Do you get a thrill from performing? Does your adrenaline spike when you think of leaping across the stage in pointe shoes? There is something so mesmerising about ballet. It seems almost like magic when someone can dance, leap and show such grace. All while on such a small surface area of the feet. As a dancer, your ballet feet are your foundation and your professional livelihood. Foot pain is a common experience for dancers, but that doesn’t mean it is one you can ignore. Dancers need to take good care of their feet and deal with injuries head on, in order to avoid long rest periods or surgical intervention.
This raises the question “What are common injuries ballerinas need to look out for and what can they do if they experience them?“. Georgina Barr is not only one of our podiatrists, she was also a dancer and now works with dancers from many of Canterbury’s top ballet schools. Below, Georgina is going to run you through the four most common injuries and how a podiatrist can support you through injury and get you back on your feet – or toes.
Here are the four most common ballet feet injuries our podiatrists see:
Corns / Callus
Corns are hard areas of skin. They can be caused by friction from ill-fitting shoes, sweat in tights and gripping with toes in pointe shoes. Corns can appear on top of and under your feet and in between your toes. They can provide a protective function for most dancers, especially in contemporary work. But they can cause pain. If left untreated ulcers can form which need to be drained, leaving an open wound.
Get the right fit – Pointe shoes need to be fitted and broken in properly. The fit limits rubbing and corns. The breaking in of a pointe shoe allows your foot to work with, not against, the shoe. This helps create an attractive aesthetic line. Wearing pointe shoes without breaking them in properly can cause injuries such as sprains and strains.
Choose the right gear – Foot and hosiery care needs to be a priority! Choosing natural fibres for in-shoe padding and making sure your tights don’t get too sweaty are important.
How a podiatrist can help with corns and calluses – A podiatrist can remove corns and calluses. They can also teach you how to look after your feet. I am familiar with all pointe shoe brands and can teach you how to break in your pointe shoes. We have many products that can be of benefit in pointe shoes. These products work by off-loading areas of high pressure without losing any sense of contact with the ground. I can help you choose the right ones for your needs.
This is where the nail grows into the side or top of the toe. It is very painful and can easily get infected. An infected ingrown nail may lead to a doctors visit and antibiotics.
How a podiatrist can help with ingrown toenails. I will teach you how to cut your nails to avoid this happening and at a length that will work for pointe shoes.
If removal of the ingrown portion of the nail is required, then I can perform a small surgery on the toe to remove the nail and issue. However, pointe work will be on hold for at least four weeks. So conservative treatment as soon as the problem is noticed is far better than waiting for it to get better on its own.
Cuboid syndrome (pain at the lateral midfoot) is caused by repetitive movements where the involved joint is unable to hold its alignment with the pull of the surrounding tendons and ligaments. This often occurs if the foot cannot hold proper alignment in turn out especially when performing jumps, pirouettes and not working through demi-pointe to full pointe in relevé while warming up at the barre.
How a podiatrist can help with Cuboid Syndrome. Strapping, joint manipulation, technique assessment and in-shoe off-loading devices are effective strategies that may allow you to keep dancing while the injured area heals.
Repetitive movements are also responsible for stress fractures, especially of the toes and metatarsals.
How a podiatrist can help with Stress Fractures. A diagnosis of a stress fracture requires rest so that the bone heals properly. Following that, a series of dance-specific rehabilitation exercises would be given with the aim of building up to return to class strong and pain-free. This is a long process, as bone healing can take six weeks. During this time we will provide strategies to help you keep conditioned while healing.
Podiatry for Dancers
Here at SportsMed, we have a Podiatry team who has seen a lot of patients with ballet feet, dancing, and sports injuries and can help you get to the bottom of your pain. When you book an appointment they have a three-step system for supporting you back to optimal health. We have a diverse team of medical professionals under one roof who see foot issues all the time. Because of this, we have a history of helping patients with treatment plans, to support their recovery to help them get back to optimal health. If you are suffering from foot pain, and want a treatment plan to deal with the cause, want help to prevent future injuries, or if you have any questions call or email us to book an appointment.
During the appointment we will:
- Assess and find the root cause of any pain or foot issues
- Offer advice on how to avoid future injury
- Come up with a treatment plan tailored to your needs to support your health
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