What Are Sickled Feet?

Dancing is an elegant sport, with the beautiful flow of the dancer and their graceful movements. The way they point their toes and twirl their bodies takes talent. As dancers train for the big show, they need to make sure they are practicing proper movements not to injure themselves. Sickling is a standard improper foot formation that can potentially cause further injury to a dancer.

What Is Sickling?

Black and white photo of a ballet dancer on pointe
Image via Flickr by Kryziz Bonny

Sickled foot is a description of how a dancer positions their feet in a pointed position. When dancers are in any dance movement, they need to have their toes in a pointed position. A dancer who is sickling will have their toes pointed inward, which causes their heel to drop. Instead of being up on your toes high enough so that the heel is slightly forward and the toes behind the ankle bone, a sickle foot is essentially flatter or not in line with your leg correctly.

A dancer who does not get in the correct pointed position could potentially suffer from an injury. Sickling can lead to weak ankles, tendonitis, or sprains. As a trainer, it’s vital to correct a dancer when their feet are not positioned correctly.

How To Correctly Position Your Feet

You can practice pointing your feet correctly in a sitting position. First, you will want to point your feet to be positioned in a straight line out from your calf muscle. Next, move your foot a half-inch to the outside. Now imagine a line going from your ankle down. Your big toe should be in line with this. When moving your big toe out, if your point is lost, go back to aligning your foot with your calf.

Why Do Dancers Sickle Their Feet?

Sickling your feet is a common mistake dancers make, especially young or new dancers. Someone beginning dance typically has not developed an awareness of positioning or orienteering their feet, called proprioception. It’s like having muscle memory. Once your muscle memory has developed, you’re more apt to feel when the foot is not positioned correctly. As a new dancer, it is essential to be appropriately trained to develop awareness for proper foot, knee, ankle, and hip alignment. This training will help prevent injury.

Another reason that a dancer may sickle their feet is due to having stiff feet or feet that naturally sickle. If you’re a dancer who is unfortunate to have one of these situations, you may want to visit a physical therapist, dance medicine specialist, or work with a qualified trainer to assist you with correcting the formation. Sometimes you may even have to get personalized training to rectify the sickling before weak ankles develop.

A beginner dancer should not be deterred if they are having trouble finding the correct position. Expert dancers can also struggle with sickling their feet, especially when they’re pointing their feet hard. It’s natural for your feet to want to point inward. If an expert dancer loses focus or isn’t thinking about their placement, they may sickle their feet.

How To Avoid Sickling Your Feet

There are strategies and techniques a dancer can do to avoid sickling their feet. Just like any other sport, strength training can be a key component to avoid sickling feet position. It takes strength in your feet, ankle, leg, and glute to keep your feet in proper alignment. Doing daily stretches and exercises can help you develop the muscles needed to place your feet properly.

A dancer will also want to increase their endurance and flexibility. Dancing takes a lot of energy, as the performer is constantly moving throughout the performance. If the dancer is fatigued, they’re more likely to get sloppy with their movements and placements. Building up your endurance will help you keep your body in the correct formation. Stretching and practicing proper placement will increase your overall flexibility allowing you to function more smoothly. Developing core muscle strength also improves the likelihood that you’ll be placing your feet correctly.

Receiving proper training is also crucial when it comes to developing proper foot placements. One-on-one training may cost a few more dollars, but in the end, it could save you from injuring yourself. With proper training, you’ll develop the correct muscles to become more natural to place your feet properly.

Why Does Placement Matter?

Placement and alignment of your body are vastly important when it comes to dancing. To make dancing more artistically appealing, a dancer needs to have proper placement and alignment. A dancer wants to keep their body in line so that their movements will be more beautiful and graceful. If the dancer competes, the judge will be looking for these things.

Not only does proper placement make dancing look more incredible, but it’s also better for your body. A dancer that has not developed proper technique and muscle strength is more likely to suffer from an injury. A dancer who has suffered from an injury, like a severe sprain, increases their chances of repeat injuries. This can affect their dancing career for a lifetime as they’ll have to work harder to keep their body healthy and in the condition to perform.

Sickling your feet while dancing is a big no-no, and dancers need to learn to keep their bodies in proper alignment. Sickling can be prevented as well as corrected. Early intervention with a trained dancer, physical therapist, or doctor of podiatry is a way to prevent or correct sickled feet. Building muscle and creating muscle memory will also help with the proper placement of the feet. Strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and developing awareness will also assist a dancer with preventing sickled feet.

Contact Dr. Schoene

If you’re looking for a quality healthcare professional who specializes in dance medicine, check out Dr. Schoene at Gurnee Podiatry and Sports Medicine Associates. Dr. Schoene, a sports medicine specialist and certified athletic trainer, understands that behind the beauty and grace of dancing is a lot of flexibility, strength, and stamina, often causing additional stress on the body. Whether you’re an amateur or professional dancer, contact Dr. Schoene for a consultation today to see how she can keep you dancing well into the future.