Pointe shoes are the shoes that ballerinas wear to be safely supported and dance on the tips of their toes in classical and contemporary ballet. They are possibly the most recognizable object aside from a tutu relating to ballet.
Today, pointe shoes are made using several different materials including glue, fabrics, threads, and wood. The earliest form of a pointe shoe dates back to around the 1820s, when Maria Taglioni, a major ballerina of her time, began dancing on the tips of her toes using ballet flat shoes that were heavily padded with cotton wool. Later in 1862, a shoe that closer resembles ones used today was made that offered more support around the toes of the pointe shoe.
Pointe shoes today are still hand made by specific point shoe companies and come in varieties and fits for different dancers. This means that, while there is a strict quality standard, not every pointe shoe will be exactly the same.