Receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a momentous occasion for any dancer, and the ability to perform in them requires intense discipline. However, pointe shoes did not dominate ballet until the 19th century, when they were worn only for a brief time. Modern ballet centers on pointe dancing, though, but the shoes can cause various health problems, some of them serious.
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Because of the pressure that wearing pointe shoes exerts on the toes, they can cause considerable damage to nails if they don't fit just right, resulting in dark purple, bruised nails. Unfortunately, determining proper fit can be difficult, according to "Pointe" magazine, which recommends visiting a professional who can accurately gauge your size. Adding padding or caps to pointe shoes can help as well, providing extra cushioning and alleviating pressure.
Dancing in pointe shoes can strain the big toe in various ways, causing several conditions. Many dancers develop bunions, a bony growth on the big-toe joint caused by forcing it inward. The sesamoid bones, which are embedded in tendons connected to the big toe, may become inflamed in a condition known as sesamoiditis. In extreme conditions, the big toe may even suffer a stress fracture.
Cost, Lifespan and Time Investment
Pointe shoes are expensive and do not last long. The Atlanta Ballet explains pointe shoes cost between $50 and $80 a pair, adding that different factors affect a shoe's lifespan, including the build of a dancer's foot and the rigor of a particular dance. Professional ballerinas typically go through one pair of pointe shoes in a single performance. Pointe shoes must also be specially prepped before wearing and cared for to ensure they last as long as possible.
Certain limitations impact the ability of dancers to perform in pointe shoes, making the pursuance of this form of dance difficult and even impossible to some. Performers with inflexible ankles, overly long big toes and heavier builds may never be able to dance en pointe. Before attempting to dance in pointe shoes, you'll need at least a year's worth of training to develop the needed strength. Afterward, at least two weekly ballet classes are required to maintain the required level of conditioning.
At first, performing in pointe shoes is uncomfortable, causing blisters and other problems. Unfortunately, this doesn't change over time, though dancers do develop a tolerance for the pain. Tendon damage from pointe shoes can take years to manifest, so those who begin training young may not know they have problems until reaching their 20s and 30s. Wearing pointe shoes can also stunt the foot's growth, resulting in serious problems later in life.