Dancing is an elegant art, but it’s anything but elegant on your feet. Whether your child is a beginner in ballet class or you’re part of a performance dance group, you need to be aware of the toll the sport takes on your feet. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at some of the most common foot conditions that affect dancers, and we share some prevention techniques to help keep your feet healthy.
Common Foot and Ankle Injuries Among Dancers
Dancers are especially prone to foot and ankle injuries because of how much stress they put on their feet. Here’s a look at some of the more common injuries based on their underlying cause:
- Acute Stress – First, there are the obvious acute stress injuries. These occur in an instant when an area of the foot is overloaded by stress. For many dancers, this tends to occur when they land after a forceful jump. A recent example of this happened to Britney Spears, who suffered a broken foot while practicing her dance moves. She was actually filming the routine for Instagram, so you can see footage of the fracture here. The visual doesn’t seem all that bad, but you can definitely hear the bone break! Foot and toe fractures, along with twisted ankles, are some of the most common acute stress injuries.
- Repetitive Stress – These injuries are also caused by stress, but not in an instant. Instead, they develop slowly over time when exposed to stress over an extended period. One common example is a shin splint, which is categorized by microtears in the muscle and microfractures in the shinbone as a result of overuse. Another repetitive stress injury that is common in dancers and rare in non-dancers is what’s known as “os trigonum syndrome.” This condition involves the development of an extra bone that typically arises behind the heel bone, and tends to be brought on by repetitive pointing of the those, which is common among ballet dancers.
- Foot Deformities – There are also some foot deformities that can develop as a result of excessive hours spent in tight or compressive footwear. Abnormal pressure on the joints of the toes can lead to bunions, hammertoes or claw toes, which can impact your foot’s range of motion and flexibility. If you notice a bump or an unnatural bend in a toe joint, consider setting up an appointment with a foot specialist.
This is far from a comprehensive list of foot and ankle injuries, but it highlights some of the most common conditions we see in our office.
Preventing Foot Injuries In Dancers
If you’re a dancer, it’s important to take preventative steps to help keep your feet healthy. Not all dancing injuries are preventable, but if you make smart decisions and are mindful of your feet, we’re confident that you can greatly reduce your risk of injury. Some ways to work to prevent foot injuries as a dancer include:
- Strength and Flexibility Training – When you’re not dancing, work to improve your range of motion and muscle strength in your feet, ankles and calves. This is commonly achieved through an exercise or targeted therapy program.
- Shoe Choice – Dance shoes are naturally tight, so while you may have to expose your feet to compressed conditions when dancing, you should make sure the shoe choices you’re making when you’re not dancing serve to protect your feet. Comfortable, supportive shoes with a wide enough toe box to give your toes room lay in a natural position are best.
- Rest – Dance is a demanding task, so give your feet plenty of time to rest between classes or performances. Also, be sure to listen to your feet while you’re dancing. Get better at discerning between soreness and pain, and cut your routine short if pain is intense or gets worse. By pushing through the pain, you stand to make it worse.
- Don’t Ignore Your Core – Your core muscles actually play a significant role in your dancing ability. Strong and flexible hip muscles can take some strain off your feet when performing common maneuvers, and that can help prevent the repetitive stress injuries we talked about above.
- Consult A Specialist – Finally, if you’re dealing with foot pain or an injury, your best bet is to consult a foot specialist. Your primary care physician may be able to give you general guidance, but if you dance for your profession or you’re just extremely passionate about it, you need to trust your care to the best in the business. We can help set you up with an individualized treatment plan to help you get back on your feet quickly without pain.