Pointe Shoe Shanks

What Exactly Is A Red-board Shank?

There are so many different brands of pointe shoes in the world today with pointe shoe manufacturers offering shanks made out of so many different kinds of materials. Some of the materials used in making pointe shoe shanks are made with natural substances like plant fibers or wood pulp. Some shanks are made with synthetic or man-made ingredients. Some of the different shanks available today are:

  • Red-board
  • Leather-board
  • A combination of red-board and leather-board
  • Polymer
  • Elastomer
  • Fiberglass

My very first pair of pointe shoes were Capezio Pavlowa which came with the #3 hard red-board shank. As I continue to write and research pointe shoe brands, I end up asking myself more questions. What I really wanted to know was the origin of the name “red-board” and what they were made from.

After researching a bit, I learned that :

  • Shoe shank factories make what is called shank-board and group them into different colors according to the strength, density, and function of that type of shank-board
  • Shank-board actually comes in grey-board, orange-board, green-board, and other colors depending on the factory. This supplier from China produces 4 kinds of shank-board which you can read about here
  • Red-board is considered a type of fiberboard
  • Fiberboard is made by mixing wood chips, sawdust, and even plant fibers like cane with glue until it becomes thick enough to roll out. The mixture is then pressed with a great deal of pressure until it forms big sheets that can be punched out by machine to produce individual shanks

Materials used to produce shoe shanks are often classified as either high-grade or low-grade. Red-board shanks are considered a low-grade fiberboard because they are not as durable, are susceptible to moisture damage and peeling,  and cost less to produce. Another reason why pointe shoes are so expendable!

In all fairness, using a thicker, stiffer, high-grade fiberboard in a pointe shoe would mean difficulty for the dancer and would most definitely drive up the cost of production.

Some pointe shoe manufacturers like Bloch offer models that come with a red-board shank that has an inner layer of leather-board sandwiched between the 2 red-board layers. I will have to save my research on “shank sandwiches” for another time, but in the meanwhile, you can get a good idea how shoe-shank companies describe shank grades by visiting this website.

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