Why do Ballerinas Cut Their Feet with Razors?

Ballerinas look graceful and elegant as they pirouette across the stage. They seem to dance effortlessly, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ballet dancing is exceptionally athletic and involves intense effort using every muscle in the dancer’s body. Above all, a ballerina’s feet take the brunt of the strenuous exertion involved in ballet dancing. All the leaping, running, turning, and balancing takes a heavy toll on their feet, especially when you factor in the hours of practice to get the perfect form and fix incorrect pointe posture. After all, the performance you see is the result of months of grueling rehearsals.

Why Do Ballerinas Cut Their Feet With Razors?

black and white image of two feet that are bruised and bandaged
Image via Flickr by Balletstar011

Ballerina’s wear ballet slippers called pointe shoes. During certain ballet moves, they balance on the tips of the toe of the shoe. Unfortunately, this puts all the ballerina’s body weight on their toes, causing a host of foot problems including bunions, calluses, corns, and blisters. These conditions may become so bothersome that ballerinas will attempt to cut off the affected areas of their feet with razors to get some relief. However, things like bunions affect the bones of the feet and can’t be removed by a razor.

Considering that ballerinas spend four to six hours a day in pointe shoes, it’s no wonder that their feet take quite a beating. In addition, classical ballet dancers need to feel the floor as they dance, so their leather or canvas slippers must be snug and somewhat on the thin side. Pointe shoes are often soft and don’t have much cushioning. Ballerinas usually try to harden their ballet slippers with furniture polish and stuff the toes with cotton wool to protect their feet.

Common Injuries to Ballerina Feet

Ballerina’s feet are subject to a plethora of injuries, including:

  • Blisters and calluses. When dancing in pointe shoes that haven’t been properly broken in or are ill-fitting, blisters and calluses are common. Both conditions are caused by friction between the toes and movement. Even in broken-in, properly fitted pointe shoes, calluses, and blisters may still occur.
  • Ingrown toenails. Pressure on the toes can cause the corner or edge of a toenail to grow into the skin.
  • Broken or black nails. Repeated impact, overuse, and blisters can all lead to toenails breaking or turning black.
  • Sprained ankles. Overuse of the ankle, often for many hours per day, can lead to sprains. 
  • Bunions. This condition creates a bony bump on the joint where the dancer’s big toe meets her foot. This is a result of the tension on the joint of her big toe and the crowding of her toes inside the ballet slipper.
  • Stress fractures. Overuse can create tiny cracks in the bones of the feet. Jumping or turning can cause pain and worsen the fractures.
  • Dancer’s heel. Also known as dancer’s ankle, as it affects the rear area of the ankle, its official name is posterior impingement syndrome.
  • Morton’s neuroma. This condition is due to a pinched nerve that creates pain between the ballerina’s toes and the ball of her foot.
  • Plantar fasciitis. This is a painful inflammation of tissue in the foot that extends from heel to toe.
  • Metatarsalgia. Overuse is to blame for this painful inflammation in the ball of the dancer’s foot.
  • Hallux rigidus. This injury can progress to the point that it becomes difficult to move the toe by affecting the joint at the base of the big toe.
  • Achilles tendonitis. Dancing can stress the Achilles tendon through overuse. While the milder form of this condition may be treatable at home, surgery will be necessary if the Achilles tendon tears.

Treating Ballerina Feet

In all cases, cutting your feet with a razor is a poor substitute for proper foot care by a podiatrist or an orthopedic doctor who’s an expert in sport’s and dance medicine. Located in Northern Illinois, with convenient offices in Chicago and Park City, Dr. Lisa Schoene is well-versed in dance medicine, having extensive knowledge, experience, and techniques to treat dancers suffering from issues with their feet. If you’re a ballet dancer, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands, as you can cause more damage to your feet.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Schoene at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine for a thorough evaluation of your foot conditions. She’ll examine your feet and then develop a treatment plan to alleviate your pain and treat your symptoms so that you can get back to dancing ballet. Remember that cutting your feet with razors can do more harm than good. Leave the treatment of your feet to a seasoned professional. When you’re under the care of Dr. Schoene, your feet will be in good hands.