How to Protect Your Feet for Pointe
By Katherine Moore of Dance Informa.
Ballerinas know that finding the right accessories to support their work en pointe is extremely important. In some cases it can mean the difference between a productive rehearsal and one that is lost in discomfort and pain. Here, Dance Informa walks you through some of the options out there for protecting those precious toes.
Prepping the Shoe
The first step in making sure your feet are cared for is to make sure your shoes are properly prepared for rehearsal.
Abigail Simon, a principal guest artist, teacher and model who formerly danced for American Ballet Theatre and Joffrey Ballet, recommends keeping a Stitch Kit ™ handy, particularly on the road.
“The Stitch Kit ™ is very convenient, especially when traveling for work. I like to sew my shoes on the airplane. Also, the thread is the perfect color!” she says.
After she breaks in her pointe shoes, Simon uses Jet™ Glue on the box and shank of her shoes to help them last longer. Since Simon now works as a freelancer, she also recommends keeping a bag of rosin on hand because she never knows if a floor might be slippery before she arrives.
Depending on each dancer’s needs, dancers may also need additional accessories to keep things running smoothly, such as Knot Keepers ™ to secure the ribbons or Heel Grips to prevent the shoe from slipping off the heel.
On the Inside
For optimal foot-protection and avoidance of pain, ballerinas use a wide variety of products inside the shoe to make their feet as comfortable as possible. Depending on foot anatomy and personal preference, dancers differ on how much and which type of padding to use, so it is important to experiment until a dancer finds the right balance of freedom and comfort.
To avoid crunching the toes together inside the shoe, a dancer may choose to use Spacers™ between the toes for proper alignment. You can even buy a Space Pack ™ that has a combination of spacers for your toes.
For individual toe protection, a product like Jelly Tips ™ or Jelly Toes™ may be helpful to prevent blisters and discomfort. Simon recommends the Jelly Tips ™ for dancers who have a longer second toe.
“Without Jelly Tips™ the toe hits the shoe a certain way that hurts and I would never get through the day,” she says.
If a dancer is developing a bunion and experiencing pain at the base of the big toe, the Bunion Buster™ can relieve unwanted pressure. Adrienne Canterna, who is the choreographer, co-creator and female star of the international hit dance show Rasta Thomas' ROCK the Ballet, swears by bunion protection.
“I cannot live without these. I keep multiple packs at all times!” Canterna says. “I actually wear the bunion guards in my everyday boots too!”
For all-over coverage, dancers can try using the Ouch Pouch®, which provides cushioning to the ball of the foot, bunion area and the toes. For a similar feel with a little less padding under the ball of the foot, dancers might prefer the Pro Pad®. While some consider using Lamb’s wool an antiquated method, many dancers prefer its flexibility and breathability to using a gel pad. A more contemporary alternative is Fluffs™ Lamb’s Wool Pads.
Prepping and Restoring the Feet
Even before putting on a pair of pointe shoes, ballerinas need to care for their feet. A great way to warm up the feet and ankles is to use an Exercise Band for improving strength and flexibility. Simon also recommends using the Footsie Roller to massage the foot before class.
“The foot roller I use every morning before and during barre so all the muscles at the bottom of my feet don't cramp,” she says.
Like Simon, Canterna considers the Footsie Roller an essential item. “It is the perfect warm up accessory. My friends are always stealing mine!” Canterna says.
After a long day of dancing, it is important to let your feet and toes relax. One of the best ways to let your toes breathe is to use the Toe Tantra™. This handy device is infused with botanical oils and enriched with ceramides, green tea, willow fragrance and aloe vera, and it separates toes to relieve tension and increase circulation being crammed into pointe shoes all day.