Monday, February 13, 2012

Freed Pointe Shoes

I am fascinated with pointe shoes. Ever since I was a little girl, I wondered how ballerinas could balance on their toes and still look so beautiful.  I wondered how shoes made of paper and glue could be comfortable.  Today, I wear pointe shoes every day of my life (for hours at a time) and often forget that they are on my feet.  Put simply, my feet are accustomed to being in pointe shoes; it feels natural to be on my toes. 

As a professional dancer with the New York City Ballet, my pointe shoes are specialized for my individual feet.  For instance, I can choose the size, width, and hardness of the shoe.  I can choose how much I want to “cut-down” the sides of my shoes; I can choose how much extra glue to add; I can choose if I want a narrow tip or a wider tip; I can choose if I want a hard “shank” or a softer “shank.”

Freed of London is the manufacturer of my pointe shoes and of every dancer in the New York City Ballet.  It was founded in London, England in 1929 by the shoe maker Frederick Freed. 

Freed's website is:

There are about thirty different “makers” of pointe shoes; this means that there are thirty individuals who hand-make these shoes. For instance, my maker is “Bell.”  Every pair of my pointe shoes has a bell symbol on the bottom to show that he is the maker of that particular shoe.  Someday, I hope to meet my maker in person at the Freed factory in London. 

Here is a photograph of the bottom of my pointe shoes.  As you can see, there is a bell symbol to represent my maker.  My size is 4-1/2 XX.  XX represents the width. "Forteflex" refers to the hardness of the sole of my shoe. The date that they were completed is also stamped on. My last name, Pollack, is always written on the bottom as well. 

I am lucky that I get to make so many decisions about my pointe shoes.   Students buying pointe shoes in the store (usually made by other brands) are standard and do not have specifications.  In addition, I am lucky that I do not have to pay for my pointe shoes (as a New York City Ballet company member). If you were to buy a pair of pointe shoes in the store, they would be approximately $70-$80 per pair.  Since I perform daily and rehearse for about six hours per day, I can go through 1-2 pairs of pointe shoes per day! This is because they “die” very quickly; they become soft and mushy and therefore, they cannot support my weight on my toes.  The New York City Ballet has a budget of over 1 million dollars just for pointe shoes alone.  With approximately 90 dancers going through one pair a day every year, this is necessary. 

I get asked frequently if it hurts to be up on my toes in pointe shoes.  I admit that when I was 11 years old and in my first pair of pointe shoes, I was very uncomfortable. After all, it is not natural to be in tight-fitting shoes made of paper and glue.  Today, it does not hurt to be in pointe shoes at all.  My shoes are molded perfectly to my feet and I am used to how it feels.  I have calluses on my toes to protect myself from getting blisters.  Of course, there is the occasional corn or bruised toenail but that is highly unlikely.    

1 comment:

  1. I just got my very first pair of pointe shoes back in early August!! I have had 9 classes in them with about a hour to a half on pointe depending on the day! I got freed of londod professional classixs xxx size 5! I am in LOVE!! I cant wait to display these proudly in my bedroom! They are already starting to die sadly! I LOVE your blog! You have very helpful tips!