How should I choose size and width?
Several factors affect the selection of size and width for an individual dancer. Use the size conversion chart as a starting point only. You may find that the dancer needs a slightly larger or smaller size than you expected based on the chart. Bear in mind that size and width interact with model, so that you should consider all three as you refine the fit. For example, a dancer might feel comfortable and supported in two different models. In a model with a narrower platform, she might need a wider width. In a model with a wider platform, she might need a narrower width.
Until you refine the fit, try not to use the drawstring, because a tightened drawstring can give the illusion of a good fit.
Factors to consider Evaluate the compressibility of the foot. When the dancer points her toes or goes on pointe, does the foot become noticeably shorter or narrower? How high are the arches? Dancers with highly compressible feet may sink into the box or move around in the shoe when on pointe. Compressible feet, and very high arches, sometimes make it more challenging to find an appropriate, snug fit. Sometimes a compressible foot can be helped by heel pads, which take up a little bit of extra room when the dancer is on pointe and her feet need a tighter shoe, but flatten out when she is on flat and her feet need a roomier shoe.
Look for enlargement of the big toe joint (“bunion” joint). If the dancer has bunions, this joint will be enlarged and sometimes painful. Consider a wider width to accommodate the metatarsal area; if the dancer’s toes are very tapered, combine the wider width with a more tapered model (smaller platform). You may also consider adding spacers to align the toe joints and ease discomfort.
Spacers or toe pads can change the fitting of the toe box, so you might need to reevaluate width and/or model choice. Dancers who use thicker toe pads will need more room in the box, from wider width or a model with a fuller box.
For dancers who are in between sizes, experiment with width and vamp. For example, try a narrower width or higher vamp in the larger size.
For dancers with a significant size difference between her two feet (a quarter-size or more), fitting may be more difficult. Try to find a size that works for both feet. For the smaller foot, you may choose to add heel pads. Never fit to the smaller foot, allowing the larger foot to be in a shoe that is slightly too small. In extreme cases, the dancer may have to purchase two different sizes. Because pointe shoes are not shaped differently for left and right feet, she will be able to mix and match to create two pairs that fit her, without wasting any of the shoes she buys.
Learn about evaluating size and width.