As an instructor now, the decision to promote a student to pointe shoes is one that I take very seriously. Even though it may feel like getting promoted to pointe shoes takes a long time, but pointe work can be dangerous and detrimental to your feet if you start too early. Several factors have to come into play before I give students the OK to get their first pair of shoes.
Age and Training Schedule
For one thing, your teacher has to determine that you’re at the right stage of physical development. The long foot bones only start to harden between ages 8 and 14, and it’s crucial that you don’t start pointe work when your bones are too soft. Otherwise, you could develop growth-plate fractures, which can cause foot deformities (yikes!). I personally have had this injury and it is a LONG and FRUSTRATING recovery.
in an article on dancespirit.com, Priscilla Nathan-Murphy, lower-school principal of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, feels it’s generally unsafe to start pointe before age 11 or 12. “Before then, your metatarsal structure is too weak to maintain the weight of your body and handle the stress of the pointe shoes,” she says. “By age 12, bones are still growing and fusing, but their development is closer to being complete.”
Age isn’t the only factor. In order to achieve the appropriate amount of strength needed to stand on en pointe (aka on your toes), you’ll need a few years of training under your belt. At ODF, we require to have a minimum of two years of training before I even consider the possibliity to join a pointe class. The bottom line is that students should have a strong foundation of classical ballet before pointe work is added to it.
Strength and Foot Flexiblity
Dancers also need killer core strength to lift up and out of their pointe shoes. Have the ability to releve where your big toes are flexible enough to create a 90 degree angle and hold that position in balances - like in a passe is usually a good sign you are ready for pointe work. In addition, using and holding turn out muscles are a major requirement. If you are not able to hold your turn out muscles on flat feet then you will absolutly struggle while danceing on the platform of a pointe shoe that is covered in slippery satin!
I also look for proper alignment of the lower body, which requires a certain amount of natural flexibility in the foot and ankle. A straight line should be held while on pointe from the hip through the knee and to the ankle. Pointe work comes a lot easier to a dancer that alrday has that flexiblity from working on it in technique classes, then a student who goes up to early and doesn't have that natural flexiblity.
On the other hand, dancers with hypermobile feet sometimes need more time, too. Hypermobile dancers who are naturally flexible tend to not have the strength to hold themselves up in their shoes and can roll over their ankle easily, leading to injury. It is important that these dancers have the mastery to support themselves properly.
In other words...
Only when all of these factors are considered, and your teacher (and only your teacher!) gives you the go-ahead, will you be ready for the wonderful world of pointe shoes. So while you’re exercising your feet and ankles, don't forget to exercise some patience as well. Your body will thank you for it!