Ballet: Pain VS Discomfort

Ballet: Pain VS Discomfort

Pain and Discomfort are two feelings dancers are very intimate with.  “Work through the pain” is a common theme with athletes of all sports, and dance is no exception.  There is a difference between pain and discomfort, especially in pointe shoes that all dancers need to consider.  Pain and discomfort are two feelings that belong in the same class.  Both can make you say “OUCH!”, but what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Pain VS Discomfort

Pain is an all-encompassing feeling normally used to describe an injury.  Doctors usually ask “On a scale of 1-10, how is your pain?” in reference to a chart with smileys on the wall similar to this:


Studies show that while 99.99999% of the population feels pain, everyone seems to differ in their tolerance of it.  In pointe especially, discomfort is expected.  Discomfort is an unfortunate side effect of being addicted to ballet, as dancers we learn to dance through the discomfort.  Even the perfect pair of shoes will cause some discomfort to the dancer.  Discomfort might be a blister forming and causing irritation within the shoe, general pressure on the toes, arch and foot soreness after strengthening exercises, etc.  All of these things are normal and can happen at any time.

Pain however, isn’t considered the norm.  Pain can be the result of an injury.  Pain can persist during rehearsal when recovering from an injury, but it shouldn’t  happen every rehearsal as a result of pointe shoes in general.  Pain can come from ill-fitting shoes, the dancer’s physical limitations, improper padding, poorly sewn elastic, incorrectly tied ribbons and more.  It’s our opinion that most pain  from working en pointe comes from improperly fitting shoes.

It’s important for a dancer to be able to differentiate between pain and discomfort.  Pointe shoes are designed to take on the shape of the foot as closely as possible.  The better the fit, the less discomfort the dancer will experience.  A shoe with the wrong box shape will cause significant pain.

There is a difference between working through pain vs discomfort.  Working through pain can cause significant injury that can ultimately shorten the career of a dancer.  Discomfort is an unfortunate side effect of our sport.

Main difference?  Pain is avoidable, discomfort is not.  The right pair of pointe shoes will give the dancer an edge– allowing her to dance and progress at full capacity.  A dancer in the wrong shoes limping along is more likely to injure herself, resulting in lasting pain as she recovers.

I hope if you are experiencing pain from your pointe shoes, that you consider being fitted again.

Happy (pain free!) Dancing!