Kate Swanson is an Australian writer and dancer with nearly 40 years' experience in ballet, jazz, flamenco, ballroom, Latin and bellydance.
The choice of pointe shoe is a very personal one. Every foot is unique, and different models suit different feet. Just because your teacher favours a particular shoe, doesn't mean that company will have an option to suit your foot - another brand may have a shoe that will suit you much better. Each dancer has to find the make and model that works for her, by trial and error.
Here is a summary of the major brands available.
I'm proud of the fact that Bloch is an Australian company, but its pointe shoes and balletwear have spread all over the world. Jacob Bloch arrived from Europe in 1931 during the Great Depression, and began making shoes. International touring companies visited Australia, tried his shoes and loved them - and the rest, as they say, is history!
Capezio pointe shoes have been around a long time. The company's founder, Salvatore Capezio, opened his first store in New York in 1887.
Pavlova bought shoes for herself and her entire company during one tour, giving his reputation a boost and ensuring the success of the brand.
Capezio is now the largest manufacturer of pointe shoes in the world!
When I worked at the Royal Academy of Dancing, I recall the occasional delivery of a crate of shoes - they were shoes custom-made by Freed of London for Royal Ballet stars, but deemed not quite good enough by those dancers.
There was always a scramble to find Margot Fonteyn's rejects - not because anyone wanted to dance in them, but because they must have touched Margot's feet!
Freed was founded in 1929 by a cobbler who had worked for Gamba. The company was bought by a large Japanese dancewear company, Onward Takiyama, in 1990 but thankfully, it continues to trade as Freed.
Gamba & Repetto
When I was dancing ballet, Freed and Gamba were virtually the only shoes anyone wore.
Gamba also supplied the Royal Ballet, but they were mainly known for their wonderful character shoes. I got married in a pair of their butter-soft blue lace-up ankle boots - they went beautifully with my blue velvet Victorian gown (well, it was the seventies...).
Sadly, Gamba's long tradition in London - they were established in 1903 - is now over. A few years ago, Gamba was bought by the French dancewear company Repetto, and the shoes are now made in France.
Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are a controversial shoe.
Much of their construction is synthetic materials - a major change in ballet, which sets so much store by tradition!
Overall, Mindens are not a wise choice for the beginner ballet dancer, but offer many advantages to the professional ballerina. They're attractive to dance companies because they last much longer than any other shoe - and pointe shoes are a huge drain on their budget.
Gillian Murphy wears Gaynor Mindens.
Gillian Murphy in Gaynors
Grishko is a Russian company and a relatively new player in the pointe shoe market, but their shoes are amazingly popular. Grishko converts are positively evangelical!
The company was started by the scientist husband of a ballet dancer.
Svetlana Zakharova of the Bolshoi is a Grishko pointe shoe fan - as are many other members of Russian ballet companies.
Svetlana Zakharova in Grishko
Footnote - Anello & Davide
Many years ago, I remember stumbling across the tiny Anello & Davide shop in Covent Garden. I'd read that Pavlova wore them - so, entranced by the idea of dancing in her shoes, I rushed in and bought a pair.
What I was thinking, I have no idea - I was never able to dance in them! They were extremely tapered to a tiny platform, only about two toes wide. You can see the effect in Pavlova's photo - they make the feet look beautiful. They must have been uncomfortable, though!
Strangely, the company no longer makes pointe shoes and the current owners deny they ever made them. Makes me wonder if I slipped into an alternative universe!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 26, 2012:
This is something I know nothing about but found it interesting to read none-the-less. Watching ballet is such a treat and I admire the training that it takes to become proficient in doing it. Ballet shoes would obviously be very important to anyone performing as obviously comfort and support would be of prime interest.
Thanks! Voted up and interesting.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on February 24, 2012:
Ah, memories! I also remember the little shop on the corner of St Martins Lane. I was a Freeds girl too. I agree, the range of shoes is stunning these days - great because it means there's a better chance one style will fit your foot, but hard because there are too many choices, and finding the right shoe can be like looking for a needle in a haystack!
mind2mind on February 24, 2012:
Pointe Shoes: every little girls dream, then comes the day that you go for your first fitting, the excitement is overwhelming. Then comes the day you spend the first class in them. So it was for me....admittedly over 40 years ago. It was the sixties and I was training in Cleveland. Ten years old. My first shoes were capezio's Nicolinis. Years later I moved to London to finish my full time training at the Royal Ballet School. My first English pointes shoes were Gamba, from their Baker st shop.They lasted no time at all and as my student status devleoped to professional, so did my shoes. I like thousands of others went regularly to Freeds opposite the National Theatre. It was a tiny shop, all green and gold outside, inside the walls covered with pictures of Fonteyn, Sibley,Seymour, and the greats of the decade and before. My feet were fit properly and my lasts were tied to one shoe maker. I stayed with him for the rest of my career. If for any reason I ran short and could not wait for a new order, I would occasionally have to wear another makers shoe, which was torture to my feet. It was always a huge relief to have my shoe delivery arrive...I couldn't wait to break a new pair in and feel the support of a new pair. Its been many many years now but i find myself back in the studio and love my new bloch leather slippers. Im amazed at the choice of shoes on the market now. The fitting is the trick and once you find a maker that feels right, offers the right support for your unique foot... chances are you'll never stray to another maker.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on October 26, 2011:
You're lucky then, to find the right shoes so quickly! From your description, I wouldn't have picked Serenades for you - but it just goes to show that you can never be sure whether a shoe is right until you try it on.
I know it's tempting to try other shoes but if you've struck a great shoe at the first try, my advice would be to treasure them and stick with them!
pointshoelover on October 25, 2011:
yep! my teacher told me that my shoes fit me perfectly which is quite rare she said, unless one goes for a custom fit. I wear bloch serenade. I have quite wide feet and SOMEWHAT tapered. so it's quite tricky.. if the box is too wide, I will sink into my shoes and really hurt my second toe. if the box is too narrow, it won't fit me :/
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on October 23, 2011:
#pointeshoelover, when you know a bit more, the LAST thing you'll worry about is the colour of your shoes. What matters is how the shoes fit your feet. I assume you've had a proper fitting for your shoes - if you tell me what model of Bloch you wear, I can tell you what models are equivalent in other brands.
pointeshoelover on October 23, 2011:
Hi, I'm a pointe dancer for just 2 months and already I'm falling madly in love with those shoes (despite them being hurt!). So far, I only use Bloch for my pointe shoes. I'd love to try some other brands but there are so many out there I don't know where to start! so, as a startm I'm looking for a pair that is PINK. like, pink pink. Bloch's pink is the most beautiful color for pointe shoes so far (one of the reasons why I love Bloch). Grishko is a little white in color, while Freed is kind of orangey/peachy color. I don't like orange-peache pointes. any suggestions?
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on September 19, 2011:
@lovedance, I'm an old lady now but I've done jazz, ballet (including pointe), flamenco, ballroom and belly dancing.
I'm not sure how many different types of pointe shoes there are. I have over 80 different kinds on my website:
lovedance on September 19, 2011:
do you know how many different types of pointe shoes are there??
lovedance on September 16, 2011:
I do Ballet,Tap,Jazz and Point
lovedance on September 16, 2011:
yes it is i love it there!! :)
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on September 14, 2011:
@lovedance, if I was still dancing today, I think Bloch Europeans might be perfect for me, because I have wide feet with narrow heels - just the kind of feet they're designed for.
Is that Dance with Pam in Wisconsin?
lovedance on September 14, 2011:
I got my first point shoes!!its the European Style Do you like the style. I go to Dance With Pam Have you heard of it??
Ballet Bags on July 02, 2011:
I started wearing blochs when I first started pointe, but they were too boxy for my skinny legs. Now I wear freeds too. i enjoyed reading this page!
Runway from New York on March 15, 2011:
Oh, interesting. My sister is looking for some ballet shoes, I will let her know about this hub.
pink bunny on March 04, 2011:
i cant find any perfect place to do ballet in jordan can u help
i have been doing ballet for 6 and a half years idont want to stop i want my pointe shoes
ME on February 10, 2011:
i'm new on pointe and this really helped
Izzy on February 02, 2011:
I guess it's bad that it's so easy to get on pointe,when it takes years of trainingbefore your ready(I know because I went up on pointe at home when i wasn't supposed to. Dad got mad ) but wouldn't it be good because you could learn things quicker?
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on January 30, 2011:
I'm pleased for you, Izzy! Glad you like the Gaynor Mindens - I find most dancers do, unfortunately there are many ballet teachers who don't approve of them so they're not allowed to buy them:
IZZY on January 30, 2011:
I just got my 1st pointe shoes and I'm psyched! I have gaynor mindens. Everyone @ my ballet school does because Connecticut Dance School,where I go is founded by Elizabeth Gaynor. THEY'RE SOOOO COMFY!!!! I love them gaynor mindens! They're the best!!!
Ballet4me on December 25, 2010:
Yeah same here but I keep going back to Grisko!! Haha hey comment on my hubpages!! :) please!!
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on December 24, 2010:
@Jordan, glad I could help - and good luck with the account!
I'm really boring when it comes to pointe shoes - I keep coming back to my Freeds, my favorite is maker J.
Ballet4me on December 24, 2010:
HELLO??? what are your favorite pointe shoe brands and what was your first pointe shoe?
Ballet4me on December 23, 2010:
Hey Marisa!! I got an account and I am following you!! :) haha
Jordan on December 23, 2010:
Thanks Marisa, and I think I am going to stay with 2007 Grisko's because I do like them and they seem to do well with my feet. You are also quite right with Gaynor Mindens, because my teacher I don't think she likes them too! I really have not seen a lot of people with Prima soft.
Thank you a lot Marisa you helps sooo much!!
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on December 22, 2010:
@Jordan, it sounds like you have made a big effort to explore all your options.
I'm a bit biased, I loved my Freeds but I have a square foot - and judging by your preferences, I suspect your feet are more tapered. That's absolutely the most important thing - if the shoe is wrong for your foot shape, it's never going to work!
The 2007 Grishko's are a great shoe - if you're happy with them, they're a good shoe to stick with.
Personally I don't think Mindens look pretty at all, there main advantage is they last a very long time, so they save money in the long run. As for Prima Soft, I know some teachers who really disapprove of them!
Jordan on December 22, 2010:
Excuse me but sorry to inturupet I am a ballerina. And these are what I have used so far in order: Bloch, Principles, Russian Pointe (3), then Grisko. There was a Grisko pointe shoe that I really wanted to try but it said that it was made out of latex glue, annnddd of course I am allergic to latex! But I wanted to try some other brand pointe shoes. I don't really like bloch though, Chacott I break through when I try them on in the store and Gaynors look really pretty I just don't know if they are really right for me! Freeds look hard to work with but i really don't know! I have no clue of what Gambas are, Capizio my friend has but got injured on her toe in those so i don't know again! I am really likeing my 2007 Grisko's and I also really enjoy Russian Pointe I just don't know if I should change....??.... Oh and prima soft sort of seems cool but i don't know if they work well. So if you could give at least a bit of advice please it would help extremly!! :)
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on October 26, 2010:
Jennifer, I'm amazed Canberra doesn't have a good ballet store - it just proves what I said, that for some dancers there's no alternative but mail order.
If you're going to order shoes via a shop without being able to try them on, you might as well get them online and save money!
Jennifer Rose on October 25, 2010:
Very informative and enlightening, thank you. I live in Canberra and unfortunately we only have 1 bloch store (with no ballet staff, only fashion) and 1 other shop which sells Sansha and Grishko however they are never in stock, you just have to order them so you don't get the opportunity to try on different styles. Such a shame considering the talent Canberra has to offer.
may on September 21, 2010:
Great article and very informative..........I didn't know that Gamba and Chacott had been bought over. I used to wear Gamba and loved them - sigh! Bloch and Grishko wearers have great lines; I'm sure it's not just down to the dancers' foot shapes! Freed, not as good looking, though I agree they are light and hence quieter.
Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on September 09, 2010:
Your wealth of knowledge never ceases to amaze me. And the tutorial on how the shoes are made is something I always wondered about. Thanks for reminding me of my ballet days.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on August 29, 2010:
Hi Nessy, I'm sorry I can't answer your question. I just checked their website and it's gone - I hope that's not a bad sign.
I know you used to be able to get them through Gandolfi
so I recommend you start by contacting them.
nessy on August 29, 2010:
can i buy bob martin anymore i loved them and need something similar to replace them can anyone help?
Loryn on August 04, 2010:
I never knew there were so many different kinds of pointe shoe! Love the Anello and Divade ones. Doubt I'll ever dance in them, though. LOL
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on May 30, 2010:
Thank you, Claudia! Here's the link for people who don't think to click on your name:
Bob Martin makes the elusive Innovation pointe shoe.
Claudia Redmond on May 30, 2010:
Attached I piece I did on Bob Martin who has recently retired he made shoes for Darcey Bussell