Why do Pointe Shoes always hurt?
Ballerinas are famous for their pointe shoes. They look beautiful and are a key part of the performance. Unfortunately, wearing them hurts and many dancers are in constant pain. Why do pointe shoes always hurt?
To put it simply, ballerina dancing is highly unusual for the human body. Think of it like ice skating, pole vaulting or tightrope walking. It can be done with the assistance of pointe shoes, but at a cost. Of course, there are ways to minimize the pain. This includes things like having strong body muscles, good foot hygiene, training and fitting. This will make the pain or discomfort more manageable. However, dancing in pointe shoes will never be as comfortable as sitting on a couch in your slippers. Ballerina dancing will never be pain-free. It can still be tremendously rewarding though, which is why many dancers continue to do it.
Strong Core Muscles
Dancing is physical demanding and ballerina dancing especially so. So be sure to not only be strong in your legs and feet but also your core. It will also help to not be too over weight. Excess weight means that your muscles have to work harder to perform the difficult maneuvers of ballerina dancing. All of this will help your body do external rotations (turnout) and also vertical line over the toes (pointe).
Your ballerina teacher should be able to point you to exercises you can perform to strengthen the necessary muscle groups. If not, check online videos. Not only will your dancing benefit, but you’ll be more fit and have a more attractive body as well. You’ll be able to lift and carry things easier. Walking up stairs and going hiking will be less difficult as well. Strength exercises can benefit many areas of your life.
Rethink the Pain
For some dancers, rethinking the pain might help. Stead of focusing on how your body hurts, take pride and relish in the sense of accomplishment. Most people couldn’t dance in pointe shoes. You’re part of a rare breed people. This sort of mindset shift might make the pain more bearable.
Focus on Technique
Your teachers are key players in this step. Listen to them and apply their suggestions. Once again, do exercises that help your core. These includes not on your girdle, but also shoulder, glutes, back and abdominals. Put in the effort in your ballet technique class. You must be patient in this regard as sometimes progress is slow. But over time it will be very rewarding to watch your skills grow.
Well-fitting pointe shoes are key. Make sure you don’t buy one that has growing room. Some parents might be tempted to buy a size or two too large because pointe shoes expensive and they won’t last a growth spurt. But for pointe shoes to fit properly, they can’t have extra room in them. Also, don’t get them so tight that your metatarsal are squeezed. Get them not too big and not too small.
Not Too Much Padding
Beginners might find it tempting to put a lot of padding in the shoe. But if there’s too much, it becomes a problem. You want your toes to be able to feel the floor. Too much padding and you won’t have much dexterity. You can use a professional fitter or have a teacher assist you.
Misalignment with Ankles and Feet
Think about visiting a podiatrist. Some might worry about the cost but often these sessions are covered by insurance. They can give you therapy exercises, strapping techniques and foot care tips. These can help with misalignments with the feet and ankles.
Proper hygeine is important (not just for ballerina dancing). But it also has can help with the pain and discomfort of pointe shoes.
Keep watch on the length of your toenails. Don’t let them grow too long but on the other hand don’t cut them too short.
Don’t get pedicures anymore. They dig at the cuticles and get rid of calluses. You want to be able to protect your feet from infection.
Foot Care Regimen
A regular foot care regimen can work wonders. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time either. You can keep a lightweight spray in your dance bag. Be sure that it is small and will not leak. Take a spritzer bottle and fill it with 1/4 water, 3/4 rubbing alcohol and a few drops of essential oils. You can choose an oil that you like the smell of (such as lavender).
After dancing in a class, practice or performance, spray your feet. It will take care of the odor, kill bacteria and toughen your feet by drying it out. Additionally, it’ll help develop calluses. Avoid spraying on a open wound as it will sting. You can use a pumice stone on your calluses after a shower but avoid removing them completely. You want the protection in the shoe.
Take Care of Pointe Shoes
Maintain your pointe shoes properly. Dry them out after each class. Wash the toe pads. This will take care of most of the smell. Bacteria that can cause foot or nail infections can grow on the shoe if they’re not properly washed.
Muscles Not Ready To Support You
Sometimes, people attempt to use pointe shoes before they’re ready. This can lead to a lot of pain as your muscles won’t be ready to support you. Consult with your teachers. Sometimes, it’ll help to spend a few months or even a year off pointe. Be patient. Your time will come when your muscles are ready.
In short, unfortunately wearing pointe shoes will always be painful. This is because ballerina dancing isn’t exactly natural and pointe shoes are designed to do the impossible. However, many things can be done to help with the discomfort. Some of them (particularly doing strength exercises and a hygiene regimen) can help a lot with the pain. However, wearing pointe shoes will never be pain free.