Shoes are critical to ballet dancers every day classes, rehearsals, and performances. The cover and protect the foot, unlike in other styles of dance where the dancer is barefoot. There are two types of ballet shoes that a dancer will wear: flat (demi-pointé) and pointé shoes.
Every ballet student starts with flat shoes made of either canvas or leather. The shoes allow the dancer protection from the floor, but also create friction that gives a dancer control. Friction is very important to ballet dancers. Friction gives them control to carefully execute turns as well as traveling jumps.

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At some point in a young girl's training she will make the transition to dancing én pointé. Dancing in pointé shoes generally takes a long time to get used to for more than one reason. Pointé shoes allow the dancer to dance on the very tips of her toes; consequently the dancer's weight is completely on the standing foot and toes. Pointé shoes are individually hand constructed by layering heavy canvas and glue and letting it harden. The final product must be strong enough to support the weight of a dancer when she stands on the platform of the shoe.  Flat shoes give a dancer a larger platform to balance on compared to pointé shoes. Pointé shoes are also covered in a light satin that has a much lower coefficient of friction than flat canvas or leather shoes. As a result the normal it takes less force to overcome the normal force pushing up on the dancer's feet.  Because of that a dancer has to adjust the amount of force used when stepping on to the shoes and going into turns. However, many people find it much easier to turn when on pointé shoes due to the lower friction.

Photo courtesy of Grishko

Photo courtesy of The Royal Ballet