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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Foot type vs ability to balance


Jans

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Hello,

I couldn't find any old thread concerning this issue, but if there is one, please move me there! :hyper:

 

I talked to my teacher last week about different types of feet and how they affect one's ability to balance. [it all started when I was asking her advice for how to relieve the pain I have sometimes on the bunion area of my feet]

She has an Egyptian foot, very tapered toes, and so do I.

She said that she almost thinks that young students with Egyptian feet should not be let to continue their studies at pre-pro -level, because this type of foot will make turning very hard and affects the ability to balance (because all the weight rests on big toe side and the other side of the foot may be "in the air", if toes are very tapered) and it may be as much a structural disadvantage as bad turn out or back inflexibility.

 

So when student tries to turn the heel forward and definitely isn't allowed to sickle, those bones (ball of the foot, sorry I don't know the exact terms in English :blushing: ) don't "reach" the ground and if student is trying to keep the whole ball of the foot on the ground, the foot sickles. Because of the structure.

 

And I've noticed that because my feet are worse than these, I have very tapered toes and a very big big toe&bunions, my weight rests totally on the big toe part of ball of the foot, and rest of my toes touches the ground but that ball of the foot -bit is almost in the air. And I have to work very hard not to sickle, because that part of my foot becomes sometimes sore and it's aching and still I should try to put my weight on it and turn the heel forward and turn the heel still a bit more forward. B) Especially doing releves (passées) it's important to keep in mind this fact, but I also have to admit that it's a bit annoying that I have such a bad feet for ballet and I don't get any support from other "toes". :D I thought my feet become a problem only when buying shoes/pointe shoes, but apparently they also cause technical problems.

 

Has anyone else thought about this?

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I have a very tapered egyptian foot and it is correct that when I balance in demi pointe that half my foot does not touch the floor or else I do sickle. I don't find it be a structural disadvantage but I find that it makes me work more on balancing so I become better at it. I know how my foot should feel when balancing correcty in demi pointe so as long as you can feel it correctly on your foot then the rest will come.

 

Many teachers thing my feet are beautiful, I don't know, tapered feet are appearantly beautiful feet (I think most have medium-high arches and can develop nice insteps) so I am happy with them. And yeah, about shoes, what a pain! But I have noticed my high heeled day shoes are shaped better for egyptian feet, so at least that isn't a problem lol.

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My foot is tapered (but quite wide). My big toe is a giant. It took some work to not sickle during releve like you mentioned. My ankles are naturally very mobile and loose so this compounded the difficulty. When I was young, I was kept off pointe for an extra year to gain some strength. I also pronated quite noticeably.

 

It's not a problem now, though. I'm strong and secure on pointe and on demi pointe. My feet don't hurt. I 've got a bit of bruising on the inside edge of my big toenail but that's it. My toes are short-ish and very straight. Also, the joints of the toes all lie on a straight line. The big toe joint isn't really above the others, so I think that makes a difference.

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What an interesting topic! :)

 

On demi-pointe my weight also rests pretty much on the big toe metatarsal bone ends (I hope that is the correct term?) simply by the virtue that they are the longest. I always thought that was a normal state of affairs? I have two toes of almost equal length, a third bit shorter, and two small ones. The smallest is off the floor when I'm on demi-pointe. My ankle does not even have the flexibility to sickle enough for me to have the whole of the ball of my foot on the floor. I've never compared feet with a person whose feet were so square that he/she could have the whole of the ball of their foot on the floor and not sickle, though.

 

For the record, I'm a poor balancer. I've always attributed that to floppy spine and poor abdominal muscles, though. Feet could have something to do with it, but on the other hand having already learned to balance on a smaller area might make transition to pointe easier? (I'm not a bad balancer on pointe.)

 

For curiousity, I once heard the reasoning that greek feet (those with longer second toe) are sometimes not very suitable for ballet because most of the body weight will be - if correctly positioned - carried over the longest second metatarsal bone instead of the first one. These second bones are much thinner and frailer than the first one and this supposedly makes greek feet more injury-prone. I have no idea if the former is true or not, and wheter this difference is even significant if true. :)

 

Päivi

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Hi Janina. I have thought about this, actually. My foot is somewhat tapered. Since I started again recently I've noticed I get a bit sore under the ball of my foot behind the first and second toes with lots of releves and demi-pointe work. I think I just need to strengthen my foot muscles to relieve that discomfort—my podiatrist told me to take it slowly, but I don't always listen! So I've iced that spot a couple times.

 

I've always been trained to take a very high demi-pointe, more like 3/4 pointe. I don't know if this is true, but I think the higher you are, the more pronounced the issue. I wonder if you took a lower demi-pointe if you might have more of a platform for balance. Obviously that solution is not ideal, and you still must not sickle.

 

I do think constant pressure on that area could be bad for your bunion, and I hope you are seeing a professional to manage it. Ballet puts a little wear and tear on feet that aren't ideal, and I think it is a good idea to compensate for that by wearing comfortable and supportive street shoes when you're not dancing and possibly orthotics if you need them. And of course following the RICE protocol when all else fails. As much as we tend to think otherwise, foot pain is not normal. I hope you find a solution to your problem!

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beck_hen,

don't worry, I can get on with the pain (I mean, it's not constant pain and it only occurs when I've done lot of demi-pointe work) :) , I wrote about this also in bunion-thread in Nutrition&Health -section, and I have Ketoprofen gel cream to put on it when it hurts. I've thought about going to see a specialist but don't know who would be the right one (also discussed this in bunion-thread).

I've also been taught to take the highest possible demi-point and I think I should - somehow I feel that I'm not using the proper technique, if I'm lowering my heel. I'm kind of "hanging" somewhere between demi-pointe and flat. :)

 

My toes and joints of the toes are unfortunately not even near a straight line - if you draw a horizontal line from the base of my big toe over the instep towards my little toe, that line would barely touch the tip of my little toe, more likely the tip wouldn't even touch that line... And my toes are long.

 

And unfortunately my ankle seems to be so flexible that I could easily sickle to be able to put my whole ball of the foot on the ground. :) So I have to work very hard to keep my ankle in right position. Because of this, when rotating my ankles I try not to rotate them inwards at all.

They have become better, but all one-leg-relevés are still hard and I must do extra work to get more strength and to put that right course into my muscle memory. :wink:

 

Päivi, the thing you mentioned about Greek feet sounds very reasonable!

 

I try to wear comfortable shoes, but I should wear high heels (or fancier shoes anyway) at work, and because of my husband's work we also have lots of dinner parties/cocktails so usually high heels it is. My husbands actually "hates" to see me in my old, comfortable shoes which aren't usually very pretty. :blushing: But luckily he travels a lot [although it's not always so nice, but in this case an advantage :thumbsup: ] so everyone knows at work when my husband's not around: I wear my comfy shoes. :D And if I know I can stay in my office most of the day I usually wear my sneakers.

 

Btw, like Päivi, I don't usually have too much difficulties balancing on pointe, so this natural small "platform" -exercise may have some advantages. :P

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As a professional dancer, I have this type of foot. Only my big toe is a half of an inch longer than my little toes. When I was younger this made pointe work very painful as all of my weight in my pointe shoes was on my big toe thus creating bunion pain. My little toes never touch the top of the pointe shoe. After numerous trips to podiatrists, including some who insisted on surgery, I came across a wonderful podiatrist in Pittsburgh while I was dancing with the company. She was able to help me out by making an orthodic for my baby toes to take the pressure off of my bunion. I don't think that quitting ballet all together is a good suggestion for this problem. I urge you to keep dancing and experiment with some different podiatrists to find a natural way to make the pain go away. There are some alterations you can make inside your pointe shoes that can help even if it means changing shoe brands or size. Oh, and back to the balance question, if your body placement is correct, I don't see why balancing should be a major problem. Just keep working on it! You'll find the right balance spot!

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I have a strange foot problem.. My feet are slightly tapered, but on my right foot, my second to last toe is curled under the toe next to it (inward) and has been since birth. I actually have pretty good balance, but I find that on my R it's hard to feel like I'm not scrunching and to feel all my toes on the floor. I also have a really high demi-pointe, and am really conscious of not sickling when balancing on R demi. I guess my question would be- any suggested excercised to feel the toes all on the floor?

Sandi

 

P.S. for any skaters out there, this toe thing also makes R outside edges really really hard!!

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premaballrina,

I suppose my teacher was speaking of her own experience when she was speculating whether students with this type of feet should be excluded from professional training (classical ballet) or not. She has done a very long career as a dancer and teacher and I thought perhaps she knows that this type of feet don't make dancing and training any easier... (as if it was otherwise easy :thumbsup: )

 

So I don't think she meant that it's not possible to have a succesful career as a dancer if one is born with Egyptian feet, you are a good example of this as well as she is. :)

 

Maybe I should look for a good podiatrist as well, your experiences were encouraging!

 

My problem is not that I wouldn't know where I should stand and what's the right technique, but sometimes that tiny little part of my foot which has to take all my weight becomes sore and it's very hard to stand on it (I kind of "feel" the bone too much and I feel I needed some padding under it) especially when I know that that's the one and only spot on which I can stand if I want my balance and posture to be correct.

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Very interesting thread. My feet are not so Egyptian, but I do have a problem with demipointe on one foot - the big toe joint is very stiff and won't flex unless I am really well warmed up. All the other joints in my feet seem OK. So when I go to demi, I am always leaning too much to the outside of the foot because the toe joint won't bend. Or I can be on one side of the solid balance position or the other, but not in the solid position because that's exactly where the flexing problem is and the toe wants to be straight, so I waver back and forth. I thought it was arthritis or a bone spur or gout or something else that people get in books, but now that I've checked out what bunions are, it is most likely a bunion.

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An interesting thread indeed.

 

Diana180, have you had your foot looked at by a professional? My foot had problems that sound quite similar to yours and I got really bad pain in my big toe joint and couldn't dance on and off for a few years. If I was you I'd get it seen to before you have any big problems with it.

 

My foot is tapered and very narrow and I find standing straight in releve and not sickling quite difficult.

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Jans,

i can't remember...are you just starting with ballet or coming back from hiatus? You'll totally get used to the feeling that you're only balancing on a small area of bone. It feels wierd for a while, but you get used to it.

 

Are you wearing Sansha slippers? Sometimes certain brands have extra material where they do the pleating, and it can hurt. Sansha slippers are a bit uncomfortable for me.

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Oh the tapered toes/sickeling problem! Due to bunions and dodgy ankles I tend to take my first few exercises (even after warming up) in socks and had one teacher ask i I was using my pinky toes to prop myself up!

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Jans,

i can't remember...are you just starting with ballet or coming back from hiatus? You'll totally get used to the feeling that you're only balancing on a small area of bone. It feels wierd for a while, but you get used to it.

 

Are you wearing Sansha slippers? Sometimes certain brands have extra material where they do the pleating, and it can hurt. Sansha slippers are a bit uncomfortable for me.

 

Hi,

coming back from hiatus. :sweating: No, I don't wear Sanshas at the moment. I own at least two pairs of them, but couldn't use them because of that "lump" and I would have liked to try Bloch's pump slippers, but couldn't buy them here, so Grishko's are the best I've found so far. And when wearing them I don't feel that lump under my ball of the foot so they fit me quite well. I guess it's just that the area becomes a bit sore of my weight (which is average, but a lot for that tiny little area ;)) and all that pressure. I've been taking as many classes as possible, so that area may be a little bit overstrained, but I'm going abroad for a long weekend so my feet will get some rest. :thumbsup:

 

dido:

Excuse my ignorance , but I didn't quite get that sock-thing; what they'll do for you/your feet? Keeping feet extrawarm or what?

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