Dancing demands a lot - physical strength and balance, mental endurance and focus, and a passionately artistic view of movement. As a parent of an enthusiastic young dancer, you see first-hand every week - and likely several times per week - the immense effort and hard work that goes into dancing, and the associated strains on the lower limbs. And if your child has begun dancing en pointe in their ballet classes? Well, that is a minefield! Studies have found that the pressure on the toes while en pointe almost quadruples to 220 psi (from a mere 63 psi during walking), with a 60 kg ballerina who lands en pointe from a height of one metre generating an impact force of 700 psi. Obviously, a correctly fitted pointe shoe which maintains the foot’s natural three points of support will dissipate these forces and keep the toes safe but an alarming number of dancers are not fitted to international best practice.
Simply put? The feet and legs are under extraordinary pressure to perform - so it’s no surprise that at times (and for some, very often), things can go wrong, and injuries can occur. So, is the time for your child to see a dance podiatrist when concerns or problems arise, or should that important relationship start long before to help support your child through their dancing journey? Here are some important insights about seeing a dance podiatrist from our consultant dance podiatrist, Georgina Barr.
First thing’s first: what is a dance podiatrist?
A dance podiatrist is a specialised healthcare professional with an internationally recognised podiatry qualification, clinical experience, and extra study completed to understand the needs of the diverse dance community. They will focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of foot and ankle conditions and problems specifically related to dancing, in all its various forms. Dance podiatrists understand the unique biomechanical demands and repetitive stresses that dancers' feet and lower limbs undergo during dance practice and performances. Often, it’s their own experience with dance, paired with their specialised training, that allows a dance podiatrist to review your dance technique and implement rehabilitation strategies to help dancers optimise their lower limb health.
Our dance podiatry consultant, Georgina Barr, is a qualified New Zealand podiatrist who has done extra training with Juon Pointe (and is the only recipient of the Juon Pointe Gold Standard award for original pointe shoe research) and the New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing (she has so far completed the Intermediate examination and is working on researching in-shoe pressures for the Academy). She works with all dancers of any age and has presented her work and original research at national and international dance and medicine conferences.
She understands the training loads and technique needs for a wide variety of dance styles and levels. For example, jazz dance and tap dance are very different in style, technique, and footwear and the medical professional that you chose should be familiar with this.