5 ways ballerinas at Birmingham Royal Ballet maintain healthy feet

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Ballet dancers may be graceful and elegant — but beneath the tutus lie hectic schedules and more strength than many people would expect.

How do ballerinas keep their feet healthy when they’re dancing in pointe shoes? Birmingham Eastside visited Birmingham Royal Ballet to find out.

1. They exercise

At the start of every season rehabilitation and performance coach Jenny Mills will assess the dancers to identify any issues and they then do foot exercises to combat them:

“We run through some exercises for mobility, and strengthening of the feet. Then we work through the body because obviously your feet are very important, they’re the foundations of where you stand.”

Principal dancer Samara Downs says they put a lot of work into building up their foot muscles:

“If you look at a ballet dancer’s toes, they’re almost like fingers, you can almost move each one. They’re quite dexterous and that’s because of all the intrinsic muscles in the feet.

“It takes strength from the whole foot and ankle and everything higher up as well: pelvis; core. Everything supports pointe work.”

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2. They keep their toe nails short

Samara says she has to keep her toe nails short when she’s doing pointe work otherwise she gets cuts between her toes.

She also doesn’t wear nail vanish when she dances on pointe:

“I don’t think it’s the case for everyone but my toes bruise, which means I can’t wear nail varnish.”

Samara Downs' feet

Samara Downs’ feet

3. They wear the right size shoes

Shoe supervisor Michael Clifford says that one of the challenges the team faces is that, much like not wanting to go up a size in clothes, many dancers don’t want to wear bigger sizes and instead wear ill-fitting shoes.

Jenny Mills adds:

“When the company do tours to hot countries the dancer’s feet swell but also the amount of performances they do makes them swell too.

“So, it’s really to be preventative in making sure that the shoes are large enough so they don’t suffer from soft corns or blisters.”

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4. They let their feet recover

Dancing in pointe shoes is painful for even the most seasoned ballerina, so giving your feet some down time is essential.

Samara Downs says she pretty much lives in trainers:

“It’s really hard on your feet so I wear trainers to give me that recovery time when I’m not in ballet shoes.”

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5. They have good foot hygiene

Keeping your feet clean is essential for maintaining healthy feet.

Jenny Mills recommends wearing flip flops in public showers, regularly changing footwear and wearing dry socks:

“Wear socks with the highest percentage of cotton that you can because they absorb sweat.

“And don’t just change your socks once a day: change them three, four times if necessary to keep the feet dry.”

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For more information and to find tickets for this season’s shows, visit Birmingham Royal Ballet.

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