While most parents are excited for their child to begin ballet lessons, many also worry about what it will do to their child's body. The effect of ballet on a child's feet, in particular, is a common area of concern--especially for girls, who will eventually need to go en pointe. If you're worried about your child's feet, your first thought might be to take them to a podiatrist to get them orthotics. However, parents who think about taking this route are often told by ballet teachers or other dancers that orthotics are unnecessary and can inhibit development in the dance. So, what's the truth? Here's all you need to know about whether your budding young ballet dancing child should get orthotics when they begin training.
Why Are Some People Against Orthotics?
The argument against orthotics is simple: many people in the ballet field believe that the support orthotics provide can prevent a child from developing the muscles and bones in their feet and stop them from learning how to dance unaided. There is some truth behind this assumption. After all, the feet are designed to propel the body and absorb shock without support. However, it's important to note that the strain of ballet is much more intense than daily wear and tear, especially for children, whose bodies grow at both rapid and uneven rates. The rationale that applies to everyday adults isn't necessarily applicable to children in ballet.
Can Orthotics Be Used Without Inhibiting Training?
The answer to whether orthotics can be used without encountering the issues mentioned above is both yes and no. If orthotics are used throughout a decade or more of training, it will be difficult for a dancer to learn how to move their body correctly without them, and they may not be able to reach the technical level of their peers. However, that doesn't mean orthotics aren't suitable for beginner ballet dancers. Generally, podiatrists agree that orthotics can be a great way to help children develop strength, balance and alignment in their feet while in the early stages of training. They'll reduce the risk of pain and injury that can inhibit early training and put children off continuing with the dance. Then, as the child gets better at ballet and their feet become stronger, they can remove the orthotics and develop their technique without them.
Which Orthotics Are Right?
If you do choose to help your child's feet by using orthotics in early training, make sure you go to a qualified podiatrist with experience in orthoses. Ballet orthotics should be firm enough to support the foot but soft enough to allow it to move as needed. When your child no longer needs the orthotics, a podiatrist can also help them transition to a thin ballet shoe insole for full-time use to prevent injury.
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