede patches on the bottom of my ballet slippers. I do not care for leather shoes and about a year ago, I went on a quest to find my perfect canvas shoe. After going to my local dance store and trying on every canvas shoe they offered (in various sizes), I was still not happy.


My solution was to order several pairs of ballet slippers in different brands and sizes from an online dancewear site that offers free returns. I was able to try on the shoes at home, being very careful to stand on a clean towel to keep the shoes in new condition.


Long story short, after ordering and returning 8 pairs of shoes, I finally found a fit that I liked. (I chose Capezio Juliet, but everyone's foot is different.) The suede patch was flatter than most, although not perfect. I inserted a small block of wood into the toes of the shoe and flipped it upside down, suede side up. Then, I used a rubber hammer to pound the suede patch very flat. Now, I can't feel the patch at all. If you try this, be very careful. I learned the hard way that if you miss the wood block and hit the canvas, you will put a hole in your shoe! Also, you may want to cover the wood in an old sock to prevent wood chips from becoming stuck in your shoes.


Good luck!

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If you want proper ballet slippers, I'm afraid I haven't seen much variation in thickness of leather on the bottoms. :shrug:


If you take classes in a loosey-goosey school with a very relaxed dress code, and don't mind wearing something slightly less balletic, you might see if anyone is selling gymnastics peds near you. Sometimes called "beam shoes", my (limited) experience with these is that they are thinner than ballet slippers and while mine had pads under the heels, they did not have them under the ball of the foot!


For the record, Vibrams actually come in several models, including one meant for things like yoga and fitness classes which may in fact be great for dance -- although modern is certainly what I first thought of when I read about them. But I have no earthly idea how they would interact with wood floors or marley, and I'd hope you'd get permission from your teacher before using them, and folks would almost certainly start staring if you came into class in them!

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tamaram26 and insidesoloist -- Thank you for your comments! Tamaram - Thanks for the tips -- really helpful and practical. Insidesoloist - I'll have to think about all this-- now I am a bit self-conscious at the thought of using anything other than regular ballet slippers..... The studio I go to does have serious teachers and students and comfort might be outweighed by feeling out of place or noticeable for unusual footwear.

For now my old, worn slippers are perhaps best till I find something else......

I appreciate these comments -- I could not possibly have figured this out on my own -- Your experiences really help me to hear about --


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