I've almost tried it all... From 13 years old on, I went from Repetto, Merlet, Gaynor Minden to Freed of London for many years, then a Capezio period, Bloch for quite a while and now, many moons later from my teen years, back to Gaynor. The perfect shoe quest is an on going thing throughout your career. Your foot changes of course but also injuries happen, pointe shoe makers retire or the fabrication is different. All those factors make our choice very difficult and when a change is necessary, we have to adapt to something new.. And that is not an easy task! All of a sudden, it's like you don't know how to do a pirouette anymore, you have to change your padding, start wrapping 3 toes instead of one... Aaaaaaanyways, seems hellish... but vital.
The 3 main brands I have experienced are Freed of London, Bloch and Gaynor Minden.
We all love a pros and cons list don't we? 😉 I'll give you mine....
Freed of London:
What a love-hate relationship... I have tried the ⭐️, A, B, 🦋, Z, N, T, 🍀, Circle Cross and my favorites, O, ⚓️ and V makers in size 5 (38) and XX width.
Pictured in order: ⚓️, V and O:
Pros: The possible customizations are endless with Freed. I personally had a 1.8mm thickness shank which was 3/4ed to the exact spot I wanted and gradually shaved at the cut so it wouldn't hurt my arch. My satin sides were cut down to the millimeter and so was the heel height to show the arch of the foot. I had elastic drawstrings, a "90 degree angle" to the platform to have it very flat and square and lastly the "e-pot" tip to re-enforce the platform. The line of Freed pointe shoes is very flattering, they are easy to sew and lightweight. Seeing your name written by hand on the outer shank feels very special 😊. When they are just right, they fit like a glove as the box molds to your foot, especially after a little water at the demie pointe crease.
Cons: You HAVE to get fitted by a Freed specialist... So you can try as many makers as possible to know what works for your foot. As Freeds are handmade, in one batch of 15 pairs not one will be the same. It takes sometimes hours to figure a "right" and a "left" to constitute THE right pair. They don't last very long (two weeks was a record for me) and Jetglue is essential to keep that platform alive (hopefully without gluing your fingers together, or put some of your favorite leo...). The delay to receive custom pairs is very long especially if your Maker is popular. And when a maker retires....? Well that's terrible dramatic news.. You have to try other makers and may never find one you like as much...
I've seen colleagues and friends prepare their Freeds in many different way so they really become your trademark in a way.. Unfortunately my maker O became as popular as Beyoncé and I had to wait 18 months for an order so I had to switch to something else after 15 years of Freed... I tried Capezio for a month or so but then found a pair of Bloch I liked..
Bloch: In 2017, I finally decided to switch to the Axi Stretch S1077 in size 5 and XX width model which wore for 4 years.
Pros: Two words, STRETCH SATIN!!!!! wow. That is the best invention in pointe shoe fabrication ever. Adapting to your every move, it made roll throughs, runs, walks so comfortable. None only was is comfy but it followed every line of your foot especially the back of your heel. They last much longer than Freeds, 3 weeks to a month sometimes even more. Easy to sew. The split outer sole is nice but I personally didn't feel a difference as the inner sole is very strong. I would cut the inner one to 3/4. You can have custom measurements for certain things too! (hence my name on the outer sole😊) They would come in within 2 months which was quite a change from before.
Cons: The platform... As they are half handmade half factory made, the platform became very iffy. I had to start darning them to correct the unequal edges of it. The box is also pretty hard unlike Freeds and doesn't mold too much to the shape of your metatarsal area (especially to my big bunnion). So I would find myself with a lot of blister if I had long rehearsals. The shank can be quite stiff at the beginning also.
I have to say darning was new for me and being a perfectionist, it took me soooo much time, needle pokes and arm cramps... I got a little sick of it. So during our long 1.5 month spring of 2020 confinement, I was bored and tried again a pair of Gaynor Minden from when I was 15!!! Yes they were still alive!!! I decided to buy some of the internet 🙊. While at home, away from mirrors and judgements, I kept in shape and transitioned to Gaynors for real!!
Gaynor Minden: I literally bought my first pair a bit blind but got lucky! I got the Sleek model as my foot is somewhat narrow at the heel but has wide metatarsals. I got the yellow shank which suits me well. And as I was used to very cut sides and heels with Freed and Bloch, the Gaynor Sleek model has a Low Heel as its base model. So I got an 8.5 size a Medium width with a 4 box (which corresponds well to a XX), the yellow shank, a deep Vamp and a Low Heel. In my local store I tried the Classic and Sculpted models too but the Sleek suits my foot and line better.
Pros: STABILITY.... From the platform which makes it so much easier to balance on pointe as the platform is always the same pretty much. The balance on flat is equally as good. I have to say these pointe shoes just made me realize how much work I was doing before to hold myself up!! The box comfort is great for long hours in a shoe. I don't have blisters anymore. I've also changed my toe padding.. (see my very first post for that). The cushioning at the tips makes it more comfortable and way less noisy. They last FOREVER and it is so relaxing before a show or rehearsal to not go through this mental physics struggle on "WHAT SHOES DO I WEAR???😱😱😱". The shank and the platform barely die... I'm still wearing shoes from September 2020! I have to say, most of all, Gaynors gave me more confidence... It's almost like you know they're there to hold you up, especially in balances and pirouettes.
Cons: I would definitely recommend getting fitted by a Gaynor Minden professional as they have many possible combinations. They are a little harder to sew, sometimes for me the lining inside the box rolls and presses on my bunions but I cut it when it does. At times, the suede tip starts unstitching from the satin but you can resew it if need be, and until it happens, you would have danced in them already a good month. Since they last so long, I know it ain't glamorous right there, but they start smelling at some point.. But they have new fresheners available! And lastly, the line is just a little bulkier looking than Freeds or Bloch. Make sure to try the new European made ones to have the right size and shank as they are a tad different from the American made ones.
Choices are endless... and can make your head spin but my advice is to TRY, TRY AND TRY!! Analyze the shape of your foot (Egyptian, Greek etc...) and see what works best for you. Pointe shoes are so personal I know but I hope I brought you a little light!
GIVE A GIRL THE RIGHT SHOES AND SHE'LL CONQUER THE DANCE WORLD! 👠