Ballet Pointe Shoes - Is it normal for my feet to hurt this much en pointe?

by C.S.
(New York, NY)

Ballet Pointe Shoes - Is it normal for my feet to hurt this much en pointe?

Hi Odette,

While I haven't danced en pointe in a while (It has been hard enough to do basic technique class while traveling, moving cross-country, and building my non-ballet career), there is something I've always wondered:

I started ballet when I was little, but disliked it and instead pursued modern, tap, jazz, hip hop, gymnastics, and many other kinds of dance. When I was 22 I fell in love with ballet, began taking classes intensively, and excelled in it. Most of my teachers assumed I had been doing it all my life!

Within a year, I had three different instructors approve me for pointe work, and a couple agreed to work with me after class.

I started with Gaynor Mindens, but moved onto Block soon after. I felt very strong en pointe, did not have much trouble getting over my boxes, and it felt right in every way.

Except that my feet would almost always start KILLING me after a couple minutes.

Not the pain people typically complain about. My toes felt like they were dancing on clouds. I did not have chafing or blisters. The shoes didn't feel like they were squeezing my feet uncomfortably.

The pain was more like a cramping of the muscles in my feet. Not the kind of cramp that is paralyzing, more just like an extreme pain in my muscles.

I would find that after getting through the worst of it, after about 45 minutes my feet would stop hurting so much.

I hear so many people say other things hurt and none of those things were a problem for me, but I can't find anyone who talks about this kind of pain.

At the time, I know I had very strong and flexible feet. I could lift myself up to almost pointe without pointe shoes on. I could have pulled a broken down train with the arch of my foot. I had great teachers in private lessons who told me I had great form, and was very careful about technique.

This never stopped happening for me, even after months of classes.

A mild form of this pain does happen to me even in slippers, so I know it has to do with the muscles.

If this is because I am clenching my foot muscles too tightly, what could be wrong with my shoes in that I am doing this?

I have short, wide feet, with mostly squared toes, and a fairly high arch. I was wearing shoes that seemed to fit really well, Bloch European Balance, with a medium/soft-ish shank. They very much felt contoured to my feet.

Is this the kind of pain that is normal? It seemed like it would never stop happening.

I hope to get back en pointe as soon as I am in good ballet shape again, and I will buy new shoes if you think that would be the key!

Thank you!


Reply by Odette
To:- Ballet Pointe Shoes - Is it normal for my feet to hurt this much en pointe?

Thanks for your message, it's great to hear from you. I am a little bit puzzled by your pain! You're right in saying pointe work is painful and each dancer will have different tolerance of pain. However, the sort of pain you're experiencing doesn't sound as regular as the usual painful blister or toes.

It could simply be the muscles in your feet are very tight and therefore go into cramp very easily. If you get a foot roller, these are brilliant for massaging under the arch and loosening the muscles in your feet. There are specialised foot rollers from dance shops and websites, but if you want to give your feet a quick massage now to see if it helps you can even just use a rolling pin from the kitchen! I actually transformed one into my massager which does the trick to roll out tight muscles. Otherwise, you might also to try getting a proper foot massage to see if it helps with the pain.

Although you have to fully stretch your foot on pointe, try not to think of squeezing but lengthening. You want your muscles to be active and 'fired', but not too tense or they will go into cramp. This is just something to bare in mind when you're working on pointe.

If you get this painful feeling in your slippers as well, then something more must be going on with your feet. Honestly, I'm not sure what it is but I suppose when a pain in ballet becomes consistent it will build up and become more painful in your day-to-day life.

I'm not 100% certain it is your pointe shoes causing the pain, but it's worth trying another brand or make to see if the pain persists. I think Bloch is a good brand of pointe shoe though, so perhaps double check the fitting which is key.

I hope my advice here help, sorry I couldn't pinpoint exactly what the pain is. Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes!

Best wishes,

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