Flat Feet & Ballet
Ask any dancer and she’ll tell you– if you have flat feet, your chances of getting on pointe someday aren’t looking good. In theory, this sounds right. How can someone with no arch get “Over The Box” in order to work safely on pointe? If you have flat feet, you shouldn’t throw in the towel just yet.
The medical term for flat feet is “Pes Planus”. Humans are born with flat, loose feet. The arches develop as children grow. A person who does not develop an arch by age 5-6 will most likely always have flat feet.
In some cases, people with normal arches suffer an injury or illness that causes “fallen arches” on one or both feet that can be permanent.
Two Types of Flat Feet
You read correctly! There are two types of flat feet. Rigid flatfoot and flexible flatfoot.
Rigid Flatfoot: People with rigid flatfoot have feet with flat arches, and a very obvious lack of flexibility in the foot and arch. The feet are often painful and become fatigued quickly. It’s possible for bones to fuse together in the foot during young formative years, which can cause pain and should be checked out by a doctor. Surgery may be needed for this type of foot.
Flexible Flatfoot: Most people with flat feet have this type of foot. The arch did not form during the person’s young life, so the tendons are loose causing the arch to touch the floor. The good news is, this type of foot will also appear arched when pointed!
Pointe & Flat Feet
Dance students with flat feet shouldn’t immediately be overlooked when students are being considered for pointe class. A simple way to determine the type of flat feet a dancer has is to ask her to releve. If she appears to have an arch when in releve and while pointing her foot, she has flexible flat feet and will most likely have no troubles getting over the box.
A dancer with rigid flat feet should certainly have her feet looked at by a physician before beginning pointe. This dancer may not be physically able to get over the box, and prolonged dancing on the edge of the box can result in falls and injury, not to mention lots of frustration.
A dancer with flexible flat feet should have no problems beginning pointe with the rest of her class. She should be careful with pointe shoe fit and in practice to correctly build up strength in her loose feet.
Fixing Flat Arches
It’s important to note that it’s not possible to “fix” a flat arch without some sort of corrective surgery. No insole, wrap, brace, foot stretcher, or foot exercise will cause your arch to lift if you have flexible flat feet. Regular practice in dance class can help strengthen the muscles, but you can’t physically tighten the loose tendons without doctor intervention. Here are some great products that help stretch, strengthen and alleviate pain from dancing with flat arches.
Flat Feet & Pointe Shoe Fitting
Fitting pointe shoes for dancers with flat feet can be a little challenging. It’s important to note how flexible the arch is and how compressible the metatarsal area is.
Rigid Flatfoot: A dancer with a rigid flatfoot attempting to go on pointe should look for a pointe shoe with a pre-arched shank. This will help her feet as they attempt to get over the box. A flexible, pliable shank can also help this dancer use her feet to her true potential.
Flexible Flatfoot: Dancers with flexible flat feet have loose almost “floppy” feet. The tendons are loose, which means the feet are often very compressible in the metatarsal and have a very flexible arch. She usually has no problem getting over the box and might not benefit from a pre-arched shank. She will need to take care to purchase a shoe with a perfect profile height and a width appropriate to hold her feet in proper position. Too much room in the shoe can allow her bones to overlap and grind together which is not good. A medium or even hard shank might be needed to help support this dancer.
It’s important to note that not all dancers with flexible flatfoot will be overly flexible or compressible, but just flexible enough to need a little extra support from a harder shank or softer shank. Every foot is different!