Dance as an art form and as a sport is great for focus, discipline, strength, coordination, balance and exercise for both the mind and the body. But, it is especially hard on the feet due to the athletic demands on the body and the specific shoes that are required.
Dance has become a more competitive field with young students being expected to participate on a dance team in addition to lessons throughout the week. Sometimes this can amount to 10 + hours of dance per week. The demands on a developing body can be overwhelming and students can experience pain and injury.
Ballet dance requires strength and agility both in the larger muscles of the body and the smaller muscles of the feet. Turnout is necessary to obtain may ballet positions which should be occurring at the hip but can be “cheated” from the knee and ankles which can cause undue stress and strain on the tendons and ligaments of the ankles and feet causing sprains, strains, tendonitis and overuse injuries. In addition, those who dance “en pointe” can sustain injury from improperly fit pointe shoes and stress on the feet from standing on the tips of the toes themselves. This can lead to multiple problems with foot/ankle instability, ingrown toenails, loss of toenails and can contribute to foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes. The fit of a pointe shoe should be checked by a professional, and should be checked often, especially as young dancers are growing.
Jazz and Hip Hop technique require flexibility and jumps which can also cause significant stress on the body. Stress fractures and sprains/strains can occur with repetitive activity which can cause a dance student significant time to recover.
It is best that any pain or injury with a young dancers’ body be fully evaluated and examined by a medical specialist who is familiar with dance and its demands on the body. I truly appreciate the effort and stress placed on a dancers’ body, specifically their feet. In my 20 years of dance experience I have personally experienced sprains, strains, fractures and ingrowing toenails. I enjoy treating patients that dance and helping dancers continue to maintain their health and wellness while promoting their healing and continued participation in dance.
Ann Anderson, DPM, FACFAS, FAPWCA