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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Arch supports to help her instep?


Mabel Mae

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It was pointed out to me by her dance teacher that my DD has quite a low instep and narrow feet and as a result rolls forward on her feet quite a bit. It was suggested that she perhaps wear an arch support in her school shoes. Now, if I am to do this I feel I ought to take her to a podiatrist and get them fitted properly but part of my worry is that if the arch is supported will it stop her muscles working for themselves? Maybe the answer is to only wear the supports for part of the day rather than putting them in all her shoes?

 

Any thoughts or experience on this from anyone?

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My girls are older than 13...but we experienced the same questions about supports for the feet...so I am responding here. Please forgive me if I'm not allowed to answer here.

 

One of my daughters (the older)has very high arches and the other one(the younger) has little arch and tends to roll in when dancing. As the younger daughter grew older and taller, the alignment of her legs and knees were also affected. She is now in physical therapy to re-train her (painful) knees, legs and feet. Both daughters study ballet everyday. A doctor was recommended to us by other ballet parents and I am very happy with his advice. (A podiatrist didn't understand the ballet dancer and nothing was solved under his care.)

Our new doctor (DO) told both girls they needed support for entirely different personal reasons. The older daughter with high arches has fully recovered from a rolled ankle and "pushed down" metatarsals., wears support during the day, and sees a phys therapist every week but is almost complete with that. The younger daughter has begun and improved by wearing supports and therapy with her ballet classes.

 

I want to note here that the Doctor is a Doctor of Orthopedics and he believes all dancers should wear support when they dance as well! He knows dancers need to feel the floor and it would feel awkward at first, but there should be something designed specifically for dancers so they can use and stregthen the right muscles the right way and avoid injuries to assure a longer dance life. Arch supports only realighn...they do not interfere with the strength of a dancers foot other than the muscles will align and develop the RIGHT HEALTHY WAY TO AVOID INJURY.I agree with him. The doctor has two young girls who have also just begun ballet at our school...it will be interesting to see what he does with regard to his own girls!

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Proper alignment will balance the foot, and this will help development of muscles on the outside and inside of the ankle equally. For flat feet, the goal is to avoid overstretching of the tendon that pulls up on the arch, and to avoid shortening of the tendons on the outside of the ankle and Achilles tendon. That is usually why orthotics are recommended for general shoewear.

 

As far as ballet shoe inserts are concerned, my DD's refused. I've seen some kids with REALLY flat feet and pronation, and they could use soft arch supports in their ballet shoes, but it's not as easy as it should be trying to fit decent arch supports into slippers. Hard orthotics would prevent foot motion. My inclination is to say that it is important for kids to develop an awareness of what they need to do to prevent rolling in, and by doing so, they get stronger. Passive arch correction holds the foot in a better position, but it's passive. Teachers want to see the foot while working so that correct technique is used. I've been told that some teachers in Australia have kids do class in bare feet for that very reason..

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Proper alignment will balance the foot, and this will help development of muscles on the outside and inside of the ankle equally. For flat feet, the goal is to avoid overstretching of the tendon that pulls up on the arch, and to avoid shortening of the tendons on the outside of the ankle and Achilles tendon. That is usually why orthotics are recommended for general shoewear.

 

This is exactly the explanation we were given by the orthopedist when my daughter was recovering from a running induced sprained ankle. Part of her examination involved determining the strength of the inside and outside of her ankle relative to her foot structure in terms of the height of her arch, instep, and whether she pronated while standing and/or walking. Her physiotherapy had more to do with strengthening the supporting muscles than the arch and instep, and she was told that if she worked correctly through tendu (without sickling and without forcing turnout) then she would develop arch/instep strength over time. She recently looked at some pictures of herself from her earlier years in ballet and noticed the pronation, commenting that she has to think about her arch lifting as she works. This indicates to me that proper alignment and strength building through proper training leads to that awareness.

 

As for arch supports, her orthopedist recommended a 3/4 which slips into her street shoes. Given her age and continual development the doctor stated that the type of arch support that you can find through most running shoe suppliers are sufficient. He does not recommend an arch support in her ballet slippers because of how it will hinder her ability to work through her feet and develop the requisite strength needed for dancing.

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Teachers want to see the foot while working so that correct technique is used. I've been told that some teachers in Australia have kids do class in bare feet for that very reason..

 

One of DD's teacher had her do exactly that for exactly that reason for a while when there was some concern about why she was having recurrent achilles tendonitis. She took that teacher's barre portion of class in bare feet for a few weeks while they worked on not her rolling in and putting weight all the way across the foot, including the little toe.

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My DD also has very narrow feet and have always been difficult to fit. For school shoes we used to buy Startrite which were the only ones narrow enough, but the designs are only acceptable for younger girls.

 

We both now find Dr. Scholl "Busy Feet" inserts very useful. 3/4 inserts with good arch support, available at most chemists for about £10. DD wears them in school shoes and in the dreaded Ugg boots, which have no support of their own.

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