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Phone: (972) 566-7474
Dallas Podiatry Works

The Truth about Dancers and Their Feet

Dancers and their FeetThey float across the stage, defying gravity by leaping and gliding along on their toes. Their movements are precise and graceful. Their legs and arms strike poses at seemingly impossible angles. Whether spinning or just standing still, they can balance their entire weight on the very tips of their toes. Ballet dancers are masters at making a challenging art form look easy. They also put their feet through incredibly high stress, whether wearing pointe shoes or not. This can put dancers at risk for injuries and painful problems like black toenails, bunions, tendonitis, and more.

Beautiful but Damaging

Ballet is a demanding art form. A dancer’s main tool is her feet. In flat shoes or bare feet, she must be able to balance on the ball of the foot and absorb the shock of frequent jumps. In pointe shoes, that stress is transferred to the tips of the toes. Even male dancers, who don’t use toe shoes but are expected to be able to perform rapid spins and high leaps, demand much of their lower limbs. Over time, the repeated strain can lead to overuse problems. Landing a jump incorrectly or falling while rehearsing can lead to traumatic injuries as well.

Repeated hard landings on the toes can cause micro-trauma in the nails, leading to black toenails. Blood pools under the hard tissue, darkening it, and often separates it uncomfortably from the nail bed. Pointe shoes notoriously rub the toes and heels, causing painful blisters to develop. Forceful jumps and multiple hard landings may lead to stress fractures, sesamoiditis, and tendonitis. A dance podiatrist has to work carefully with these artists to help them minimize their injuries and maximize the use of their feet—without requiring them to give up their art completely.

Offering Relief for Your Pain

Many dancers may be nervous about consulting experts like our staff here at Dallas Podiatry Works, concerned that they will be told to stop dancing. However, if you are a dancer and experiencing foot or ankle pain, you already know that the discomfort can negatively impact your performance both in class and on stage. If you don’t take steps to care for your lower limbs, those small and manageable problems may deteriorate into a condition that could end your ballet career. Dr. Joel W. Brook and Dr. David R. Northcutt will carefully evaluate your lower limbs and may request diagnostic images to check for damage to bones or other physical structures. Then they can help you develop a plan for recovery.

If you’ve developed painful black toenails, you may need to have the pooled blood drained to relieve the pressure on the tissues. Hard keratin that’s separated from the nail bed may need to be cut away to prevent tearing or catching on ballet tights. You also may benefit from replacing your toe shoe pads for ones with more cushioning. Bunions can benefit from putting padding in between the first and second digits so the big toe doesn’t displace inward too far. Lambs’ wool lining in your shoes can help protect against blisters, though you may still need to tape your toes. Icing your feet after classes, along with regular stretches and exercises to work the small muscles in your feet, can help relieve pain from fatigue and overuse. If you experience an injury after a bad landing, don’t wait to seek treatment from an experienced dance podiatrist.

If you’re a dancer at any level, you already know not to take your feet and ankles for granted. You know that you must train vigorously to build up the required strength, muscle memory, and control to be able to execute movements gracefully. When your lower limbs ache, however, your stability and grace are compromised. Take a bold leap and contact our expert staff here at Dallas Podiatry Works to find help for your feet and ankles. Fill out the website contact page or call either of our two offices: (972) 566-7474 for the Dallas location, or (972) 943-3323 for the Plano office.


Dr. Joel W. Brook
Dr. Joel Brook is a board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon at Dallas Podiatry Works in TX.