Dance Advice

If the shoe fits: Meet Leanne, master pointe shoe fitter

Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.
Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.

Everything about Leanne is colourful. Your attention immediately goes to her outfits that tend to favour vivid shades of pink. Next, you might notice that she has a humorous and engaging personality that puts you at ease. Another notable aspect is her expertise in fitting pointe shoes. She is indeed the whole package. Let’s get to know Leanne of Straight to the Pointe and learn more about the work she does, helping dancers all over the UK.

What is your dance background? 

“My dance background is very different from most. I started jazz, modern and freestyle at around six years old, and back then starting ballet was something that nobody seemed to think you could start later. I took my first ballet class at 17 and was hooked. At around age 24, I got the confidence to branch out and take classes in London and elsewhere including on my travels.”

Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.
Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.

What made you want to dance and take ballet?

“I liked the fact it was hard and a challenge. It gave me great therapy and a way to escape from life. It helped with the various ailments I had going on. I enjoyed pushing myself and learning, and I wanted to get en pointe. I enjoyed the aspect of dressing up in dancewear and having fun with outfits. I loved the sense of community, especially how the adult ballet world has grown.”

How did you get interested in pointe shoes? Did you plan on being a pointe shoe fitter?

“I basically became a geek about pointe shoes! I had a fascination with trying every brand and model possible and learning about the differences and why people struggled. I struggled big time getting the right shoes, as I have tricky feet to fit. I took it upon myself to find the best shoe for me. That involved getting shoes from Grishko directly, as the retailers here didn’t have what I wanted. I realised the huge array Grishko had to offer and how they had the most variety of lasts, shank strengths and constructions, pastes to offer. I started a YouTube channel before I was a fitter along with a blog to give honest opinions and advice. I branched out by helping friends and others to find the right shoes and realised I had a knack for it. I kind of fell into it. I don’t believe there is any ‘formal’ training. To me, proper training would include exams and be regulated. There are many ‘courses’ out there, but the truth is, it’s an art and you need to put the hours in. I’m always learning and happy to learn. It’s important to learn from physios, podiatrists, ballet itself, and interact with teachers and dancers of all levels and ages. Most importantly, enjoy it and have a huge passion for it. It’s not an easy job like people seem to think.”

Do you have a philosophy about fitting?

Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.
Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.

“I guess you could say I do. I have my own way which I’m always tweaking. I think of the dancer as a whole. I like to build up a picture of the dancer. Example: level, problems, previous or current injuries or health conditions, how the dancer feels mentally, what style of ballet and training? Are they dancing for fun, want to be pro, or are they pro? If en pointe already, how do their shoes die? What brands/models have they tried? The alignment, structure, age of the dancer. I collaborate with the teachers to explore ways to help the dancer grow. I keep notes and a spreadsheet system on my customers. We can all learn about common injuries, prevention and exercises, and supplementing ballet classes with Pilates and/or Progressing Ballet Technique. Dancer or not, we should all have a look after ourselves mentally and physically.”

How many dancers do you see a week on average? How long are the fittings?

“Gosh, this is hard to pinpoint. I could see I guess 80+ a week sometimes. If I’m fitting at schools, I do one hour per dancer. If it’s a dancer I know well and have worked with, I can often manage to fit them in 40 minutes. If someone is coming to my fitting room I offer up to two-hour slots. These are very intricate and great for vocational dancers/pre pro or pro level. But sometimes, I even need these slots for the recreational dancers! I’ve even needed three hours for some dancers. It is important as a fitter to not burn out, though. Quality over quantity, but of course also making a living.”

You travel for the fittings. Is there a specific reason for that? Do you prefer it to working in a brick and mortar store? 

“Yes, I absolutely love to travel. I do it to be able to offer dancers the chance to have a fitting with me. Although the UK is small, there is still plenty of distance between places, and not everyone can travel. Schools love the fact I can come out to them and offer my time. I enjoy traveling, as it means getting out and seeing dancers. I do not drive, though. I take two huge suitcases, and packing can take two hours alone! I prefer not driving, as it gives me time to do admin on the train. I have a fitting room so dancers can come to me. 

Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.
Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.

 I didn’t want my own shop because I enjoy travelling and doing my own thing. It’s a good job. I work many late nights, and I’m a night owl. I often don’t get home until past midnight.”

What would you say was the hardest thing about your job?

“You have to be really organised and have excellent time management skills. It is very draining. I sit on the floor to fit, and I have back and hip issues, so by the end of fitting, I actually hurt. The tough thing is that not all dancers have the luxury of being able to afford pointe shoes or an education in dance. It’s sad to see those dancers not able to get the opportunities that others can. It’s also hard having a work/life balance when you run your own business. I am a one person business doing it all. I cannot afford staff. To be honest, even when I have tried to have assistants, it doesn’t work out for me, as I like things done a set way and I have high standards.”

What do you think about all the young dancers posting things about pointe on TikTok?

“I have mixed views on this! Some things are dangerous, and some things are nice to see. Showing the real side of ballet and showing dancers that nobody is perfect is great. However, these silly videos of cups on feet and ‘hacks’ drive me nuts. And videos showing quick fixes on flexibility when we all know how damaging it can be and how ballet takes time.”

If there was something you could let dance teachers, parents and students know about pointe shoes and fitting what would it be?

“I could write a huge essay about this to be honest! A few for now:

#1. Choose your dance school and teacher wisely. Don’t be afraid to try many and realise that a good teacher is one who wants you to grow, and if you eventually outgrow that school, they should be pleased to let you move on.

#2. Ballet is not about being super flexible. Please focus more on strength, control, technique.

Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.
Master pointe shoe fitter Leanne. Photo courtesy of Leanne.

#3. Getting ready for pointe is not straightforward. There is no set time frame. Take your time and even better, still do pre-pointe classes, wear demi pointe shoes, do your exercises, and don’t just think it’s about feet and ankles. Even get a physio assessment if you can and build up a proper plan to get en pointe. Always consider previous or current injuries and health conditions, too.

#4. Do not wear dead shoes! And ensure you get fitted by a reputable fitter. When you find a fitter you like, stick with them! 

#5. Don’t assume that because your shoes feel fine you stick with the same model/size/width. Get a ‘check-up’ at least once a year! Feet and technique changes, even as adults.”

Your outfits on social media are always so colorful. Where do you get the inspiration and ideas for them?

“Thank you! I am very inspired by vintage, especially the ’40s and ’50s. Japanese street fashion and the likes. I find dressing up to be a great boost.”

You can find Leanne at

By Mary Carpenter of Dance Informa.

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