By Kelli O'Keefe
When I was little I always heard that one foot is bigger than the other when growing but I didn’t think it would happen to me. At one point in my life it was more relevant than it might have been for other children thanks to an odd pair of ballet shoes.
I was eleven and I had just transitioned from ballet slippers to point shoes a few months prior. Everything was going well. Then, one day in practice my feet felt abnormally uncomfortable.
I had been dancing since I was 5. I grew up in the studio. So, I noticed when my pointe shoes did not fit right. Dancers train in ballet slippers. Pointe shoes were different. Slippers stretched where pointe shoes hugged the form of your foot. Pointe shoes wear out but do not stretch out. It was important the shoe was the perfect fit for your foot.
Gradually, the shoes began to feel uncomfortable during every practice and every rehearsal. It began affecting my capability I knew I had to do something. I told my instructor and she suggested trying a different brand of pointe shoes. In the dance world, finding the perfect shoe when you begin dancing in pointe shoes was essential. Changing brands was a big deal.
I went to ‘On your Toes’ a store devoted to dancewear. I gave the sales clerk my size and she brought over a pair that was a different brand of what I’d been wearing. I tried them on, danced around a little and, something was off.
The worker asked me if one foot felt more uncomfortable than the other. I told her the right is in more pain. “Let me try something,” she said. She brought over another unboxed pair. She handed one to put on my right foot and another to put on my left foot. I pranced over to the part of the store where you could dance around and try out shoes on the appropriate floor. After a few moves, I realized I was not uncomfortable. Things felt normal.
My mother asked the woman what brand she had given me. She said her original brand but the right shoe is a different size than the left shoe. I could not believe it. I thought it was so strange but it worked. I was a freak but my dancing was back to normal. I thanked the woman over and over.
My mother was pleased with the solution but not the cost. Pointe shoes were sold boxed. She had to purchase two pairs at once to have the different sizes.
My instructors and the studio owner knew my shoes had been bothering me. They were pleased when I was back to normal at the next rehearsal but shocked as to why. “A different size for each foot,” my instructor said with a puzzled look. They said they had never seen anything like it. One of my instructors began calling me ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’ as a joke because the problem was my right shoe was tighter.
There was a tradition at my studio. When someone graduated, they put their footprints on a big wall using paint. Then, they signed their name next to their footprints. When I graduated in 2011, I signed ‘righty tight lefty loosey’ right next to my odd pair of feet. Eventually, I grew out of my different sized feet but at the studio I’ll always be remembered as ‘right tighty lefty loosey’.