I remember when I first started to dance on pointe — I was 12, dancing at San Francisco Ballet. Luckily in my hay day, there were plenty of options for toe padding.

Luckily, I didn’t have to try all of the options to figure out which worked best for me.

So let’s run down the options: silicone pads, ouch pouches and lambs wool.

Silicone Pads

Ugh, no. I tried these on for a second and knew instantly that they were horrible. They made my feet feel sweaty and sticky. I don’t recommend these at all. And after speaking with other dancers over the years, I’ve learned that these make your shoes stink, and will actually make your pointe shoes wear out faster from the added moisture.

Lambs Wool

I always thought of lambs wool as the toe pad option used by traditionalists. I tried it out once, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I loved being able to mold it to my foot’s shape. Some people say that it’s thin enough to still feel the floor, but not me. For me, I felt like I couldn’t feel the floor with lambs wool and that gave me a sense of not being in control. A definite no-no.

Ouch Pouches / Gel Pouches

When I was dancing every day, these were my padding of choice. I thought they were breathable, thin enough, and offered enough padding where it mattered. However, if you’re looking at gel pads as options here’s a couple of quick notes.

  1. Make sure there’s no plastic. Plastic doesn’t breathe, causing excess moisture. The thickness of plastic will also decrease your sensitivity of the floor.
  2. Make sure they’re not too thick. Again, you want to be able to feel the floor and if they’re too thick then your shoes will not fit as a result.
  3. Don’t get gel pouches that are too big. If they’re oversized or long, then they’ll poke out ruining the fit and your feel for the floor. They should only cover the metatarsophalangeal joints of the first and fifth toe.

As a dancer, you’ll hear about a lot of options for toe pads. The key is to choose the ones that work best for you. Just because gel pouches worked for me, doesn’t mean they’ll work best for you. But do me a favor, don’t ever try silicone pads.

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