Padding, Protection, and Pain Prevention

3:17 PM

Protecting your feet in pointe shoes is not just about avoiding pain. Sure, pain sucks, but you know what sucks harder? Ingrown toe-nails. Stress fractures. Actual broken bones. Bleeding through your pointes. Toes growing in weird directions due to shoes that don’t fit right. Now that, my friends, sucks.

There are ways to avoid said discomforts and injuries. Enjoy the info below, and if you have anything to add, please leave a comment! I might add it to the post.


The best way to avoid pain and injury is to be proactive in preventing it. Here are a few tips for before you put on your shoes:
  • Cut your toenails a few days before class, not the night before or the morning of. The skin under the toenails is soft, and if it’s freshly exposed, it hurts a lot when you put your weight on it!
  • If you forget to cut them, don’t cut them before you put your shoes on. Dancing with long-ish toenails is better than dancing with ones that are too short. Cut them as soon as you take your shoes off so you won’t forget next class.
  • On that note, if you do tend to forget a lot, keep a nail file in your dance bag. That way, you can file your toe nails down a little bit every time you notice they’re a little long, and you don’t have to worry about when is the best time to cut them.
  • If your toes are a little soft, soak your feet in a combo of water and rubbing alcohol, or use the rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and rub your toes down. Do this a few times during the day, and for a few days. It’ll dry out and toughen the skin (and while you’re at it, get rid of any infections that might be starting without your knowledge), and you’ll be more likely to get a callous (good!) than a blister (bad.).

Serious callous:

It’s ugly… but it’s the body’s natural protection method. That person won’t have pain in that area of his/her foot.

Blister: soft skin with either liquid or air under it. Painful. Yuck. bad. Poke it with a sterile needle, put rubbing alcohol on it, and wrap it in a band-aid.


I use two kinds of tape: foam tape, and athletic tape. I use them for different things.Athletic tape

If you know you have a long rehearsal ahead of you, tape your toes with athletic tape or cloth tape. Tape them individually, so you still have flexibility and freedom of movement, but cover all the important areas so you can protect yourself from blisters. Don’t’ wrap too tight, or you’ll cut off circulation.

Foam tape

I love this stuff. I should buy stock in this stuff. This is great if you have that one toe that just keeps getting crushed against your box, or if you just cut your toe-nails and your toe pads just aren’t cutting it that day.

Even better, if you do somehow get a blister or a scab or a rip, wrap this stuff around the toe in question reasonably tight. It’s elastic, so it’ll reduce the circulation in that toe. It’s uncomfortable, but it keeps that toe from hurting too bad. (note: this is for short term only! take the tape off as soon as you can.)

Besides taping toes, you can do a lot with tape. I use athletic tape to keep my drawstrings in my shoes. Since it’s heat activated, I can position and re-position it until it’s right, then put the shoes on. By the end of the class or rehearsal, the glue has set, and I don’t have to worry about drawstrings popping out.
Also, if your h
eel tends to pop out of your pointes, or if the drawstring is cutting off your Achilles tendon, put a little foam tape either on your heel or on the shoe, and it takes care of the problem! (as demonstrated here in a pair of heels.)

Lambs wool

One of my teachers was die-hard old-school. She made us use lambs wool for the first year. Pillows for Pointe, one of my favorite brands, had just come out with a lambs wool toe pad, a brilliant creation if I do say so myself. However, it was still uncomfortable. I did manage to discover a few tricks on how to make it work surprisingly well.
First, tape your toes if necessary (see above).
Second, go to Walmart and find a pair of soft, comfortable, thick, squishy, but reasonably inexpensive socks, and cut the toes off.
Third, place your chunk of lambs wool over your toes, and then put the sock over the wool. It keeps the wool from sliding around too much.
This was the only way I was able to NOT bleed through my shoes my first few months en pointe… (before I started sneaking my gellows into class…)


Ah, Gellows. I love these things. They’re made of a special gell that is designed with students in mind. They’re the right thickness, so you can feel the floor, feel your shoes,and feel your toes, but they do not hurt. Also, they’re reversible, with gell on one side and cotton lining on the other.  The gell absorbs shock so you don’t have too much pain in your joints.
I would recommend you pick up a pair immediately. They’re also one of the less expensive types of padding out there… aside from the absolute cheapest… which brings us to:

Paper towels

I know what you’re thinking… “Haley, are you serious? that’s got to hurt.” But actually, it doesn’t.

The paper towels actually absorb a lot of stress, they’re easy to mold and control, and they absorb sweat and don’t slide around like gell pads. You can only use them a few times, and once they start to shred you have to use new ones, but obviously, they’re super cheap. In fact you can probably get them for free, if there’s a public bathroom around your studio or facility.

Video Tutorial on using Paper Towels:

Try it! It’s actually really comfy. It’s also great for taking up extra space in your shoe, if yours is too big and the next size down is too small. You can do this around your toe pads, too (that’s what I used to do in my old Grishko Elites). It will raise you up higher in your shoe. Just put your toe pads on before wrapping the paper towels around.

Ouch! Too late!

So what happens if you get a blister or a cut or something? Here are a few tips to taking care of the mess you’ve gotten yourself into…


Say you get a really bad blister or rip. The first thing to do is clean it. This goes for any injury. Put some rubbing alcohol on that baby, and grit your teeth.

Next, pat it dry with something clean (preferably a facial tissue or a soft microfiber cloth, but not a rough paper towel. That hurts!).

Put on some antibiotic cream like Neosporin or Bactine spray. Those take away the pain (temporarily) and keep it from getting infected.

Then add a band-aid or some gauze and cloth tape.

Ingrown toe-nail

These suck.

There are different kinds of ingrown nails. Sometimes they grow into the nail bed, in which case you need to have them surgically removed. Good luck dancing on pointe in that.

The other kindgrows into the side of the nail, and is quite common. As dancers, since we cut our toe nails so close, sometimes cutting your nails is what gives you the ingrown.

There are 2 ways you can treat these.

1. Soak your feet in hot water and Epsom salt until the skin is soft. Use a clean, disinfected needle or pair of tweezers, and separate the skin away from the nail that is cutting into your skin. cut the nail and trim off some of the excess skin.

2. Make a V cut in the middle of the nail. This will release some of the pressure until the nail grows out. 

Stress Fracture

If you know you have a bone injury, for goodness sake, take off your pointe shoes and get some ice. Go to a doctor. Ask them about a bone stimulant. Also check out the herb knitbone.  I know it’s a pain, but it’s so much better than ruining your feet. You’ll kick yourself later if you don’t take care of the problem.

That’s it for today, folks! If you have any tips, questions, or advice, leave it in the comments!

~Miss Haley

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  1. Always keep your toe pads and all other point work supplies in your dance bag if you take them out and forget to replace them and have to do a class with out them it hurts super bad!

  2. Very nice information . I like the way you have represent this blog on Sports Tape Keep posting. Thanks..

  3. its really informative blog i like your to choose this ballet technique about shoes i loves like to wear full sole because its relaible for me thanks .

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  5. I appreciate your tips on dealing with blisters. I'm not a dancer, but an avid hiker. Up till now I have just been using moleskin to protect my feet, but foam tape sounds like It could do more. Especially around my heal. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  7. ok so i bleed under my big toenail. Even with gellows my big toe hurts. do i just put more little gel pads or what?

  8. ok so i bleed under my big toenail. Even with gellows my big toe hurts. do i just put more little gel pads or what?

    1. Hi Grace, check and make sure you toenail isn't cut too short! It might be cutting into your skin. Feel free to email me pictures.

  9. This leads to bullae and vascicles due to which the patient goes in real agony and unable to walk properly because the points hurt and patient is unable to show even to the others because of the fashion in her feet but Physiotherapy North Ryde can help her to get rid of ankle pains due to the problem.


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