The Perfect Pointe Book

All The Tips, Tricks And Exercises You Need To Know About Starting En Pointe

Flat Feet And Pointe Shoes…

As a Dance Educator and Dance Physiotherapist, one of the most common queries I get is… “I have ‘flat feet’. Is pointe work a no-no?”. The answer to this can be yes, or no. It really is a “that all depends” scenario. This is due to the fact that there are basically two types of ‘flat feet’.
Each foot is made up of many bones, held together by strong ligaments and then supported by the small intrinsic muscles of the feet. They are further supported and influenced by the extrinsic foot muscles that have their muscle belly further up in the calf, and tendons into the feet. The ability of a dancer to safely progress onto pointe depends more on the combined support of all of these factors, rather than the exact shape of the foot.
Some dancers (and people in general) do have anatomically ‘flat feet’. This is  usually genetically based, and often there are visible racial trends. Some girls will tend to have a flatter curve to their arch in standing due to the actual shape of the bones in their foot, and no matter how strong the small foot muscles get, the shape of the foot will not change significantly. If this is the case, pointe work is still possible, assuming all the other requirements for pointe are achieved. The foot will perhaps not have the optimal appearance en pointe that many companies desire, however, the dancer will be reasonably safe en pointe. In this situation the ligaments should be stiff enough to help stabilize the foot, and the dancer must have good control of the small muscles of the foot.
Other girls will have the appearance of a ‘flat foot’ due to the presence of very mobile ligaments and poor muscular support. This kind of mobile foot can be developed to look great en pointe when very strong, however a girl should not be allowed to progress onto pointe while the foot is so weak. This foot often looks reasonable (or even very good) in a demi-pointe position, however the arch control drops as the dancer drops her heel. Specific strengthening of the arch and isolated control of the muscles supporting and controlling the toes is essential before commencing pointe work. These dancers usually have increased mobility in many other joints in their body, and may have problems in their knees or back due to increased movement and decreased stability in these joints.
In addition, some girls have a very high arch to their foot, yet are very weak in the small muscles of the feet. While it may appear that they have good control of the arch, as it does not roll in en fondu, it must be ensured that the foot is actually strong enough. Many girls have such stiff ligaments in their feet that their arch is rigidly held in place, without any muscular support. There is little movement between the bones en fondu, and because of this they can be prone to foot, ankle and knee injuries,  due to the lack of shock absorption in allegro and pointe work. This dancer must work on the mobility and strength of the foot prior to attempting pointe work.
To assess the true nature of any ‘flat foot’ takes skill and practise, and is ideally done by a trained medical professional. Instead of simply looking at the shape of the arch, it is important to take a look at the position of the heel bone (Calcaneus) and the relative position of the next bone in the foot (the Talus). The Achilles Tendon should fall in a relatively straight line when viewed from behind, but may appear to have a significant curve at the level of the ankle, if the heel and the arch are rolling in. The dancer must be able to maintain a good position of the Talus in standing in parallel and in turnout, en fondu and with petit allegro to demonstrated adequate control of any shaped foot.
It is essential that each dancer learn the strengthening exercises relative to his or her type of foot, and be aware of the implications of their body type before progressing onto pointe. This is often difficult for dance teachers to do with each child individually, so if there is access to a Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist or Sports Doctor who is familiar with dealing with dancers, an assessment is advisable before commencing pointe work.
Lisa Howell (B.Phty) is a Physical Therapist (Physiotherapist) based in Sydney, Australia, who specialises in the assessment and treatment of dancers of all ages, from young students to professional level, and teachers. She is dedicated to the education of dancers to help prevent injury, and to develop optimal performance at every level. She produces a FREE weekly dancers newsletter with tips on all aspects of dance to help spread her knowledge to the world. To find out more about “The Perfect Pointe Book” or to receive the newsletter, go to http://www.theperfectpointebook.com.

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19 Comments»

  Sarah Hindle wrote @

I am unable to order a book off you and really want too. Please could you e-mail me the details and tell me how to order the book because your website will not let me order it. many thanks

Sarah

  crystal cosme wrote @

One question please?
Can I ever be a Prima Ballerina, its like my dream i dance everything but i love ballet, can i ever make that dream come true even if my feet are huge and super wide, which i cant point at all? any advice please ?

  Shana wrote @

Hi Crystal ,
Yes you can be a prima! Are you on pointe? If you are please tell me your width in pointe shoes. I can tell you how to make a better point and arch.

  renee wrote @

I took ballet for two years but I had to stop for a year because It kinda effected my schoolwork. I was wondering since I’m fourteen should I start doing pointe now or should I take one more year of ballet? I also have flat feet. But I love to dance so much. Ballet is the only style of dance i can do, that won’t hurt my feet at all

PLEASE HELP!!!

  henselfan#1 wrote @

i have flat feet and i am an excelent student.

  Leah wrote @

once you do pointe for a couple years or so your feet should develop an arch

  Katie wrote @

I’m pretty sure I have flat feet but I’m still able to point pretty good. I just have to look out for sickling more often then any other girl in my class… .
if this wrong??
does it mean i can or can’t be a ballet dancer
En Pointe

  Bronte wrote @

Hello, Im Almost certain i have flat feet my dance teachers say so and i listen to everything they say from tips to exercises.

in about 2 weeks time i will be due to go up on pointe, flat feet or not all girls at the age of 12 must try, any exercises to get my feet ready.
Do I still Have a future in dance or should i just stop, over all i have been told i’m quite a nice dancer, extremely slim, long arms long legs but not hugely tall, and not that my feet are spoiling it its just my turn out is a bit dodge :/
please help me get my feet closer to ballet material xxx

  Leah wrote @

once you go en pointe you will develop an arch

  Sara wrote @

I have very low, flat arches. Getting on my box seems so impossible.. How can I increase my arches and get up? Is it possible if my feet just don’t pointe well?

  Sarah wrote @

You could try using a thera-band. It really helps improve strength and flexibility for pointe.

  Ayla wrote @

Hi! I inherited flat feet, sadly, and I was wondering what pointe shoe would you reccomend to flat footed people. Right now I use Bloch Serenade and they’re okay, but is there any shoe that would be better? My friend recommended Gaynor Midens. What do you think?
Also, is there any way to increase my arch? I have a very difficult time getting all the way on my box. 😦

  Sarah wrote @

Well I definitely would not recommend Russian Pointe because those have a very hard shank.

  Nicky wrote @

hey,

i’m 20yo and have no ballet dance experience. is it possible for me to start now and become a great ballerina? i also have flat foot, so that is why i deterred from starting as i just hate that i am unable to get that perfect arch that i love to see on ballerinas.

  Raina wrote @

Hi Lisa!
I’m 11 and my teacher told me I’m almost ready for pointe. I have a collapsing arch on my foot and toes that are grown inward. Can you reccomend some exercises for me?

  Rosie Phillips wrote @

hi
i am 12 years old and i have been doing ballet since i was two. i have asked my teacher if i can go on piont and she said i was not ready yet. i think my feet are strong enough. what do i do now? how do you know when you are ready for point? why is it taking so long? do you have any exercises that i could do ????
HELP ME!!!!

[…] are a common foot deformity that involves curling of the toes upward. This condition is due to chronic changes in the mechanical structure of the foot when the […]

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  Olivia wrote @

Hello I am Olivia and I am turning 11 on November 10 I started ballet this year .i really want to go en pointe I want to have a career in this. I am one of the best in my class.do you think I will be ready next year!


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