Once you have applied shellac to your shoes (if you have hardened them beforehand), you need to prepare the spine or back of the shoe to give the prettiest pointe possible for your foot.
Make sure that you have choosen a pointe shoe with the correct strength back (i.e. normal, strong or extra strong – the shellac can enhance the hardness of any of these) and figure out which part of the shoe to “break” depending upon where the strength and the nicest arch of your foot is (in order to create the prettiest line). There are a few options for this but the best way is perhaps trial and error. One of the most popular ways to break the back is at the 3/4 mark, with the bottom of the shoe (the toe end) being the starting point.
Bend the leather (or paper and material) at the top both ways to loosen the nail (assuming there is one) making possible its removal, so the top 1/4 is very bendy. In this way you still have the support through your foot when en pointe but also have a lovely curve at the top giving a nice line.
You could also totally cut the top (you have mobilised) off to create a slightly more exaggerated effect… but be aware that the end may dig into your heel and become painful. You could try putting tape or plaster over the edge onto the shoe to create more of a protective cushion.
You can use both of these methods on any part of the spine of the shoe according to where it is the most supportive and where your arch looks the prettiest. You can do it 1/2 way down, 3/4 of the way down or even right at the bottom. You do this by bending the sole at the bottom so that it “pops”: the popping is either the sole becoming unstuck enabling you to bend it to look good, or the nail popping out which you can remove to free up the sole so it may bend with your toes. In most cases this is really helpful to keep you right over on the point of the shoe instead of pulling back. This is good for those with weaker or less pretty feet, in order to help get the correct position en pointe.
Sometimes, if you have applied shellac and your shoes are really hard, you have to break the toe end so you can actually get en pointe. This is also good as it helps the shoes last longer and still look pretty!
You can repeat the method of applying shellac and breaking over and over again (or until the shoe shoe falls apart) to make your shoes last, although of course there is always that one pair that may just be ugly or uncomfortable no matter what you do but hopefully you’ll be lucky and not encounter many of those!
Good luck and remember to experiment wisely and safely!
Part 1 of this series can be found here: Creating The Perfect Pointe Shoe (Part 1)
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons