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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pointe Shoes and Pain


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This thread piggy-backs off of an earlier topic, 'How Long Should Pointe Shoes Last?' There, Clara emphasized that pointe work hurts. There are a number of methods for reducing irritation, but in the end, it's supposed to be uncomfortable.


What I'm curious to know is what sort of pain is considered normal, the kind you just have to learn to deal with it; and what sort of pain indicates a problem?


In my own situation, as the demi-pointe becomes easier in a new pair of shoes, I feel as though my pinkie toe is being crushed from above. Placing a thin gel spacer between the pinkie toe and its neighbor alleviates the problem. More recently, I've noticed that after an hour on pointe, whether using new or older shoes, I feel pain in the joint of my big toe, as though it is taking weight. This is not the first MTP/bunion joint, but the one in the toe itself. I have not yet found a way to deal with this. Based on the earlier thread, I have the impression that my shoes may not have been properly fitted to begin with, or there may have been some problem with their breaking in/care. There is also the possibility that, as a middle-aged adult, I may have to adjust my expectations of pointe work as Clara suggests. It's a bummer getting old (sigh).


So, what is normal, what is not, and what is my best option? I'd rather not give up on pointe completely, but I can't tolerate a full 1 1/2 hour class with barre. There is a lot I am capable of doing on pointe, and I used to do well when a half hour segment was tacked onto the end of one of my technique classes, but that option no longer exists. Getting fitted for a new pair of shoes, well, that is a whole other story. Suffice it to say, I haven't much choice of places to go where I live, I went to the store recommended by my instructor, the one with the best reputation, being fitted by their best person, and still ended up with shoes that were wrong for me (wrong size, wrong width).

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I guess 'pain' is so subjective..... perhaps the words don't exist that can clearly communicate the feelings. The other block in the communication process here is that what doesn't bother one dancer, makes another not be able to function. It's clearly a personal thing.


Joint pain strikes me as being the wrong kind of pain if the technical achievements are correct. In other words, if one is working technically correctly, then joint pain shouldn't be an issue. Skin pain, general achiness, toes feeling a bit tight, tip of big toe complaining after several hours- those are 'normal' kinds of pains, and the longer you do pointework, the longer it takes before those things start to bother you.


In other words, a professional dancer might not start to feel those things until she is working on her 6th hour of pointework that day, whereas a person who is only dancing for an hour per day may start to feel that after 45 minutes.


However, adult dancers are a different thing altogether. If someone did not achieve a high proficiency at a young age, the muscle memory is not innate, therefore, the technical level and general physical skill level is quite different from a child who is starting pointe.


I guess my advice to you would be to fiddle around with padding options until you can be re-fit. Meanwhile, read some more and learn about your feet.

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Just my 2 cents. I think that your pain is not normal. If you havn't already, I would submit a pointe shoe fitting form to Ms. DeVor.


Pointe does hurt but with the correct shoe (or atleast the 'best' shoe) for your foot, it will not hurt as badly. I have tapered toes & have only found 2 models of shoes that allow me to dance without big toe pain. I have no idea what your toes look like, so ask Ms DeVor about more guidance regarding how tapered or not your shoe should be.


There is a tiny gel pad that I think Discount Dance sells & probably other catalogues sell too, that you can put in the very tip of the pointe shoe (the inside of the platform). I have not tried these but it might help you. I assume your teacher has checked your shoes & ok'ed you to dance in them.


As Ms Clara said, there are different tolerances to pointe work. I know that personally I can get in & out of shape regarding pointe work-when we would start rehearsing for a show my feet would hurt more quickly than after we had rehearsed for several weeks.


One more thing-make sure that you cut your toenails short enough-talk to a teacher or doctor about how short they can safely be. If mine are too long they hurt. Also sometimes just taping my big toe helps-but usually if I have these certain 2 models my big toe does not hurt. I also wear an ouch pouch jr. There is a toe pad just for the big toe-bunheads big tip, and I believe a couple of other companies are making a version of this now, as well.


Regarding finding the right shoe-I am able to size myself in pointe shoes, so sometimes I order two different widths to try a new shoe (if these shoes are not available at a store close to me), and return what doesn't work. You might have to do this, and have your teacher check the shoes, since it sounds like you do not live in a metropolitan area.


It is a long journey finding the best pointe shoe! Best wishes with your pointe work!

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Thank you Clara and Tiffany for your comments!


Ms DeVor and her articles about pointe shoes have been immensely helpful, especially in understanding how they are supposed to fit and feel. I even printed the one article out so that it would be readily available whenever I try on a new pair.


Until I can get to a different fitter, I will continue to experiment with different padding options and taping to find the combination that works best with the shoes I have, but for now it seems that a gel pouch with pinkie toe spacer is the answer. Thank you for the specific suggestions, Tiffany. I'll look into them.


Clara, thank you for your perspective about adults on pointe. The more I learn and understand, the better I feel, mentally if not physically : )

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. More recently, I've noticed that after an hour on pointe, whether using new or older shoes, I feel pain in the joint of my big toe, as though it is taking weight. This is not the first MTP/bunion joint, but the one in the toe itself. I have not yet found a way to deal with this. Based on the earlier thread, I have the impression that my shoes may not have been properly fitted to begin with, or there may have been some problem with their breaking in/care. There is also the possibility that, as a middle-aged adult, I may have to adjust my expectations of pointe work as Clara suggests. It's a bummer getting old (sigh).



Sorry about the first post.


I'm not sure what style of forefoot you have, but if you have a tapered or semitapered foot, there is the possibility that you are indeed bearing weight right on that great toe.


I have a Morton's foot, and this is what I do: I use a small spacer between the great and second toes, and tape that in place. Then I even out the length of the toes by taking a gel pad and cutting it to fit both the tips of the great and the third toe, tape those pads in place by running a piece of tape over the toes lengthwise, THEN taping the entire mess in place by winding tape around all three toes. I don't tape too tightly to avoid restricting roll-through. It sounds like quite a wad of tape, but it is actually less padding than one of the gel tip things that they sell nowadays.


An hour and a half class done entirely en pointe is a lot of pointework. It's almost as much as a full-length ballet, if you think about it. I do one such class a week, and everything else is segmented (either barre or center en pointe, but not both.) In light of that, you really might want to rethink how much pointe you do in any given session.

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I agree with the taping. If you don't want to do all that taping, or if you don't need to even out your toes, you might try using elastic tape on just your first toe. 3M makes a medical tape that I use (you can get it fairly inexpensive by the case on a medical website). It stretches, and it can be torn to fit without needing scissors. If you're having pain in the joint of the toe, you might also check to make sure the vamp of your shoes is not too long.

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I bear weight only on the big toe. My toes are pretty tapered (I blame my aunt!) from then on. I tape my big toe. I've never used a spacer, though. Would something like that be helpful? I must admit I don't have joint pain - didn't even after 4 hours on the toes at dance camp this summer. Bruised toe, yes, but not joint problems.


I have always been worried that a spacer would dig into the flesh between my toes. Or am I confusing pointe shoe spacers with something else?


Just curious...

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I think Bunheads makes the best spacers, no digging into anything, they are a soft gel type substance. I use spacers because I have compressible feet and the spacers help keep my feet from compressing, which in turns helps keep the bunions away. :thumbsup:

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Odile -- I do have a tapered foot. It's possible that my shoes are not tapered enough, and so there's more weight being placed on that big toe. I'll experiment with the taping suggestions to see if they help. As for the amount of time on pointe, all of the pointe classes at my school run 1 1/2 hours, which is why I declined to take class this term and instead practice at home.


Dancepig--I'm looking into the vamp issue. It might explain not only the big toe pain, but the pressure on the pinkie toe during demi-pointe as well. You mention having a compressible foot. Does that mean exactly what the name implies, that the foot compresses in a tight place? How do you tell if you have such a foot?


Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions!

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An easy way to tell if you have a compressible foot is to gently squeeze the sides of your foot (at the spot where you would have a bunion if you had one and on the side just below the pinkie toe) and if your foot "squishes" in, then you have a compressible foot. This type of foot normally gets smaller when en pointe for obvious reasons. The spacer helps to keep the foot from squishing in and helps keep the foot from getting so much smaller. If you're still confused, let me know and I'll try to explain it better. I know Ms. Devor has explained this, but I can't seem to find it in doing a search.

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I have compressible feet and find it a challenge to fit myself to shoes. I start with a tapered box, and I always use a box liner, especially after the first class, when the boxes start to grow on me. I also use a spacer, then add other types of padding if the boxes continue to grow. If I don't do this, I find my feet sinking down into the box. If my feet sink down into the box, this puts too much strain onto my big toe and the toe next to it. I am fortunate that my first two toes are almost the same length.

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The only thing I have is that famous disappearing heel, so every shoe that I like fits oddly in the back but usually pretty nicely in the front. It's a balancing act (pun intended) but I have at least three different types of shoe that work for me regularly so I'm not fussed. :)


Seeing as I don't have joint pain even after a few hours on pointe, I probably don't need a spacer. I'm glad, actually, because I don't think I could deal with having more than the basic padding inside the shoe. Too much fuss, for me. Thanks for the explanation though. I'd never thought of "compressible foot" before.

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I have a hard time understanding how using a spacer between the first and the second toe could help preventing the great pressure on the big toe nail? Because I always have this issue with my GMs and I'm certainly not planning to change my brand, although I tend to lose my big toe nails at the end of the year. And I heard that this method immediately helps with releasing that pressure GMs tend to make. Could someone explain the mechanics of this? Because the pressure I have comes from the "upside" of the toenail, not from the tip of it, nor the side of it... So I can't relate these two things. (I have compressible, Morton type feet though I never have bunions/blisters, I always have this pressure on my left big toe nail... it is not that much on the right one though it also may fall)

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