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ProGait | Gait Analysis

Should dancers wear orthotics?

The use of orthotics for dancers is often the cause for discussion and many questions are raised. As with most things the answer to the question varies depending on certain factors. There are 26 bones in the feet along with 33 joints, 19 muscles, 10 tendons and 107 ligaments. The feet are designed to allow shock absorption, propulsion and balance in a variety of positions. Our feet allow us to run, jump and dance in the most wonderful way. Our feet really are a great feat of engineering. As with anything, things can go wrong especially with dancers who put great demands on their feet or young children who have sudden growth spurts.

In order to look at orthotics a Biomechanical Assessment is usually required which will look at your gait and the forces that run through your feet when walking/running/standing. State of the art technology calculates where your centre of pressure is, maximum pressures, and other information such as how early your heel lifts in a step. From the results of a gait analysis and a pressure plate analysis a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan formed. A combination of orthotics and exercises may be prescribed.

Dancing places many demands on the body. Continuous pressure is applied to a specific area of the foot when dancing rather than being distributed equally across the foot as it is when you are walking or running. Whether you are a ballroom dancer or a ballet dancer each dance step places huge force on the toes, arches of the feet, balls of the feet and ankles. Our feet are not designed to bear such forces and this is when problems can occur. If coupled with a biomechanical problem such as pronation, supination, flat feet or heel spurs this can eventually lead to the break down of the fatty, protective pads on the feet, the muscles, tendons and ligaments and even the bones to break down and work less efficiently causing pain and discomfort. This will cause the feet to perform less efficiently, reducing one’s ability to dance comfortably. Many ‘biomechanical’ (walking) complaints such as heel pain, knee pain and lower back pain are caused by poor foot function.

Dance orthotics are designed to deal with the variation in structure and function dancing places on the feet and body. Custom-made orthotics or more specifically Dance Orthotics, protect the feet from abnormal stress, and comfortably correct any biomechanical foot problems which may be present. Dance Orthotics will distribute body weight evenly across the entire foot – this will relieve stressed and strained areas. The orthotic provides support but also allows movement in the correct alignment to develop strength. Stress on the muscles will reduce and blisters and calluses will disappear. Custom made orthotics can be made from various materials depending on the requirement of the orthosis and can be fitted to virtually any shoe.

The results are feet which function as they should and pain-free dancing!