Ballerina feet and ankle hypermobility

ballerina feet problems hypermobility

Common feet and ankle problems in ballerinas and dancers.

Hypermobility seems to be quite common in dancers. It can be an important consideration to make for dancers, particularly ballet dancers and ballroom dancers. It can be a significant risk factor for injury and later deformity like hallux valgus (bunions).

Hypermobility can be influenced by genetics, or by environmental adaptation. This blog will break down specific risk factors for dancers or those considering dance and will provide some insight into dancing safely with hypermobility.

What is hypermobility?

Hypermobility is a noted laxity in one or multiple joints whereby the ligaments allow excessive range of motion in the joint. It can increase risk of joint pain, dislocations and significantly increases the demand on tendons, muscles and other soft tissues to externally support the joint.

Hypermobility can be mild to severe, and can affect one, or many joints in the body. Any significant hypermobility should be assessed by a qualified health professional, as it can be a symptom of more widespread connective tissue disorders.

What causes foot & ankle hypermobility in dancers?

Hypermobility can be influenced by one, or many of the following factors:

  • Genetics – shape, length and quality of joint surfaces, connective tissue disorders.

  • Non-Hereditary connective tissue disorders.

  • Gait pattern (the way you walk).

  • Previous or recurrent injury.

  • Excessive or incorrect stretching – Sustained, loaded passive stretching eg. improper use of foot stretchers.

  • Environmental factors – level of conditioning, exercise/sport choice, strength, fatigue levels, recovery between exercise sessions or classes, impact of floor/ground surfaces.

  • Lack of supportive footwear – unlikely to cause hypermobility, but can facilitate or exacerbate other factors.

Common signs and symptoms of foot hypermobility.

Some dance-related signs and symptoms of foot hypermobility include:

  • A flexible ‘flat’ foot, or significant ‘flattening’ of the arch when standing and walking.

  • Fallen arches when standing in turnout.

  • Frequently sickled feet.

  • Excessive pointe range.

  • Frequent ankle rolling or sprains in or out of class.

  • Bony lump formation on the top of the foot – particularly in ballroom dancers.

  • Trouble balancing, lots of foot and ankle movement when standing on one leg.

Why is it crucial to consider hypermobility in dancers?

It’s important to consider for dancers because the impact of most hypermobility concerns can be managed very successfully for dancers. However, poor consideration for dancers with foot and ankle hypermobility can lead to increased injury risk, pain and lasting joint changes that can lead to further pain and arthritis even after the dancer ceases dancing.

If you have known hypermobility in one or multiple areas and are a dancer, it is important to be assessed by a health professional, and for your dance teacher to know.

By properly investigating foot and ankle hypermobility, we can reduce the risk of complications in the following ways.

Keeping dance teachers in the loop so they can:

  • Encourage great technique in all movements or modify movements to allow safe practice
  • Ensure the level of work is suitable for the level of the dancer
  • Ensure the dancer has adequate strength, maturity and ability when instructing new tasks
  • Ensure dancers are corrected on their specific concerns (dance teachers are normally great at this, but the more information they can have, the easier it is!)
  • Establish adequate and safe flooring for the style of dance and footwear
  • Educate dancers on some exercise and drills that may help them to improve on their foot and ankle stability

Seek a knowledgeable health professional to ensure:

  • Hypermobility is not caused by a systemic disease or disorder – these are not always hereditary and can present with no family history.
  • The current function and stability in the joints is improving, or at least maintaining well
  • That strength and rehabilitation exercises are effective to reduce risk of injury where possible
  • That an excellent level of movement control, maturity, coordination and management of fatigue are upheld
  • Any pain or symptoms are well monitored and managed

Why dancers should see a podiatrist.

A knowledgeable dance podiatrist can help to recognise the specific risks affecting each dancer based on extensive foot function testing, level of experience in ballet and dance, as well as a dancer’s medical and family history.

If you are concerned about hypermobility or pain, call Performance Podiatry today. Our podiatrists are experts in all conditions of the foot and lower leg and would be happy to help you participate in ballet and dance supported, strong and pain-free.

Make an appointment with our specialist dance podiatrist. 

Tayla Forland is a specialist dance podiatrist and is qualified to treat all podiatry problems. Tayla has completed further specialist training and certifications to assist all dancers with pre-pointe preparation and assessments, pointe shoe fitting and Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT). Tayla has a specialised interest in foot and leg injuries, pain and conditions associated with ballet, dance and artistic sports for clients of all ages and experience levels.

With over 17 years of experience as a dancer, Tayla developed a passion for dance podiatry. This means that she has a specialised interest in foot and leg injuries, pain and conditions associated with ballet, dance and artistic sports for clients of all ages and experience levels.

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