Back during my dancing days, my Decembers would be filled not with Christmas-light shows and gingerbread-decorating parties but with dress rehearsals and costume fittings, in preparation for every ballet studio’s time-honored tradition: our annual performance of The Nutcracker. I have many fond memories of flitting about backstage, playing Patty Cake and getting shushed by chaperones amid faint strains of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. My friends and I would sneak into the dressing rooms to watch the older girls apply their lipstick and pin down their headpieces, all while swathed in layers of warm-ups: wrap sweaters, trash-bag shorts, fleece leg warmers, and puffy-looking booties in a plethora of vibrant shades from electric blue to amethyst purple to candy-apple red.
I stopped dancing shortly before I went off to college, but got back into it after I moved to New York and discovered adult classes within walking distance of my apartment. During the height of summer, I could easily work up a sweat before even laying a finger on the barre. But once winter arrived, I found myself trudging through the snow in sneakers, then attempting to tendu while my feet still felt like blocks of ice. Besides abetting poor technique, dancing on stiff, cold muscles could potentially lead to injury; I needed warm-up gear stat, and, recalling the sleeping-bag-esque booties that all the cool company girls had sported, decided to order a pair for myself.
Multiple dance-supply companies sell their own version of the warm-up boot, but the OG, the classic, the ones you’ll see professional dancers padding around in before class or a performance, are made by Bloch. The brand’s leotards, tights, and especially shoes are considered the gold standard in dancewear, and once I slipped these boots on, I could immediately see why. They were like puffer coats for my feet, swaddling them in warmth and comfort.
The booties are made from a lightweight nylon shell stuffed with an insulated polyester filling, and have a thin, grippy sole that keeps you from sliding around but is flexible enough for your feet to move freely. (This does mean, however, that they’re only suitable for indoor use — the sole would never stand up to sidewalks, and a gentle surface wipe-down is the extent of the cleaning Bloch recommends.) They’re available in a shorter ankle-length or a taller calf-length; I chose the taller option for maximum coziness. And for puffy footwear, they’re quite stylish; in addition to the aforementioned jewel tones, they come in several fun prints, including groovy florals and colorful camos.
They lived in my dance bag all through last winter, then took on a temporary retirement during the spring and summer. But as we entered that liminal period where it’s objectively chilly but your landlord has still declined to turn on the heat, I got them out just to wear around my apartment, and they’ve been my go-to house slippers ever since. As my extremities tend to run cold, most slippers, especially scuff-style slip-ons with their baffling lack of heel coverage, leave me feeling drafty; these booties, on the other hand, keep me nice and toasty all the way up past the ankle, whether I’m shuffling around making dinner, kicking back watching Netflix, or breaking into a few spontaneous sautés.
Bloch suggests sizing up if you intend to wear pointe shoes underneath — I wear a size-six shoe and ordered the boots in medium, which corresponds to sizes six through eight. Though they’d be slightly too roomy if I were to go barefoot, they’re the perfect size for accommodating a bit of extra bulk. (An adjustable Velcro strap across the instep, reminiscent of the elastic on a ballet slipper, also means you can tighten or loosen them to your taste.) When I wear them at home, I layer a pair of chunky wool socks underneath, and my feet feel just as snug as a bug in a rug. If you don’t have any pointe shoes to accommodate and plan to wear thinner socks or go sock-free, taking your regular size should be just fine.
No longer relegated to dance class, these boots are now a permanent fixture on my feet when the temperature drops below 60. As insulated puffer boots hit the trend cycle, it’s worth noting that Bloch’s version far predates North Face’s ThermoBall slippers, Prada’s quilted snow booties, and Ugg’s Maxi Mini boots — and they’re a fraction of the price, too. Dancers and non-dancers alike, I invite you: Ditch your Sherpa-lined slides and come join me in my toasty-footed utopia.
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