So, after my “fitting” experience last week I was really struggling with what to do. Sure the Chacotts felt nicer that the RPs, but I knew they weren’t the right shoe. I understand that finding the right shoe is a process and that even if you do find the right shoe your feet could change (moreso for younger dancers, but even for us oldsters as we build strength en pointe) and you need to start the process again. But I wanted to feel like I was at least making some progress towards The Shoe rather than getting stuck with something that was just okay-I-guess. I wanted someone to give me guidance, dammit!
Now, I don’t know if you have discovered it, but there’s a nice little ballet board out there called Ballet Talk for Dancers. Kind of an interesting culture over there. I haven’t gotten too involved to date. But the one thing that intrigued me about the forum is the pointe shoe section. The moderators on that particular forum are pointe shoe fitters and will offer suggestions for shoes to try. You just submit a form and/or photos & measurements and one of the moderators will give you a list of three shoes she thinks might work for you. The responses from people who received suggestions seemed really positive and I figured I had nothing to lose.
So, I gave the self-timer on my camera a workout and took a bazillion pictures of my feet. Bare feet, feet in the Rubins, and feet in the (ribbonless and elasticless) Veronese IIs. I got a piece of paper and a pencil and a ruler and figured out all the required measurements. Sent it in. A couple days later I had a reply! It was like Christmas. Would she tell me, “Sorry honey, the Chacotts are the best you’re gonna get” or would she give me ideas I’d never even thought to try?
The first thing I learned? My toes are differently configured on each foot. Huh? I thought they were pretty darned symmetrical. But when I looked again after reading her comment I saw clearly that she was right. My left foot is more square-ish, the right more tapered.
Damn, after 30-something years you’d think I would know what my own feet look like. Learn something new every day.
Based on that she said that I should probably split the difference and go for a semi-tapered box. Also said that I had a medium-height profile (didn’t know that either). And gave me the following suggestions: Bloch Heritage, Freed Studios II, and Grishko Ulanova I. Hm.
Now, at this point I was feeling over-eager. And not willing to trudge back to that dreaded shop. So, some of you may be mad at me, but seeing as it’s hard to find dance stores that have all three of these brands in their stock, I ordered online based on the size suggestions I was given. I figured I’d return the ones that didn’t work whether that be all three or none or somewhere in the middle.
And today, they arrived!!! Super fast Discount Dance, gotta love ’em.
So I tried them all on. And I’ve got to say, my alignment on all three pairs is a world of difference from what I’ve been experiencing. There were no wonky platforms and I felt securely over my big toes on all three. Oh heaven.
The specifics (if you’re into that… which if you’ve read this far I’m guessing you are)?
Bloch Heritage: According to the description of this shoe it’s a “Russian-inspired” shoe. Has a really weird little piece of gel-like padding in the end of the box. I thought it might be cushy. Obnoxious is a better word. Especially since I first tried them on without padding. Once I slipped on my Pillows for Pointes, though, not nearly as annoying. Workable. And if not, easily removed (obviously I didn’t remove them in case I decided to send them back). Bonus? They’ve got the heel construction like that of my technique shoes that I love (the Bloch Pump). I guess this annoys some people, but I like it. I felt stable. My arches look nice. Doesn’t hurt my bunions. Yay.
Freed Studios II: Come in a nice little cloth bag and ribbons are included. But… the first thing I thought when I pulled these out of the box was, man how much paste went into these suckers? The wings go pretty much all the way up to the side seam. Their website does describe the Studio line as being “extra-durable.” I should say so; I don’t think one could move her foot in these things! They look beautiful, though. Gave ’em a try. Not gonna work. Maybe if I went up a width, but these were too vice-like on my poor clod-hoppers. I did remember, though, that one of my fellow dancers wears Freeds. Not sure if they’re the same style/size, but I’ll check with her before I send them back on the off chance that they’re her shoe. (She just texted me back, they are the right size! What are the chances?! She wears regular Studios, but said she’ll give ’em a try.)
Grishko Ulanova I: Well, they’re Russian so you know I love that (though perhaps not as much as I did before I had all my issues with the RPs). I think I actually owned some Grishkos at some point in my prior pointe experience, couldn’t tell you which style. So I put these on and noticed that the profile is a little high. Like, there’s a little space above my toes when I’m on flat. Not a cavern, but space. The vamp is fairly long. And the box seems really cylindrical. All that combined with that darned cement-like Russian paste I was thinking to myself, “These totally aren’t going to work.” So you can imagine my surprise when I went up on pointe and felt… So. Incredibly. Stable. My feet were over the boxes, ankles over the big toes, arches looked good. I felt like I could just hang out up there for a few hours. Also, they smell good. Don’t ask. They just do. Must be made with some tasty paste.
My plan is to sew up both the Blochs and the Grishkos and give them a go over the next couple months, see how I feel after dancing in them. Who knows, maybe I’ll love them both and then I’ll have to commit pointe shoe bigamy. Heckuva lot better than being stranded on pointe shoe match.com with a sea of duds.