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Our feet and toes endure enormous amounts of stress and significant weight-bearing while dancing en pointe. As a result of this stress, there are certain foot conditions that may develop at any time. En Pointe Orthotics aim to prevent these foot problems rather than accepting them as part of a dancer’s life.

En pointe dancing is the culprit in many cases of bunions, hammertoes, sesamoiditis, bursitis, trigger toe, and stress fractures. (Reference :Dr. Kelsey Armstrong)

The rigors of pointe work are well known to contribute to a multitude of foot and toe problems — especially during a child’s growth phase and when dance shoes aren’t fitted correctly. Here a 8 common problems associated with dancing en pointe that can be avoided when using a professional dance shoe fitter.

1. BUNIONS OR HALLUX VALGUS

Bunions as a result of En Pointe dancing

Bunions (sometimes referred to as Hallux abducto valgus) are enlargements of the inner portion of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of your big toe.

The foot bunion is the result of changes that occur in the framework of the bones at the front of your foot. Instead of pointing straight ahead, your big toe begins to lean into your second toe, throwing the bones out of alignment.

En Pointe Orthotics support the toes improving the alignment as well as protecting the bunion area from added pressure.

A Partial En Pointe Orthotic can also be an alternative in this case and can be discussed with your En Pointe Orthotic Fitter.

2. BLISTERS

Moderate case of dancer’s blisters

Despite wearing shoes designed for this form of dance, dancing en pointe still may cause friction between the toes and the shoes themselves which can cause chaffing and blistering. With the perfect fit of the custom-made EPO, dancer’s claim that they no longer get blisters in their toes when wearing EPO’s.

3. STRESS FRACTURES

Example of stress fracture in a dancer’s foot

Clients that claim to have suffered from stress fractures due to pointe work have said that they no longer suffered these fractures since wearing EPO’s

4. TOE NAIL DAMAGE

Bruised toe nails from dancing

If you are a ballet dancer en pointe, issues involving the toes are probably nothing new. Considering that your entire body weight is balanced on your toes while dancing, it’s no wonder that your feet and toes look like they’ve taken a beating. Dancing on your toes day after day puts tremendous stress on them, and that stress is sometimes evident by the appearance of the toenails. Because of the pressure placed on the toenails while en pointe, some dancers develop bruising of the nails. Bruised toenails can cause intense pain (not to mention an unsightly appearance) for dancers. When the bruising is caused by dancing en pointe, it is usually the result of repeated pressure to your nail. Pressure strong enough to cause bleeding. Tiny blood clots form under the nail, causing pain to the dancer as the toenail is lifted away from the nail bed. In extreme cases, a portion or the whole nail can eventually be lost.

If your feet are weak, you may also be compensating by knuckling your toes which also causes too much pressure on your nails.

En Pointe Orthotics are made to fit like a glove to the exact contours of your toes, down to your toe prints, grooves and crevices.  This precision custom pointe pouch has been shown to eliminate any damage to toe nails in all reports from dancers in EPO’s when worn correctly and nails kept trimmed.

In all trials and client feedback, clients have reported that they have not sustained any occurrences of bruising, fungal infection, ingrown, or loss of toenails since wearing EPO’s

5. CALLUSES AND CORNS

Dance foot: Corns and Calluses

With the joy of pointework usually comes the not-so-pleasant experience of having unsightly calluses. Ongoing rubbing and pressure on the toes may cause these calluses to form.  This may seem a protective measure for the rigors of pointe work however this may also lead to painful corns, infection, fissures, irritation under and around the calluses, discomfort and sometimes pain.

It has been suggested to maintain the calluses before you get to the pain.  En Pointe Orthotics philosophy is in prevention, so no need to “Maintain before Pain”

6. HAMMERTOES

refers to a toe that bends in the middle and curls downward. It can make dancing en pointe painful.  EPO’s help aligns and support the toes, preventing or improving pre-existing hammertoes.

Hammertoes due to improper dance shoe fitting

7. TRIGGER TOE

Trigger toe is an injury that most commonly affects ballet dancers, due to the physical demands of dancing en pointe

Trigger toe symptoms are usually mild at first with only mild discomfort however progressively and eventually the dancer may find it difficult or impossible to dance en pointe, and will experience especially sharp pain when lowering the foot from the pointe position to a flat position.  If trigger toe is not diagnosed and treated properly (and in some cases even if it is), it can mean the end of a dancer’s career.

8. FUNGAL AND BACTERIAL INFECTIONS

Dance foot fungal infection

We have not had any reports of either fungal or bacterial infections of the toes in dancers wearing EPO’s despite it being a common occurrence among dancers.  The epo material does not harbor bacteria and can be easily washed.

As an experienced, long-term pointe shoe fitter I have seen many of the above afflictions in the feet and toes of the young through to the professional en pointe dancers.

Being the parent of a young dancer, especially if you’ve never danced before, can be an intimidating and challenging experience.

One moment you’re dropping your child off at dance class to learn some steps and burn some energy. When they hop back in the car an hour later, they’re excitedly rattling off a million class notes a minute–filled with words you may or may not understand. Dance season can be a long, bewildering year. But if you’re prepared with a little knowledge of what your child will experience, you can engage in the conversation and even help resolve issues along the way.

 

1. Terminology

From plié and tendu to the top of the count and marked movement, dancers speak a different language in the studio. No matter the style, it boils down to technique first. When your child steps into his or her first class, the instructor will teach these common positions to help shape their dance technique.

Arabesque [a-ra-BESK]: A pose with one leg stretched straight out to the back.
• Assemble [a-sahm-BLAY]: A jump from one foot landing on two feet.
• Barre [bar]: The wooden railing fastened to the walls of the dance studio.
• Chasse [sha-SAY]: The working leg slides out from the supporting leg and pushes off the ground, the supporting leg comes to the working leg in the air and lands in its place.
• Count: Many styles will count the beat of the music by threes, fours or eights. This is how the dancer puts movement to the beat of the music and helps keep dancers uniform and on the same pace.
• Demi-plie [duh-MEE-plee-AY]: Half-bend of the knees without the heels leaving the floor.
• Jete [zhuh-TAY]: A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg appears to have been thrown (think leap).
• Mark: A walk-through of choreography in which movement is not done to its fullest potential.
• Pirouette [peer-oh-WET]: A turn of the body, standing on the supporting leg while the working leg is usually in retire (leg is bent upwards, with toes typically connected to the other leg, turned out).
• Plie [plee-AY]: To bend the knee(s).
• Releve [ruhl-VAY]: A raising of the heels.
• Rond de jambe [rawn duh zhahmb]: A circular movement of the leg.
• Tendu [tahn-DEW]: The working foot slides from the supporting leg without lifting the toe from the ground until the toe has reached a full pointe.
• The Five Positions: First, second, third, fourth and fifth position are common barre exercises in ballet class.

 

2. Dance Bag Essentials

A dancer’s bag should contain shoes, a bottle of water, granola bars or other snacks, hair ties, bobby pins and post-class sweats or a sweater. Your child should wear regular shoes to the studio and change into his or her dance shoes once they get there. If your child has multiple classes in a day, make sure the bag is packed with the appropriate attire for each class and ask your studio director for requirements.

 

3. Invest in Hair Spray and Bobby Pins

During class or recital season, your young dancer will go through a lot of hair spray and bobby pins. Purchase a big box of pins and multiple bottles of hairspray so you’re never scrambling if you run out or if your little one loses anything. Plus, if another dance parent needs these items, you’ll be the class hero!

 

4. Practice and Stretch Anytime, Anywhere

Stretching is a major component of a dancer’s life. Without flexibility, their range of motion is limited, making jumps, turns and other movements look weak. At night while watching TV, don’t be surprised if you see your little one attempting to do the splits or other stretches. You may even find your ballerina practicing the five positions while brushing her teeth.

 

5. Turning and Spotting

Spotting is a common dance technique. While spinning, the eyes pick one spot and the body does the work. This helps the dancer avoid dizziness and maintain balance and posture. When children first learn this technique they are encouraged to practice at home. Don’t be alarmed if your child is in the corner of a room spinning; they’re merely practicing how to spot.

 

6. Bodyweight Issues

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 40 to 60 percent of girls ages 6 to 12 are concerned about becoming too fat or gaining weight. Issues can arise when costumes reveal too much. Be a role model and show your healthy habits. Let your child pack lunches and cook dinner so she learns how food helps fuel her activities. NEDA also suggests you talk about yourself with respect because others pay attention to you and will learn how to appreciate their body image.

 

This article was originally published by Fara Rosenzweig at https://www.activekids.com/dance/articles/a-dance-parent-s-survival-guide/