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Ballet Slippers

What You Need to Know

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Classic girls' and women's ballet slippers, made from pink leather.

Block 'Dansoft' Ballet Slippers

Image: Zappos.com (Buy Direct)
Whether you dream of dancing "Swan Lake" with the Royal Ballet or are taking ballet classes simply for fun and exercise, you'll need ballet slippers. It's important that you find the best brand and fit for your needs.

Don't confuse ballet slippers with pointe shoes.

A slipper is flexible, while pointe shoes are box-toed, made of shiny satin and used by advanced ballet dancers for pointework, or dance moves that require balancing on the tips of one's toes. Pointe shoes, also called toe shoes, are normally worn only by female dancers, though male dancers will occasionally wear them.

Style and Fit

If you're new to the world of ballet, buy your slippers at a store that specializes in dance shoes and do it in person. As with any other shoe, size matters. Make sure you can wiggle your toes inside the shoe. Despite what a salesperson may advise, if the shoe makes your toes curl up, don't buy that size. While a leather slipper will stretch a bit, it won't stretch that much. If you can't allow your toes to spread when in ballet positions, your balance will be affected.

On the other hand, if you're buying ballet shoes for a child, don't buy them too large, thinking your child will grow into them.

Oversize shoes make dancing difficult. Some instructors recommend shoe shopping at the same time of day as your dance class, since your feet swell during the day.

What They're Made Of

Ballet slippers come in leather and in canvas. Leather lasts longer and is warmer, something to consider if you'll be spending hours practicing in a drafty dance studio. Canvas slippers are less expensive, are washable and can be dyed to match any costume. They tend not to stick to the floor as much as leather slippers do.

If you take care of them, they should last almost as long as leather slippers. Men, who are heavier and create more friction between their shoes and the floor, tend to favor canvas.

Ballet slipper soles are either full or split. It's easier to point the toes in a split sole. Full-sole slippers can be less expensive. Several other ballet slipper models are available, including a leather and canvas combo. Try a few ballet steps in the store before making a final decision.

How to Secure Them

Some styles come with an elastic band attached to keep the slipper securely on your foot. Your dance teacher will show you how to adjust and attach an elastic strap to your ballet slippers. For performances, however, ballet shoes, either flat or pointe, are attached to satin ribbons that tie tightly around the ankle.

Common ballet shoe brand names include Capezio and Bloch. Prices for basic ballet slippers range from $13 to $50.

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