When younger ballet students ask me for advice related to pointe shoes, they always go with 'what brand should I wear'. Some parents ask similar questions too, as they are the ones that provide the shoes for their children.
I always share the best I know about pointe shoes, as well as the training process every dancer should have when learning how to dance with these shoes. But I am always in the same position regarding "what brand" they should wear. My answer is always, "you have to wear what is best for YOU."
I started wearing pointe quite young. Probably younger than I was supposed to. However, I have had a long journey to discover what works best for me. I have gone through four different brands, and probably five methods for protecting my toes, and I think I finally am comfortable with what I wear. [Read more about this topic in my opinion article, Why I Like Gaynor Minden]
It is not about what the other dancers wear, or what brand is trending on your ballet school. Yes, the teacher has to have his or her best opinion (and you should always listen to them) for your pointe shoe training and fitting process, and at the end, it is always what works best for you.
It is so important to have a good pointe shoe fitting. Not only you will feel uncomfortable if the pointe shoe does not fit your foot properly, but also you will step on the road of injuries.
In order for you to find a shoe that fits properly on length, width, and other features like hill and box height, you must go to ballet stores and get fitted by a professional.
Maybe the brand that is best for your friend, will not be the best for you. Think about the uniqueness of your feet and how they support your whole body (which we all differ in weight and height too) when you dance.
As far as padding and protection of the toes go, these have a very personal approach as well, but this topic can be controversial.
I have been criticized many times for my 'lack of protection', with people telling me blisters appear very often because I 'do not protect myself enough'. I do not use toepads, spacers, gel wraps or anything along those lines. The only thing I use is a gel tip for my big toenail and lots of toe tape.
Nevertheless, I used to wear my pink and thick toe pads way before I discovered that they were making my toes numb. Again, this was a journey I had to go on my own, discovering what was best for my feet.
And the truth is, there is no right or wrong on this topic!
This is the beautiful thing about our pointe shoe journey: we keep discovering new things about our bodies (and feet) during our whole career, and that is ok. And we always need the opinion of professionals (teachers, fitters) that help us settle our features.
Remember, pointe shoes are not common shoes, so keep trying to help your feet be comfortable at all times and avoid injuries. With the years (and I am still making sure I do this), pointe shoes will not only be a tool for your dancing but they will feel so natural that you would feel naked without them.