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Hard Shanks for All?

"My shoe is dying too quickly. I need a harder shank!"

Pointe shoes are notorious for breaking down quickly. They're made to do this, but buying a brand new shoe every few months can be a challenge for families, let alone if they need a new pair every week or so. Younger and younger students are switching to harder shanks in order for their shoes to last longer, but is this really the solution? Are all of these dancers breaking their shoes in so quickly because they need a harder option? In that case, wouldn't most professional dancers be in extra hard shoes?

Professional dancers actually hold the answer to these questions. Out of the hundreds of professional dancers I have worked with over the years, very few of them were in anything stiffer than a medium shank. How could this be? Why are younger students wearing super hards, when professionals are in mediums?

Turns out (for the most part) the stronger the foot, the less support it needs from a shoe. It's capable of doing most of the work. It's common to see dancers that are not as advanced in their training wearing harder shanks because it provides too much support. It doesn't force the muscles to hold themselves up. Instead, the foot relies on the strength of the shoe for their placement and form. The more weight one allows to sit in the shoe, the faster it dies.

So, as a young dancer, if you're going through your pointe shoes every few weeks, do not assume you simply need a stronger shoe. Instead, take several things into consideration. Are they being taken care of properly, are they being manipulated too much at first, are you sitting on the shank instead of lifting up off of it, and what surface are you dancing on? The simple solution may be that the foot needs to be worked and to be made stronger, not the pointe shoe.

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