The incredible variety of pointe shoe brands, and the confusing array of shapes within these brands, makes buying your first pointe shoes quite a challenge.
Parents of ballet class beginners reading this, please understand the cost of this financial investment at stake here. If you worry about whether or not your dancing daughter is prepared for pointe, you should get her The Pointe Book.
Pointe shoes are not to be grown into. They must fit like a glove, to be blunt. If your daughter has a high hypermobile arch, shoes will broken completely, in a few classes. This changes as your child's foot muscles get strong, and the ballet barre exercises that ballet class beginners should know, will hasten the process.
A student's first pointe shoes fitting should not be rushed. If an experienced fitter or your ballet teacher is present, that is a real help. (Not all ballet stores have experienced fitters.)
Your child's foot shape must be examined. The length and evenness or tapering of toes, the width across the metatarsals, the height of the arch, and the depth of the foot must all be fitted correctly. Ill fitting shoes can contribute to sprains and permanent injuries.
Before you get to the pointe shoes, consider shoe padding.
This will take up space in the shoe. The variety of gel pads, toe length adaptors, toe tips and all the other things are wonderful, but you must use them to fit the shoe.
The boxes, or space in the shoe for the toes, of pointe shoes come in tapered shapes, and square shapes. They must fit so that the foot does not sink into, or slide around inside the box.
A longer second toe usually requires a slightly tapered, narrow to medium box, but there are no hard and fast rules. A longer big toe may also feel more comfortable in a tapered box, but every shape of shoe must be tried on.
Dancers should wear their tights when fitting pointe shoes.
You can check the vamp needed by rising up to 3/4 pointe, to see if the shoe break is where your metatarsal joints are. Too high a vamp will impede the foot movement, and too low a vamp will not provide support.
The stiffness of the shank you need will be determined by the arch height and ankle flexibility. You should be able to get up onto the platform, the end of the shoes,fully, so that you are not leaning back into the box. The shank must give support, but not provide so much resistance that you can't work properly.
Ballet toe shoes will break in, and keep breaking in until suddenly they are worn out!
That's the life of a pointe shoe.
When you are up on pointe, there should be about 1/4 inch of fabric at your heel. If there is none, the shoe is too short. If there is more, the shoe is too long.
Also, if you do a demi-plie, and your toes are mashed into the box, hurting, the shoe is too short, too narrow, or both.
The vamp should not gape or wrinkle - neither should the sides. There should be equal pressure from the shoe all over the foot.
I've tried to keep these articles fairly short - but like your first few fittings - time, patience and detail is needed.
Here are a couple of wonderful references I have found;
http://www.the-perfect-pointe.com/HavingAFit.html is a detailed article written by a pointe shoe fitter
http://www.the-perfect-pointe.com/list2.html is a graphic table of pointe shoe brands with specifications. It is an excellent guide to start with before you shop.
An expertly written ballet dancer's guide with all the necessary details will help you find exactly the right fit in your first pointe shoes with The Pointe Book's detailed instructions.