The Fret on Freeds
If you have experience with pointe shoes, then it’s probably safe to say you have heard about Freed of London pointe shoes.
Since 1929, Freed has been creating pointe shoes for dancers all over the world. Dancers in major companies wear them, and many aspiring students love them as well. What makes them so special? What’s the hype? Why would a dancer pick a Freed over another brand?
First, you need to know the difference between Freed “Classics” and Freed “Studios.”
A few things that make Freed Classic pointe shoes different:
- Makers: This is probably the biggest draw to wearing Freed Classics. Each pair of Classics is hand-made by a cobbler who stamps the shoes he makes with his own unique “maker symbol.” This lets dancers know which particular cobber made that shoe. Each maker makes the shoe a little differently: some make them wider, stronger, narrower, softer, etc. This means that even though you may order two pairs of pointe shoes in the exact same size, if each pair is a different maker, they may feel like very different shoes. This gives a dancer many options to help her find the maker(s) that work well for her feet. Grand Jeté is able to do a maker search to try and order pointe shoes made by your preferred maker.
- Quiet: Freed Classics are notoriously light. Because they are so light, they make very little noise. You can bourrée across the stage like a whisper.
- They mold to your feet: Because Classics are so light, they can break in quickly. However, this also means they aren’t made to last. Some professionals go through a shoe per day, but often students can make them last a few weeks or even longer. The quick break-in process allowing them to mold to your feet makes them ideal for a performance shoe.
- They can be custom-made: Don’t like how high the sides come up? They can fix that. Want an elastic drawstring? They can fix that. Almost anything you want done to your shoe, they can do. Just expect to pay a little extra and wait several months for the shoes to come in.
So now let’s switch from the Classic line to the Studio line.
Freed makes a line of “Studio” pointe shoes. Within that line is the Studio, Studio II, Studio Pro, and Studio Opera. Each of these styles has unique qualities, but they are very different from the Classic line.
- Durability: Studios are machine-made, which makes them last longer than Classics.
- No Makers: Studios are all standard shoes, so each style is manufactured consistently. You can order the same style and size, and you don’t have to worry about getting a different maker.
- Stock Availability: Because Studios aren’t custom-made, they are part of Freed’s regularly stocked shoes, and the turnaround time when ordering is faster.
Whenever I fit my students for pointe shoes, I always try Freeds on them. Between Classics and Studios, there are many options for dancers. I really like Freeds for my students because they are light and can be easier to roll through, so my dancers can really work on articulating their feet. However, while I always try Freeds on, I don’t require my students to wear them. If Freeds don’t work, that’s okay. At the end of the day I just want the best fit for any dancer.
One of the biggest problems I find with students who wear Classics is that they assume that only one maker will work for them. I fit a lot of students who say “I’ve only ever had maker ‘Y’, so that’s the only maker I can have”. I always encourage dancers to try as many makers as possible. Just because one maker works, doesn’t mean others won’t. If you only have one maker, you are in a tricky position when you are unable to get that maker. You should consider having a few makers you can wear in case your favorite is on backorder.
If you are a student wearing Freed Classics, know that they will not last as long as other brands. I’ve seen some dancers make them last a month, and I’ve had some dancers kill them in one day. There are various reasons as to why they don’t last, but it is primarily because they are handmade and the cobblers use a particular Freed glue or paste. Freed pointe shoes are an investment, but if the shoe really works for you it might be a worthwhile investment.
*This article reflects my opinion as a professional dancer and teacher, and not that of Freed of London or Grand Jeté.
*All photos courtesy of Freed of London