Dancers’ feet come in all shapes and sizes. When getting fit for pointe shoes for the first time it is very important for the fitter to determine the foot type of the dancer.
The distinguishing factors in the variation of foot types include:
There are many types of arch; high to flat, and many feet fall in-between.
The high-arched foot has a beautifully curved pointe but tends to be weaker because of the increased flexibility in the foot and ankle.
The low-arched foot is flatter and has a more difficult time standing on the platform of the shoe. This is due to less flexibility in the front of the foot, arch and ankle.
A very flat foot is not well-suited to pointe work.
The three forefoot types:
Grecian or Morton’s Foot – The second toe on this type of foot is longer than the others and there is typically a large space between the big toe and the second toe. The toe will bend uncomfortably if the shoe is not fit properly. A longer 2nd toe has been associated with royalty and this foot shape is often seen in Greek statues. Did you know that the Statue of Liberty has a longer second toe?
Egyptian Foot – This type of foot has a longer big toe than the others and tapers down from longest to shortest toe. Pressure is put on the first metatarsal and the nail of the big toe can become bruised if proper precautions are not taken.
Giselle or Peasant Foot – The main characteristic of this foot type is that at least three of the toes are similar in length and the toes tend to be short. This type of foot is better suited to pointe work as the weight is more evenly distributed and gives the dancer a broad base of support.
Care of the feet
While enjoyable to do and very beautiful to watch, pointe dancing can be brutal on the feet. Dancers suffer many foot aliments due to the nature of the artform. The years of pounding and strain that their feet endure create crooked toes, discolored nails and skin rubbed raw. Not to mention calluses, corns, and bunions. The young dancer must keep in mind that thick skin and non-painful calluses are totally normal and part of the “toughening-up” process all dancers go through.
Probably the most important preventative action a dancer can take is to have her pointe shoe correctly fitted by a professional, as ill-fitting shoes can lead to numerous foot problems that can affect dancing and enjoyment. Some of these include: of blisters, bunions, bruised toe nails, hammertoes and corns on the toe joints or between the toes.
Pointe shoes should never be bought to grow into. They must fit to support the foot from the first time they are worn. Poorly fitted shoes are frequently the cause of these problems can be agonizing to the dancer as the weight of the body is placed upon the toes while dancing on pointe.
A number of very helpful products have been developed within the last decade to help address each of these common foot problems a dancer suffers from. While there are many options for padding the feet, the most common ones are lambswool, paper towels and gel toe pads. Other small accessories such as gel tips and spacers are quite popular.
Thickened areas of skin are called calluses. The skin becomes tough in response to constant contact or pressure. The building up of calluses on the toes helps to toughen the feet and is, in general, a desirable aide in helping to protect the toes.
Blisters occur when the shoes and tights rub hard against the skin, especially if excess heat is generated. The toes can be individually wrapped with medical toe tape or Band-Aids to reduce the friction and chafing that causes blisters or individual gel products that reduce pressure can be placed over the toes.
Corns are a skin secretion composed of the protein keratin. They are produced at pressure-sensitive sites. Lamb’s wool and/or gel or foam doughnut pads can be extremely helpful in relieving the pressure that causes corns.
A bunion is an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint where the big toe meets the foot. The big toe may turn toward the second toe and the big toe’s joint may become swollen and tender. While bunions are mostly genetic, dancers often develop them because of the abnormal pressure placed upon the big toe while on pointe.
Because there is a lot of pressure on the tips of the toes while on pointe, bruising of the toenails can result causing great concern and agony for the pointe dancer. Often times, the cause of bruised toenails is a soft toe box or incorrectly fit shoes. If the shoe is too wide the foot will sink into the box/toe of the shoe and puts undue pressure on the nail, resulting in painful bruising.