The price of a good pair of ballet shoes is expensive and en pointe shoes , on average, last about one pair per performance. Ballerinas are tough on their shoes and the main problem seems to be the reinforced cardboard shank of the shoe
Pointe shoes have two important pivotal parts: the “box” or toe block holds the toes in place and never bends: and the shank which runs along the bottom of the entire foot and gives support to some of a dancer’s weight. This needs to be flexible rnough to withstand torque (twisting) to give the foot support en point without snapping . Repeated hops and leaps in high humidity (perspiration) cause the shank to fatigue giving no support to the foot and increasing the risk of injury.
Abigail Freed is a young ballet dancer determined to solve the problem with science and developed a proto-type carbon-fibre shank as a project. Material made up of tiny fibres of carbon atoms. Each between 5 to 10 micrometres thick (a tenth of the width of a human hair), makes a strong lightweight material capable of reinforcing everything from the blades of helicopters to protective fabrics.
Abigail bought a roll of carbon fibre fabric from the web and after carefully removing the origian cardboard shank in her ballet shoes replaced it with a carbon fibre template. She experimented with different thicknesses, carefully going through her dance positions, in trial and error fashion until she found a winning combination. After preliminary invivo tests proved successful , she took her pointe shoes to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), run by Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of science. She now hopes to patent her shoe.
Colucci LA, Klein DE (2008) Development of an innovative pointe shoe Ergonomics in Design Summer p6-12