Written by Dr. Laura Fetko, PT, DPT
There are many tools in a dancers toolbox such as foam roller, tape, our favorite water bottle and of course our shoes. Shoes are important to allow support, turning, ability and shock absorption. Sometimes time gets the best of us and we forget about shoe maintenance, with most we can get away with elongating the time between replacement. However, pointe shoes are the exception. We hear and say all the time that our pointe shoes are “dead”, therefore should be replaced, but how many of us continue to dance on these “dead” shoes. What happens when we dance on pointe shoes that need to be replaced and what are some signs of dead shoes.
What are some common signs to look for in pointe shoes if they need to be replaced. One of the most common is a broken shank, this occurs when the shank breaks closer to the box rather than at the heel. The point of the shank is for arch support to allow for a lift within the shoe. When the shank is broken and the support is no longer there this can lead to injuries such as strain to the longitudinal arch and foot intrinsic muscles. Another common sign is softening of the box. The box as well helps with support of the toes within the shoe. When the box is worn this can have a sinking effect which puts more pressure on the toes. With the box being soft some dancers may push too far over their shoes to have support with turns which can higher the incidence of ankle sprains. For the growing dancer it is important to assess if the shoes feel too tight, especially at the Achilles tendon. This can cause Achilles tendonitis due to excess pressure on the tendon.
It is important to assess pointe shoes before each dance session to make sure they are safe to dance on. Being on top of shoe health will help decrease the incidence of injuries. Having another pair of pointe shoes sewn and ready to go at anytime to allow transfer into safe shoes easier.