While pointe work is not exactly like wearing slippers, it should not be painful for the beginner. There are a few reasons why dancers may get pain en pointe, and each can be easily corrected. If you are strong, have well fitting shoes, and are sensible with how long you are in the shoes, pain should not be a problem.
Shoes too tight/narrow. If the shoe is fitted correctly, it will be firm around the front part of the foot, but should not be squashing your toes in together too much. (Click here for tips on fitting your pointe shoes correctly).
Box too wide. If the box of the shoe is too wide, the foot will slide down into the box while en pointe putting too much pressure on the toes. The box should be narrow enought to support the foot en pointe, but not too tight to squash the toes.
Box too short. A box that is too short will often cut in under the big toe joint and may cause formation of a bunion. Always ensure that the wings come up to the level of your big toe.
Foot too weak. Many girls start en pointe before they are strong enough to control the foot in the shoe. It is extremely important to know how to correctly articulate the foot in the shoe, and control the line of the toes while in the shoe. The Perfect Pointe Book has lots of strengthening exercises to help you with this!
Rubbing of the box on your skin. If there is friction between your skin and the canvas of the lining of the shoe, you may develop painful blisters on your toes. Always ensure that there is some sort of protection on any areas of pressure as soon as they begin to avoid large blisters.
Shoes getting too soft. If you leave any padding in the shoe after dancing, the sweat may soften the glue of the box and soften it too much. This results in the foot sinking down too far in the shoe, and taking strain in other areas. Always make sure to dry out your shoes thoroughly between each use.