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Stop the Stench! Why do my child's ballet shoes smell so bad?

Three top tips to keep ballet shoes fresh

If you’ve lived with a dancer for any length of time, you’ll know how bad ballet shoes can smell.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’m here to help you stop the stench!

Dancers sweat, and so do their feet

We all sweat when we exercise, and dancers exercise hard!

That means they’re prone to sweating. A lot. Including their feet.

Dance shoes are necessarily tight-fitting, and often retain some sweat after wear, and it’s this sweat – well the bacteria it harbours, actually -- that can cause the smell. Here are my tips for keeping ballet shoes fresh.

1. Keep your ballet shoes clean and dry

Leaving your dance shoes in your ballet bag between classes is a recipe for odours. Take them out of your bag, and let them dry out completely between classes. Leather and canvas ballet flats are likely to start growing mould if left a bit damp inside a bag.

Allowing shoes time to dry completely between classes is particularly important for pointe shoes. The box of your pointe shoe is usually made from layers of burlap, cardboard, and glue. Over time, the box of your pointe shoe will gradually soften, ultimately to the point where they are no longer supportive and need replacing. Leaving your pointe shoes damp will speed the softening process, meaning you need to replace your shoes more often than you’d like.

While a little sweat in your dance shoes is unavoidable, don’t let them get wet in other ways! Keep them in a separate part of your ballet bag, away from your drink bottle and food, and always change out of your ballet shoes into something else before leaving class and dashing out to the car.

2. Consider buying multiple pairs of dance shoes

If your dancer is just a wee little one, doing only a half hour class a week, then you probably don’t have any sweaty feet problems just yet. One pair of shoes is usually enough.

If, however, your child is older and doing more and more classes with each passing year, you might consider buying two pairs of each style of shoe they wear. This double-up allows you to rotate shoes from one week to the next, giving them a chance to dry properly between wears. Perhaps buy one pair, get them worn in a little, and then add in a second pair of the same type of shoe so that you can rotate.

This kind of staggered rotation also allows you to always have a softer, more worn-in pair and a newer, firmer, more supportive pair of shoes to hand all the time, so that you don’t get caught out needing to ‘settle in’ a new pair of shoes the day before a concert or exam.

When dancers are en pointe for 3 or more hours a week, it is strongly advised to have at least 2 pairs of shoes on the go. Apart from the fact that they are less likely to smell bad, it will also prolong the life of the pointe shoe. Although it is more expensive initially, if you can alternate your pairs of pointe shoes, giving them time to dry out completely between uses, they will most definitely last longer and save you money in the long run.

3. Wash toe pads, ballet tights, and dance socks regularly

Regular laundering of what you wear inside your dance shoes will help keep the smell at bay, too. Wash socks and tights after each wear, and if you wear toe pads inside your pointe shoes, consider buying several pairs so that you can keep them regularly washed, too.

While hand washing is ideal, you can put your toe pads, dance socks and tights into a laundry bag and pop them in the machine. Line dry inside.

Hope that helps get rid of those nasty smells in your ballet bag!

Penny and the team at AKA Dancewear.


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