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Ballet Slippers: Training for the Toes
Ballerinas exude grace from the toe up, thanks to their special footwear. Before you point your toes, check out Groupon’s overview to make sure the shoe fits the dance.
Most ballerinas dream of gliding effortlessly across a stage on the very tips of their toes, but they all step into their first ballet class with their feet flat on the ground. Before a dancer can rise up on her first pair of toe shoes (which generally happens around age 12 after years of classes and levitation spells) she must train in simple ballet slippers. The thin, flexible footwear allows dancers to memorize the feeling of their feet on the floor as they learn to form the correct movements and build up muscle strength. The slippers’ suede soles give dancers more traction than socks, but allow much more glide than bare feet.
There are two main factors to consider when shopping for ballet slippers: material and sole type. Delicate satin slippers may look lovely, but they’re usually reserved for special performances, since satin is neither stretchy nor durable enough for everyday use. Some dancers start with slippers made of canvas, as these shoes are durable, comfortable, and affordable, though many prefer the rigidity of leather—thought to increase foot strength—despite its higher price tag. The next choice is between full soles and split soles. Split soles, which separate the heel and toe area, provide more flexibility for pointed feet. However, beginning dancers often opt for full soles, which stretch from toe to heel and provide more resistance, building up strength with every flex of the foot.
No matter what slipper you choose, it should fit your foot like a glove or thumbless mitten, so that your toes can sit flat with no extra room at the tip. Before your first class, it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask what shoes would be appropriate to wear. The instructor may be able to suggest a few brands, or even tell you the color of shoe that the studio prefers.