Podiatrist (Foot and Ankle Specialist) Questions Ballerina foot

What is the meaning of the term ballerina foot?

I recently came across a term while reading an article called ballerina foot. What exactly does this term mean? Does it only happen from the physical stresses of dance?

6 Answers

A lot of times when I am examining a patient's foot, I can tell if they are/were a dancer. Dancers usually have loose and flexible joints with contractures of the toes (hammertoes) and callus in certain parts. I could look at a lineup of feet and know right away who's a dancer, especially ballet (hint: usually they are missing toenails from being on pointe).
Ballerina foot is usually a term used for injuries and conditions that are associated with ballerinas. Non-dancers can develop similar conditions if they have high stress on their feet similar to dancers.

Jonathan M. Kletz, DPM
Ballerina foot frequently refers to the ideal ballet foot, which is found to be supple and possess an accentuated instep arch. Sadly, most ballerinas do not often present this way. The repetitive stress loading to the foot performing the required positions often results in over use injuries to tendon, ligament, bone, and joint. Some of the common ailments seen in ballerinas include posterior ankle impingement syndrome, flexor tendinitis, degenerative changes, particularly to the great toe, and acquired digital
contractures. It is an unfortunate tale that the ideal foot presentation is frequently lost due to the nature of the activity.
Ballerina foot is not medical terminology, but an observation of the damage caused by years of dancing en pointe. Toe contractures occur, bunion deformities develop, and eventually, arthritic changes occur very often.
Ballerina foot is a term used to describe foot injuries sustained by wearing toe shoes associated with ballet dancing. The term can also be used for patients with problems that are often seen in ballet dancers but not necessarily dances themselves.
To be honest I have never heard of nor used the term ‘ballerina foot’. There are certain foot and ankle conditions that affect dancers at a higher incidence than the normal population. The classic condition associated with professional ballet dancers is a condition called os trigonum syndrome. When ballet dancers are en pointe it puts stress on an accessory bone at the posterior (back) aspect of the ankle. This causes pain and swelling of the flexor hallucis longus tendon which is active during extreme plantarflexion while en pointe.

There are other conditions that affect dancers such as corns, callouses, bunions, hammertoes, stress fractures that come with the extreme rigors of professional dancing. Thank you for your question.