What Makes Them Different

Pointe shoes perform a remarkable job — enduring tremendous forces and repeated strains, all the while appearing as dainty and delicate as the ballerina herself. Gaynor Minden retains the classic beauty of lustrous pink satin and elegant tapered lines, but with a completely modernized interior to meet the needs of today’s athletic dancers. They are made with expert American hand-craftsmanship, the most up-to-date athletic materials, and first-hand knowledge of ballet. The designer and almost the entire team are former dancers. Manufactured in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

    What Makes Them Different Drawer 2 Gaynor Mindens last 3-6 times longer than traditionally made pointe shoes. The parts that provide support for the dancer, the shank and toe box, are made from advanced flexible polymers. These are modern materials, not the 19th century paste and cardboard construction found in most other brands. The buoyant support that you feel in the new shoe will remain the same throughout its life; that’s why it’s so important to select a stiffness that is right for you — they do not soften with use. We offer five stiffness options for stock shoes, and additional options by special order. Our polymers are a type of synthetic material prized for extraordinary flexibility, strength, and resilience. They are neither rubber nor fiberglass. The ones we use are also found in medical devices such as prosthetics, and in a wide range of athletic equipment. Gaynor Mindens have been tested to withstand hundreds of thousands of relevés without any weakening or deformation of the shank or box. They can actually help promote correct alignment (see FAQ). Shanks are pre-arched for better support and a prettier line. However, the dancer must still work her feet in moving through the demi-pointe position.

Gaynor Mindens are lined with genuine Poron® 4000 Performance Cushioning.  Poron is a cellular urethane foam, found in the best athletic shoes, that can absorb significant impact even when only 1/16” to 1/8” thick — no comparison to cheap latex or EVA foams. Also unlike other cushions, it does not “bottom out”; it always rebounds to its original state of resilience. We place different densities of Poron in different areas. A light density, 1/16” layer is directly underneath the entire length of your foot for all-around comfort and shock absorption. An additional, medium density cushion is underneath your heel to protect it and to ensure that you never feel the edge of the shank. Instead of pleats, high density impact (and noise!) reducing materials are underneath the toes, so landing from jumps is as quiet and fluid as possible.

Our linings are treated with silver ion, and are slightly textured to help prevent the shoe from sliding along the foot.

The drawstring opens at the side, rather than at the throat, so it won’t irritate the top of your foot. After being tied it is easily concealed in the natural space at your arch, making for a clean, uninterrupted line along the vamp. The platform is pleatless, creating a greater useable surface en pointe and fewer wobbles in penché flat. It also provides the space for noise and impact reducing materials under the satin. Platforms are available in either satin or suede. Luxe Satin —plush, self-smoothing, and extra-comfortable—is ideal for performances or photo shoots and is available by special order. It’s a stock shoe you can customize. Full sizes and half sizes, most in 3 widths, 4 box shapes, 5 stiffnesses, 2 vamps, 3 heel types including Sleekfit for narrow heels. Special orders, allow further customization including extra shank reinforcement, white satin, Luxe satin, suede platforms, and adjustments to sides, vamp, and heel.

Q: Why are Gaynor Mindens more expensive?
A: Actually, Gaynor Mindens cost less to use than other brands because they last an average of 3-6 times longer — and with suede tips you can expect even more durability. How? Gaynor Minden is the only pointe shoe with flexible polymers, also known as elastomerics, in both areas of shoe that provide support: the shank and the box. Most other pointe shoes have a paper and paste construction that dates to the 19th century. Elastomerics are highly specialized materials, engineered for extraordinary flexibility, resilience, and strength, so naturally they are more costly than paper and paste. Gaynor Minden is also the only pointe shoe with high performance Poron® 4000 foam linings built right into the shoe. Finally, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are hand made in the United States. If you examine the stitching and workmanship we think you will agree that our quality and consistency are unequaled. It is more expensive to manufacture in America, but the result is a superior product.  

Q: Why is an elastomeric box better?
A: Because an elastomeric box doesn’t weaken or deform, it both lasts longer and promotes correct alignment. A 1997 study at the Biomechanics Lab at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst reported that even highly trained dancers were better aligned in Gaynor Mindens than in traditionally made pointe shoes. (See Medical Studies) Why? Because a traditionally made box often wears unevenly, with greater wear under the big toe. This makes the platform uneven, which can contribute to sickling and winging on pointe. A box that never deforms makes it harder to stand incorrectly.  Proper alignment is essential for good technique, correct muscular development, and for protecting joints from injury.  

Q: Why is an elastomeric shank better?
A: Because it never breaks or softens. Many dancers use a hard shank in a traditionally made shoe to increase its longevity, but with Gaynor Minden they can wear a more supple shank and enjoy the benefits of a lighter, more flexible shoe without compromising its durability.  

Q: Why is shock absorption important? 
A: Many dancers’ woes, whether mild aches or serious fractures, are caused by the repeated traumatic impact of jumping on hard surfaces. Many dance floors are not resilient; they are often either a wood floor that is not “sprung,” or linoleum laid directly on concrete. Also, most theatres in the world don’t have sprung floors because they were built to support heavy sets for opera or theater. No pointe shoe will make ballet easy, painless, or risk free, but Gaynor Minden is the only pointe shoe with high-quality shock absorbing Rogers Corporation Poron® Performance Cushioning built into the shoe (not cheap latex or EVA). Rogers Corporation Poron® 4000 carries the American Podiatric Association’s Seal of Acceptance.  

Q: If Gaynor Mindens never weaken or soften, how do I break them in?
A: Good news: you don’t. The shank that you select should feel broken-in and sufficiently flexible from the beginning. Dancers who are accustomed to traditionally made shanks are usually concerned with finding a hard enough shoe because they know that conventional construction rapidly softens. Because Gaynor Mindens will not break in or break down, be sure you are satisfied with the roll-through and flexibility of the shoe when it is new. Ask about our Supple, Feather, or Pianissimo shanks if you need more flexibility.  

Q: Are Gaynor Mindens suitable for beginners?
A: Absolutely. What’s most important is that the shoe fit properly and that the stiffness of the shank is appropriate for the dancer’s strength and size. Beginners often start in a Supple or ExtraFlex shank, but Gaynor Mindens come in five different stiffnesses from which fitters may choose. Gaynor Mindens are especially beneficial for beginners because they promote proper alignment and correct technique. Their elastomeric box can minimize “sickling” and “winging”, bad habits that can lead to injury over time. (See Question 2) Finally, Gaynor Mindens are lined with soft, shock absorbing materials that make them very comfortable. Painful pointe shoes can sometimes be so discouraging that many girls stop enjoying ballet class and give it up all together. Yes, ballet is hard and can be painful, but a great deal of the discomfort associated with pointework is preventable.  

Q: Are they suitable for professionals?
A: Yes. Many professionals greatly appreciate the consistency of Gaynor Mindens because it frees them to concentrate on the artistry of their dancing. Often, professionals will vary the stiffness of the shoe they are wearing depending on the role. For example, a dancer might use Extra Flex or Hard shank for the Rose Adagio in Sleeping Beauty, and a Supple or Feather shank for the Act II of Giselle (which requires more jumping and demi-pointe work). Dancers at over 200 major companies worldwide wear Gaynor Minden: American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet, The Mariinsky Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala Ballet, Het National Ballet, San Fransisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, English National Ballet…any many more.  

Q: Why are they called “Cheater Shoes”?
A: Any pointe shoe that is overly stiff can be a “cheater shoe,” e.g. a shoe that does the work that the dancer’s body should be doing. Any inflexible shoe can prop you up on pointe and allow you to “sit”. An overly stiff shoe can also allow you to “pop up”, rather than roll up, to full pointe. However, a traditionally made shoe will soften with use and the problem will go away, but Gaynor Mindens don’t. That’s why we make five different shanks and why it’s essential to select the appropriate one.  See The Controversy.  

Q: If a dancer breaks shanks easily, should she wear Gaynor Minden’s Hard Shank?
A: Not necessarily. All of our shanks are unbreakable, which means that a harder shank won’t necessarily last any longer than a softer shank. Our Hard shank is very stiff, and mainly used by dancers with extremely high insteps or who require extra support for some other reason. Dancers should be satisfied with the demi pointe of a Gaynor Minden when it is new because it will not break in.  

Q: I’m afraid that an unbreakable shank might “do the work for me” and let my muscles grow weak. Is this possible?
A: An overly stiff shank of any brand could do this. The difference is that traditionally made shoes will eventually break down and soften before it becomes a real problem, and a Gaynor Minden won’t. If you feel that you are not being made to pull up out of the shoe, try a softer shank. Ask your fitter about Supple, Feather, and Pianissimo options. Individual needs vary; that’s why we offer five different shanks.  

Q: Why do I need these extra cushions?
A: Maybe you don’t, but every foot is different and many of them are not perfectly suited for pointework. Gaynor Minden strives to make it possible for everyone to enjoy ballet, even those with “difficult feet”. The right combination of cushions and liners inside the toe box can solve a multitude of problems such as compressible metatarsals, narrow heels, tapered toes, longer second toes, a large space between the first two toes, and sensitive toe nails. For example, dancers with compressible metatarsals slide too easily down into the box, which causes painful pressure on the big toe (and perhaps a bruised toenail). For them, a Box Liner from our Fitting Kit can provide instant relief. In the past dancers were told to suffer patiently until their feet toughened or to use lambs’ wool to ease the pain. Lambs’ wool is soft but it lacks the dynamic qualities that provide real shock absorption and a customized fit. It also compresses greatly, which can cause your shoes to suddenly become too large.  

Q: Should pointe shoes be fitted with room to grow?
A: Never! A shoe that is too big, especially a shoe that is too wide at the metatarsal, cannot provide proper support. Inadequate support can cause severe pain and serious injury. Please note: Gaynor Mindens are fitted slightly differently from other brands because our elastomeric boxes do not flatten or squish, and our satin stretches only slightly. It is important to be able to pinch ¼” at the drawstring casing at the heel of a Gaynor Minden when en pointe, but the fit around the metatarsals should be snug.  

Q: My teacher wants a pointe shoe to fit very tight. Why must Gaynor Mindens be fit with this ¼” pinch at the top of the heel when en pointe?
A: Because they are made from advanced materials, Gaynor Mindens do not stretch or deteriorate the way traditional shoes do. The extremely tight fit of a traditional shoe anticipates the shoe stretching out and “mushing in”. Our satin does not stretch the way other satin does. Do not fit Gaynor Mindens as if you were fitting a traditional pointe shoe. The difference is slight but very important, since bruised toenails could result from fitting the shoe too short.