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Can Pointe Shoes Damage Feet?

Pointe Shoes

Dancing in pointe shoes does not usually cause damage to the feet of amateur dancers pursuing their talent on a part-time basis. But these shoes can cause injuries to your feet, ankles and shins if you are a professional dancer or do not take care of injuries. Permanent damage occurs when dancers neglect to get the treatment they need. The keys to having undamaged feet in pointe dancing and after you permanently hang up your dance shoes is paying attention to your foot health, shoe quality and shoe condition.

Injuries Caused by Dancing On Pointe

As said above, the biggest factor in damaging your feet from pointe shoe dance is that of not treating injuries as they occur. Aggravation of existing injuries is what leads to permanent damage, whereas you can avoid long-term problems with proper care.

Some examples of injuries that can cause permanent damage when left untreated include:

  • Sesamoiditis, a chronic inflammation from overuse of foot bones on the ball of the foot and beneath the big toe joint
  • Corns allowed to ulcerate
  • Thickened nails that develop hard skin beneath them
  • Hammertoes
  • Heel spurs

Some of these conditions require surgery to fix the damage. Sesamoiditis, hammertoes and heel spurs are examples of conditions frequently needing surgical intervention.

Many dancers avoid getting treatment for their injuries because such treatment can interfere with their time on the dance floor or stage. Professional ballet, in particular, is highly competitive. It is difficult to win roles in top performances. This is why many dancers avoid taking time off to visit a doctor or have a much-needed surgery. However, dancing on injured feet only worsens the damaging effects.

Always see the foot doctor, a podiatrist, if you suspect you have a foot condition. Treatment is generally easiest and shorter in duration when problems are found early. Some injuries do not require you to stop dancing while undergoing treatment.

Foot Injury Treatment

The treatment dancers need for particular injuries varies according to the injury type, its cause and severity. Professional dancers should see a podiatrist who specializes in dancing-related injuries. Through a good doctor, you can obtain a treatment plan, appropriate medication and the physical therapy or surgery you need to keep dancing on your toes.

Pointe Shoes

How Foot Shape Relates to Pointe Dance Injuries

There is no particular foot shape best suited for ballet dance. But there are foot types best suited for dancing on pointe. Some feet are more prone to injury based upon their structure and shape.

Below are the foot structures best suited for pointe dance:

  • Toes of almost equal length that create a flat platform for on pointe standing
  • High instep
  • Flexible ankles for better alignment of the knee to toe while on pointe
  • High arch

The foot structures that more often experience injury from pointe shoes include:

  • Long big toes that carry all body weight on pointe
  • A longer second toe supporting all body weight on pointe
  • Inflexible ankles
  • Low instep

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Pointe Shoe Condition and Injuries

Pointe shoes, themselves, can contribute to dancer injury and long-term foot damage. After all, the body is not naturally designed for pointe dance and carrying all of its weight on limited small bones, so much so that dancing on pointe places four times your body weight on the structures of your feet. This makes it very critical that you and your shoes work together to transmit the force of this weight as evenly as possible on foot bones and tissues.

The purpose of a pointe shoe is to support the alignment of your feet and ankle structures, including 26 bones, over 100 ligaments and tendons, and 33 joints. Wearing a bad shoe, one referred to as "dead," can affect the critical structural support. Your joints then overload under your weight, and you develop long-term damage. This damage can include bunions, cartilage damage, arthritis, lost range of joint motion and bone spurs.

A dead pointe shoe is one with a broken down platform or one with an unsupportive box or shank. Wearing a dead shoe changes your center of gravity and the distribution of your body force. It loads this force onto the top of your foot where you risk stress fractures in your foot and ankle bones. You also risk soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis, bursitis and torn tendons.

Although these conditions are usually treatable, wearing a dead shoe creates lingering effects that do not resolve with new shoes. This is why it is so important to wear only properly fitted shoes. You need to replace your pointe shoe before it breaks down and stops supporting your weight. If any injury occurs, see your podiatrist to prevent long-term foot damage.

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