Blisters and Corns
Pointe work displays the incredible strength of ballet dancers as they perform challenging moves on the tips of their toes. Unfortunately, the toes, toenails, and feet bear the consequences of this demanding task, and are often the site of various injuries. There is hope for dancers however, if they follow the proper prevention and treatment methods that deal with pointe shoe injuries. This series will give a brief overview of the most common problems caused by pointe shoes, beginning with blisters and corns.
The ballerina's feet are often associated with blisters, and it is no wonder why, since nearly every ballet dancer can boast of having many blisters over the duration of her training and career.
Causes - When pointe shoes repeatedly rub against the skin this friction creates a fluid-filled pocket. If the fluid is blood it is referred to as a blood blister, which is worse than a clear-fluid blister. If a blister pops open it could become infected and further complicate matters.
Prevention - If a dancer knows where blisters are most likely to develop she can take action by covering those blister-prone patches of skin. It is important to keep whatever is being used as coverage wrinkle-free, otherwise blisters will be encouraged, rather than discouraged, to form.
Treatment - If a red spot appears on the toes or feet it is most likely the start of a blister. Discovering the blister as this early stage can keep it from getting worse, so long as it receives immediate attention. The best response is to cover the newly-formed blister and to be especially careful in ensuring that wearing pointe shoes will not continue to rub against it. A blister should never be popped because this may lead to infection. If the blister does happen to open it may be necessary to take a break from dancing on pointe.
Products - Toe tape, moleskin, and bandages are all effective in preventing blisters. They should also be used to protect blisters from getting worse, which enables the dancer to safely continue working through a blister.
Corns vary by their appearance and location on the foot. One type is called a soft corn, the other is known as a hard corn.
Causes - Both types of corns result from poorly fit shoes that are too tight. The hard corn's name is an adequate description of what it looks and feels like, and it's common to find one on the little toe. A soft corn also looks and feels the way its name sounds, but it lives between the toes where it feeds off of moisture. These softer corns are grayish-white.
Prevention -Pointe shoes that are too short or that rub against the feet should never be worn. These uncomfortable shoes increase the risk of developing hard corns. Soft corns can be prevented by making sure the spaces between the toes are dry, and that the metatarsals have enough room in the box.
Treatment - Although corns can be surgically removed, this is not something that is recommended for dancers. It's important to be aware that chemical corn pads may cause infection, therefore they are probably not an ideal option for treating corns. The best treatment is to relieve the point of corn-causing pressure (possibly by finding new shoes) and to pad the affected area while dancing. Cutting a hard corn should never be done at home. Instead, a podiatrist should be sought out to perform this job. The two toes that hold a soft corn between them need to be separated to let the corn have a chance to heal. This can be done by placing something between the problem toes. Either a special product designed for this purpose, or something simple like cotton will do.
Products - Spacers by Bunheads can be used as separators between the toes to prevent and treat soft corns. An antiseptic powder can be applied in order to keep the toes dry. During a hard corn's healing process it should be covered by lambs wool, tape, or a bandage.
The next part of this series will examine the causes, prevention and treatment of bruised toenails and ingrown toenails.
Posted by Kristina Tyler
Kristina Tyler enjoys writing informative articles about ballet, as well as blogging about her personal experiences in the dance world. For seven years she trained to become a professional ballet dance, and is now currently in college with the intention of turning her interest in health and fitness into a career as a personal trainer. She still keeps up with dance, and has recently taken up running and horseback riding.
Her website: http://aballerinasjourney.blogspot.com/
Photo by slopjop on Flickr