The Chemistry of Pointe Shoes (Ballet)


Pointe shoes are special box shaped shoes covered in satin. They are usually pink or peach color. Ballet dancers use them because it allows them to stand on their toes and perform dance formations that would otherwise be impossible for the dancer. I chose to do the Chemistry of Pointe shoes because I dance and I wanted to discover how chemistry related to something I enjoy outside of the lab.

Composition of ...

    • Satin
    • Canvas
    • Glue (C5H5NO2)
    • Adhesive
    • Leather
    • Plastic
    • Cardstock
    • Burlap
    • flour
    • water

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Pointe shoes are made mostly of a fabric called satin. The bottom of the shoe, the sole, has a tough leather strip to provide friction for the dancer. The box of the shoe, the hard part surrounding the top of the feet, under the outside layer of fabric, is made of glue and satin fabric, similar to paper mache. The vamp is the top part of the front of the outside of the shoe, also made out of satin.


Satin is a fabric, or more specifically, a weave that usually has a soft surface and dull back. It is used for the outer coat of pointe shoes because it is pleasing to eye as well as surprisingly durable. Satin was made originally from silk in the middle ages. In the mid-1800s pointe shoes started being made with satin. Satin was first made in China. Satin is made with Satin Spar Gypsum with the chemical formula CaSo4 2H2O. Satin Spar Gypsum is a gray-white mineral with a crystal like structure.


The glue, or adhesive, used for point shoes has a very strong compound called Nitrocellulose. Nitrocellulose has three possible chemical formulas that form naturally: C6H9(NO2)O5, C6H9(NO2)2O5, C6H9(NO2)3O5. It was first experimented with in the 1830s. Pointe shoe makers use the glue in the making of the shoe to hold it together. It binds the fabric together in the form it needs to be in to allow the dancer to stand on their toes.

Chemistry's Role


The leather on the bottom on the pointe shoes goes through a chemical process called tanning. Tanning involves converting the protein of the raw hide into a material suitable for dancing. The acidity of the hide after pickling, the process of lowering the pH value to an acidic region, has a pH of 2.8-3.2. The hide is immersed into a tanning liquor then it is basificated, a process of very slowly raising the material from the liquor solution. At the end of all this the pH balanced has changed to 3.8-4.2.


Pointe shoes often use super glue. Dancers will often put some super glue in the tips of their shoes to make them last a little longer. In super glue there is a chemical called cyanoacrylate. Cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin that forms an almost immediate strong bond. Depending on the type of glue, it may also contain zinc oxide, with a chemical formula of (ZnO), zirconium (Zr), or zinc sulfate (ZnSO4). The bond formed because of the hydroxyl ions (OH-), found in water. Almost all surfaces have a thin layer of water on them, so when the glue comes in contact with a surface, it creates long chains forming a almost unbreakable bond.


info double check

glue type for shoe

what glue is made of

how it works

Materials- Satin, paper, glue

double check on material names

where materials belong on shoe

Materials-burlap, flour, dextrine, potato starch, rough and smooth leather, coarse linen

the job of each specific material

more in depth material research

specific information on how it works

how pointe shoes are made

detail on parts of the shoe

why each part is there

formula glue

lewis dot structure

what satin is made of

how satin is made

how leather is prepared

pH level in making

double check info about glue

super glue

how it forms bonds

whats in it

process on leather in making

About the Author

Abigail Thomason is a Junior at Senior High. She enjoys chemistry as well as dance and playing harp. When she is not in school or dancing she spends her time riding her bike with her dog, Sadie, or hanging out with friends.