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Home > Dance Products Review

Pointe Shoe Ribbon Revue

A ballet dancer’s pointe shoes are the most important tool in her trade. Most every pointe shoe needs to be fitted, prepared and tested to a dancer’s likes before she can rely on the support for her dancing. A part of the pointe shoe that gets little focus but plays a big role are the ribbons! Every dancer has to experiment on ribbon size, color, and sewing techniques to get the most support out of her shoe.

Where you place your ribbons and how you sew them plays a part in the support of your pointe shoe. Ribbon should be the same color as your shoes. The ribbon helps the look of the shoe remain elongating as it was intended to be. It should match your tights ideally (or vice versa).

A pointe shoe ribbon should be no more narrow then 7/8 to one inch. Choosing a more narrow ribbon will do nothing for your support factor. Most shoes will come with ribbon but if they do not, then ask your local dance store to show you their selection and match the closest color with the most width preferably.

pointe shoe ribbon

Each store will have a variety of ribbons ranging from polyester and nylon – to a single or double faced ribbon. Most ribbons come with a shiny side and a dull side. The dull side usually is better if it faces your ankle – with the shiny side out. The dull side slips around less! Some dancers will wear them the other way around though – which is uncommon but sometimes it's requested by a dance teacher or choreographer.

After choosing your ribbons, you need to learn to sew them properly. First thing to do is to put on the shoe and put pins where the ribbons need to go. Note the angle they’ll need to be sewn in. Your ribbon should not bunch while on pointe nor on flat. So this angle must be just enough so that both positions look good.

You want to first take the bottom of the ribbon and cut it at an angle if it is frayed or cut straight. Then you will fold the ribbon up once or twice in a small half inch section for thread support. As this point you will place the folded ribbon behind the seam right at the middle to top of your inner arch. The other side will be placed right below your ankle with enough room so the ribbon doesn’t hit the ankle when tied.

A good way to measure where they should sit is to fold down the heel of the shoe – the ribbons should be placed right below that fold – with the outer ribbon a little higher then the inner (see diagram below).

pointe shoes

After your ribbon is placed, you may use a good tough double stitched thread to secure the ribbon onto the shoe. Dental floss is also a great thread to use, it is the toughest! It can be sewn on the satin of the shoe right under the draw string catch – or a bit can be sewn onto the catch as long as it doesn’t pierce the drawstring (unless you are one of those dancer’s who pulls out the draw string completely). Avoid sewing ribbons in front of the seam! This will make the look of your foot on pointe more bulky - exactly what we don't want!

Some dancers also need to sew a little loop of elastic at the heel to thread the ribbon through so the shoe does not slip off the foot while dancing. Others will wet the area so the water molds it. And some use the bunheads accessories to help it stay put. Lots of dancers don’t have a problem at all with slippage and do nothing to that area. It’s all about tailoring the shoe to your foot whatever that means to you!

    pointe shoe ballet girl

A lot of dancer’s also place a thick piece of elastic across the foot which is hidden by the ribbon, this is for those high arched dancers who fall out of their shoe. Or the dancer that can’t seem to get their pointe to stay against their inner arch and it pulls away from the foot. Make it like a “mary jane” shoe and measure so it can be hidden with the ribbon!

One word of advice is to make sure the ribbon is not tied too tight around the Achilles tendon, and to make sure your knot does not rest on the tendon either. A good place for the knot is between the ankle (behind it) and the tendon. Ribbons should be tucked or tied so they are secure and support your foot for your best dancing!

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