Kate Swanson is an Australian writer and dancer with nearly 40 years' experience in ballet, jazz, flamenco, ballroom, Latin and bellydance.
No wonder dancers are always on the lookout for cheap pointe shoes! Of all the items in a ballet dancer's wardrobe, pointe shoes are the biggest expense.
Pointe shoes have a short lifespan, and there's only so much you can do with jet glue or shellac to make them last longer. We can keep dancing in a pair of soft ballet slippers even when we've worn through the toe - thank goodness for gaffer tape! - but once a pair of pointe shoes is dead, it's not only difficult but possibly dangerous to dance in them. There's no choice but to replace them - and preferably, as cheaply as possible!
Unfortunately, because they're such a specialist item, it's hard to find places that offer decent discounts. But there is one surprising source - Amazon!
Buying Pointe Shoes on Amazon
Admittedly, I wouldn't recommend you buy pointe shoes on Amazon if you're not sure exactly what you want. I can't imagine an Amazon staffer being particularly helpful with the finer points of whether a particular shoe is suited for Egyptian or Grecian feet...
However, if you know what you want, there's no reason why not! The prices are competitive - in fact, I don't think I've ever seen a pointe shoe cheaper than the Capezio Concerto on Amazon. The list price is around $40 but I've seen it discounted as low as $25.
The Concerto has a square box, best for Giselle feet. If that doesn't suit you, the rest of Capezio's range is also available.
There's a good selection from other pointe shoe brands too, including the hugely popular Grishko 2007, the best-selling Bloch Serenade, and not forgetting Gaynor Mindens.
Buying Pointe Shoes on eBay
A more obvious source of cheap pointe shoes is eBay.
The cheapest shoes on eBay are usually advertised by dancers who've bought a pair of pointe shoes and decided they're a misfit (we've all been there, done that!). If that's the case, always ask the seller how far they've broken them in - or even worn them - before deciding they weren't suitable.
Any dancer should know better than to try selling a pointe shoe if she's already ripped half the shank out or mashed the box - but you'd be surprised...
Don't let that put you off, though. You might miss out on a great bargain! Just make sure you do your research, and check the seller's feedback rating and their returns policy before making a bid.
Another good source of shoes is ballet companies - yes, if you see a pair of shoes advertised as "from NYCB", they really are from New York City Ballet! The big companies buy their shoes in bulk, and sometimes find themselves with surplus, especially if they decide to change their shoe provider. That surplus can wind up on eBay, and you can benefit.
You'll also find pointe shoes being advertised on eBay by people who sell ballet wear as a business - in which case they'll be brand new, still in the box. Once again, check the seller's feedback rating and especially their returns policy before bidding. You want to be confident you can send the shoes back if they don't fit or have any faults.
A tip for Freed wearers: One of the big frustrations, if you wear Freeds pointe shoes, is that most online sellers won't let you specify the maker. And as all Freed devotees know, different makers of the same model can make the difference between a perfect fit and something that's virtually unwearable. Fortunately there are eBay sellers who recognize this and advertise their shoes with the maker's mark.
For feet that are still growing, it's always safest to go to a ballet shop and having your shoes expertly fitted by a professional pointe shoe fitter. But if that's not an option, then before buying online, please do your research to understand your feet!
Ordering from Online Dance Shoe Websites
Another option is to source some quality, low cost pointe shoes from a website that specializes in dance shoes. Be careful to only order from a reputable website and when in doubt, speak to fellow dancers who will likely be able to point you in the right direction. The following is a list of some such online stores where I have ordered shoes from in the past with good results.
This company offers a wide range of discount pointe shoes including those from Bloch, Capezio, Freed, Grishko, Russian Pointe, and more. They very often offer free shipping on orders over $100 and seem to have fast shipping times.
- Discount Dance Supply
They offer a wide selection of shoes and a discount club which allows you to earn points with each purchase that can be later redeemed for additional discounts. The site is easily searchable and also often offers free shipping.
This company doesn't have as wide of a selection as some others but they offer free shipping on orders over $100, a 30 day return period, and free ribbon and elastic on most shoes.
- Dancewear Solutions
Dancewear Solutions has a large selection of pointe shoes. They have a review area for each shoe where buyers can share their experience to give you a better idea of what to expect. They have many brands including Bloch, Capezio, Sansha and Grishko.
This company offers a wide selections of shoes, free shipping, and no cost returns. You can filter your shoe selection based on dance type, brand, color, size, and price. They also have very helpful customer service via live online chat or phone.
- Dance Fashions Superstore
Dance fashions offers a much smaller selection of shoes than some of the other major online dance shoe outlets but they sometimes feature great discounts on the shoes they do have. Check their clearance section for a chance of finding a bargain.
Ensuring the Right Fit When Ordering Online
There are so many factors to consider when choosing the right shoe, it's always best to get expert advice.
However I know many students don't have that choice. If your local ballet shop doesn't have a pointe shoe fitter on staff - or perhaps there's no ballet shop near you at all! - then Pointe Shoes Online is a good resource. It helps you work out your foot shape, and lists virtually all the makes and models available, with suggestions for which foot shape they're best suited to. They also have a free Q&A service.
Yes, it will take a few hours to understand your foot shape and research which shoes are most likely to fit - but badly chosen, badly fitted shoes can cause injury as well as wasted money, so it's worth the investment!
Featured Video and a Word of Warning...
Because it cost such a lot to replace them, it can be tempting to keep on dancing in shoes that are "dead" - but it's dangerous. This video details the warning signs that your shoes need replacing, and also offers tips on how to look after your shoes properly, so the next pair will last longer:
© 2010 Kate Swanson
swilliams on April 05, 2014:
Very insightful article, these shoes are so expensive. Thanks for the info!
SognoPiccolo from Wilmington, Ohio on September 13, 2010:
Wish I had been able to really get into ballet, sadly I was taken out after only a year because we had to move and there weren't any options for dance studios in the area at the time. I would have loved to have gotten far enough to need pointe shoes.
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on August 04, 2010:
Hi Marissa. I enjoyed the hub. Brought back memories...I grew up on ballet, owned a dance studio one time in my life, had two daughters in dance, etc etc. I also love dance. You've got some interesting hubs about dance that I will be sure to read.
Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on August 02, 2010:
Great information. Where were you when I was buying pointe shoes for three girls. They are expensive. Thanks for sharing. I know it will be a big help to that parent who is facing the experience of having to buy them.