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How Do Pointe Shoes Work?

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Question: How Do Pointe Shoes Work?
I think it's beautiful to watch a ballerina dance on her toes, but it looks almost impossible. Do ballerinas really stand all the way up on their toes? How do pointe shoes work?
Answer: Pointe shoes, or toe shoes, were designed to help dancers appear weightless while dancing. It takes years of practice to be able to balance and dance on the ends of your toes, but pointe shoes make it a little easier. Following are the three main parts of a pointe shoe.

  • Ribbons: Ribbons are attached to the pointe shoe to hold the shoe on the foot. They are made of cloth and tied with a special flat knot. Crossing the ribbons over the ankle help give a dancer extra support.


  • Shank: The shank is the "backbone" of a pointe shoe. Made of heavy leather, the shank is the stiff inner sole of the shoe. It helps the dancer transfer her weight from the toes to the arch, the strongest part of the foot.


  • Box: The box of a pointe shoe is made of layers of cloth that have been hardened with glue. The box forms a stiff inner shell that protects a dancer’s toes, softening the impact of steps and jumps.
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