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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet slippers- cross straps, one strap, no strap?

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I have been in a quest for the "perfect" fitting ballet slipper, as they never seem to fit quite right. Yesterday I tried some more slippers on at a ballet shop, the shop girl told me some helpful things about the shape of my foot, but she thought the most important thing I was doing wrong with fit was the straps.


She said I have a very high instep and suggested no straps, or at most, one strap across. No straps seems like my foot would pop right out. Do others with a higher instep agree with the shop girl's recommendation? I am confused as to why having straps/no straps should even be relevent to instep size-- wouldn't you just want to make sure the straps aren't too tight, regardless of where they are placed?


I am a newbie so any thoughts from those more experienced are appreciated.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

It has been my experience that one needs the elastics to hold the shoe securely on the foot. I don't agree with the person you spoke with in the dancewear store. I have very high insteps - arches - and I either attach my elastics in a crisscross fashion (as in the Sansha ballet flats) or I remove the elastics that come on the shoes and secure one wider piece of elastic over the instep. Either way works for me - no straps do not work for me as I have to snug up the drawstring elastic too tightly for comfort with no straps.

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I think no strap would not work. I have strong feet but not high-arched, and find that the criss-cross straps work best in keeping my shoes (canvas, split-sole) hugging the shape of my foot. If you use one strap, the usual way to position it, is to fold the back heel forward so that the bend is at the point where the body of the shoe meets the sole. The point of the bend on the upper edge of the shoe is where the elastic should be sewn.


I tend to buy my shoes in a half-size too large, as I don't like tight shoes. But this is a big mistake! Canvas shoes stretch, and I have to remember to buy half a size smaller ...

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I disagree with your shopkeeper, but I do agree that straps could be an issue with the fit of your shoe. Where you sew them matters - and I find that having a nice arching hugging shoe means having to sew the straps higher up towards the middle of my feet than farther back. I do not have high insteps, so I cannot advise you the best place to sew them. My suggestion is that you safety pin the straps where you think you should sew then, try them out and take a good look at them at all angles in front of a mirror and adjust them accordingly until you find the perfect place - then you can sew the straps in permanently.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Related but different subject - I like canvas shoes but don't like dirly shoes or shoes with rosin build up. So, I purchase my shoes a half size too large and before I wear them for the first time, I wash them in the washing machine (I don't dry them in the dryer) and they shrink a bit. That allows me the option of washing them again whenever I want, without fearing they won't fit afterwards. So Voila! I have the option of having nice clean shoes whenever I choose. :)

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Whenever I wash mine I put them on a little damp over socks to try and try to stretch them back out-- maybe I should get them bigger to begin with.

My other fit issue is that I have essentially no heel and a wider forefoot so I either have to get a narrow shoe to fit the heel or a slightly wider shoe to fit the toes.


I'm glad to hear the shopkeeper's opinion is just that-- one opinion, as no straps seems like it would be very uncomfortable. Looking at my foot later, I definitely don't have the crazy high insteps I see when you google it-- but I do have a definite bony bump, but since I haven't noticed any particular sensitivity on the bump than on the rest of my foot it shouldn't matter if straps hit it, presumably, as long as they aren't too tight.

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You are correct, no straps and you will slip out of them. With a high instep, you place the elastics close to the highest point of the instep: to keep the shoe on and to give that beautiful arch some exposure.


Two elastics are an insurance policy, in case one strap breaks.


Crossed straps make the foot look longer and more slender.


A few students, including me, used to tie our elastics in a knot and slip it under the arch. One evening the teach threw everyone out who did not have properly sewn elastics, including me. I've never done it since.

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Definitely yes to straps!!!! No dancer, professional or amateur should wear shoes without elastics. The drawstrings are not an alternative, they are there to make sure that the shoes fit well and don't gape at the sides. You need elastics so that you don't grip your toes to keep the shoes on. I have a pretty high instep and I do prefer one strap rather than the criss cross ones, but really only because I find them easier to put on with one strap! I think it's up to you and what is comfortable for you. Just do be careful that if you decide on criss cross straps that you don't sew them too far forward. I am forever altering the elastics on my students' shoes, because they sew them too far forward and spoil the fit and the look of the shoe.

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Cross straps for me. Lets you customize the shoe a little better wrapping it closer to your foot.

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KikiM, I have a non-existent heel too and the only shoes that really fit me properly are the Bloch Elastosplits as they have a very narrow heel. They are apparently discontinued though so are becoming hard to find.

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Since I was young, I've only had one strap kind, but recently changed to 2 straps. It took me a while to sew because the first time I did it, the pair didn't match. Well, they still don't look exactly alike but our feet are different from one foot to another so I just ignored it. ;) I like it better than one strap. I have very narrow feet (I wear 2AN for my Bloch) and the 2 straps pull the shoes in more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have high arches and I know that there is no way that I could keep any ballet pumps on without elastics. I like two elastics attached at the back as the Sansha's are and attached at the front a little more forward than many of my classmates; but in that position they really hold to my feet.

For me personally the new (or at least new in SA) Grishko performance canvas split soles fit me best; but that is more because of the shape of my toes which taper off very sharply from the second toe to the baby toe.


One of the girls in our studio sometimes wers shoes without elastics; and I would have to describe her feet as "flatter" in terms of arch and she doesnt seem to have any challenges keeping them on but she is the only one.


Some of the girls sew the two ends of the Sansha elastics together to make a big loop and then twist it and tuck it under the shoe which they like; it will really pull into the arch as that is where the elastic is now sitting.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I personally think the cross strap is a modern design. When I was a young dancer everyone wore one elastic. The criss-cross elastics only appeared when I was an adult. I was taught to fold in the heel and sew the elastic at the fold, and that placement always worked well for me. Once, when out of town, I wore a new pair of shoes with no elastic on them to class ( not having planned to be away from home long I hadn't packed dance stuff and ended up buying shoes out of a box in the reception area and taking class in t-shirt and newly purchased leggings). Anyway the shoes worked pretty well at barre but were useless when jumping, especailly if beats were involved! I can't imagine that the person at the store that told you dancers can go without elastic has ever known one who did, or tried it herself!

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  • 1 month later...

Most shoes now come with elasticity attached at the heel. Only a few stitches needed. You could tie the elastics in a knot if you needed to in a pinch, but like I mentioned, some schools do not tolerate that.

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When I bought my first pair, for the very first class, they did not have any straps on, my girl friend said I needed them on, me being "green" said to her, well if they where meant to have them surely they would be on, so off went with non on, about 10 minutes into the class, first one came off then the other, so straps, a definite yes !

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