Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Care Of Shin Splints - Or Prevent Shin Splints By Building Strong Foot Muscles

Understanding shin splints requires knowing how to use your foot muscles properly.

This affects all your ballet positions and movements. Even more basic, is understanding where your weight should be on your standing foot/feet.

If not drawn back too much on the heel, the calf muscles and tibial (shin) muscles do not have to strain even before you've made a move.


 To avoid shin splints altogether, check how you're standing in parallel, and how your feet are positioned on the floor.

Ideally, you have arches that don't flatten on the floor when you are standing, and also don't hold an arch shape with a rigid locked position.

The front of your ankle is relaxed because your weight is on the middle of the heel, the outside of the foot at the little toe metatarsal joint, and the inside of the foot at the big toe metatarsal joint.Think "tripod".

The rest of your body is stacked upward from ankle to knee (if your knees are hyper-extended you have been shown how to hold them in a straight position) to hip, through the natural spinal curves to your head.

Imagery-wise, your head floats above all of this. Realistically, you work with your rib cage held but not clenched down, so your neck does not have to compensate with a chin pulling up and forward, eliminating the natural curve.

And all of that has to do with how your feet rest on the floor.

If your feet are flat and soft, standing correctly, turning out correctly and getting the weight distributed on the foot (picture a triangle or tripod) is going to activate the sole of the foot muscles but NOT activate tibial (shin) and/or calf muscles that will strain if your weight has sunk inwards. Dancers call it rolling ankles.

Having the weight a tad forward (isn't that nice and scientific) feeling ready to move into a tendu and take the weight on the standing leg, is an activated but not tense or clenched feeling in your legs and core muscle area.

So even though shin splints are usually associated with jumping on hard floors, or overworking through long rehearsal days, shin splints can start with a lack of understanding just how to stand on your feet - and also not understanding what type of feet you are standing on.

It doesn't MATTER what kind of feet you have. It matters that you know how to use them and improve them, way before you get into pointe shoes.

A foot that is arched but rigid in the mid section can be loosened up with massage, warm foot baths, and regular ballet strengthening exercises.

A soft flat foot can be strengthened and activated properly on the floor.More about that HERE.

A hyper-mobile highly arched foot can be strengthened and controlled by the intrinsic (sole of the foot) muscles.

A less flexible ankle can be stretched properly, starting with relaxing the shin muscles.......that may be strained by weight drawing back on the heel, as mentioned above.

Ideally you prevent shin splints.

If you are past that, you practice good care of shin splints with massage, ice, perhaps rest, and applying all of the above.

Swelling and inflammation of the tibial muscles can get extremely painful, and severe pain should be addressed by a ballet/sports/fitness physiotherapist or chiropractor. There may be a stress fracture present, so it's good to know exactly what you are healing.

Take a look at your parallel bare feet position in the mirror and get your weight placed properly.  

Women and men in sports/fitness/ballet can learn to prevent shin splints with The Perfect Pointe Book exercises and improve reflexes and fine balance, for all dance and sports.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ballet Pointe Shoes and How to Control Your Professional Footwork

To prepare your ballet footwork for pointe shoes, concentrate on the single factor which will make up for perhaps not getting exactly the right fit with your first pair of toe shoes. It is not the ballet shoe ribbons or the toe padding that you use. It is not your teacher, or the type of dance floor at your ballet studio. It is something you own, and it cannot be taken from you. It is the strength in your tiny foot muscles.

The advantages of developing your intrinsic foot muscles (the ones that are in your feet and are not extensions of leg muscles) are:

* your calf and tibial (shin muscles) will not over work and hold extra tension because of weak foot muscles

* your Achilles tendon will not be prone to dance injuries due to tense calf muscles

* your reflexes will develop in your ballet footwork, giving the needed control and balance

* you will able to use the full depth and power of your demi plie

* you will be able to secure your weight properly on your feet, in the 'tripod' or middle of the heel/at the little toe metatarsal joint/at the big toe metatarsal joint

When you cannot get the exact fit in pointe shoes, compensations can be made with toe spacers, gel padding, heel grips, and sewing wide elastic across the vamp for extra support. These are many methods that dancers use to make their pointe shoes more comfortable.

However, you gain an extra advantage over the availability - or lack of - the specific ballet shoes that you want, when your feet are really strong.

Another wonderful quality you gain from developing the right ballet muscles in your feet is a more relaxed, elegant upper body, helping you attain the impression of effortlessness that every ballet dancer strives for.

When you get into a ballet partnering class (Pas de deux, French words for 'dance for two"), you rely less on your partner for control.

You will also have more of a cat-like quality simply walking in your pointe shoes, not to mention performing difficult classical dance movements requiring finer ballet footwork.

Doing ballet in pointe shoes is not difficult if you are prepared. You'll become the dancer you want to be with strong professional footwork.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Reading For Understudies....

I just found this article on the blog "Ballet Business". It is good advice!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ballet Shoes and the Perfect Pointe Muscles

Both young and adult ballet beginners wonder when they can dance in pointe shoes. The process of training foot muscles begins in your very first ballet class.

Learning accurate ballet technique from day one is your best way to get into pointe shoes faster. The Perfect Pointe Book is the best manual I know of to get the best ballet tips.

The proper use of foot muscles begins even before you pointe your foot. Here is a quick review:

Your street shoes! Do you wear supportive shoes generally? If you alternate between pointed toe high heels and flip-flops, you may decide to make a lifestyle change to help prepare your foot muscles for dancing ballet in pointe shoes.

High heels are usually pointed, angling in the big toe. This strains the soft tissues around the toe joint, and ultimately can lead to painful bunions.

High heels will usually throw your posture out of a neutral spine position - which means, that when neutral, all your natural spinal curves are in place, with no unnecessary tension compromising your neck/shoulder/spinal/hip joints. With all those with neutral spinal position in high heels please raise their get the idea that this would be rare.

High heels throw your weight forward off the "tripod" platform of even distribution from the middle heel point, to the point at the big toe metatarsal joint and the little toe metatarsal joint, thus the tripod metaphor. This will affect your posture and muscle tension required to go about life.

Flip-flops force the muscles in the sole of the foot (the exact muscles that ultimately allow you to control your positions and movements in point shoes) to clench, just to keep the shoes on! You get used to this, but it is a contraction of the foot you would not normally need if you were wearing supportive shoes.

While foot massage, proper stretching, and other foot pampering can partly compensate for flip-flop wearing, would all those who wear flip-flops who daily massage and stretch their foot muscles please raise.....

Worn out oxfords and sneakers (for you men in ballet) will also compromise the daily use of your foot muscles. Your feet have to do what the shoes cannot.

In your first ballet class you will learn how to stand in first position. Here it will most likely be mentioned that your feet should be flat on the floor, foot muscles not clenched in any way. Thus you achieve the tripod weight distribution.

If your feet pronate (ankles/arches dropping inwards) or supinate (rolling outwards) hopefully your teacher will notice and address your posture - spine/hips/knees/ankles, and locate the source of the pronation.

Weak muscles will strengthen, and eventually you can remedy improper foot placement on the floor.

So you see, before you do your first demi plie as a young or adult ballet beginner, you can do a lot to improve your perfect pointe muscles .