Documentary chronicles the efforts made to minimize foot pain in ballerinas

 

One would imagine that having a ballet company full of dancers with bunions, hammer toe and sore ankles would be something like having a shop stocked with damaged goods. As such, the New York City Ballet goes to great extents to make sure its ballerinas have healthy feet. In fact, its efforts are so tremendous that someone made a film about it.

The documentary is titled Point Shoes: The Importance of The Perfect Fit, and it chronicles the shoe-buying process for the prestigious ballet company – a hefty endeavor, apparently.

$70 a day keeps bunions at bay?

Each principal ballerina gets a new pair of custom-made point shoes each day, costing about $70 per dancer and adding up to $500,000 each year for the company as a whole.

"I think every girl in the company would say their shoe is the most important part of the performance," said ballerina Megan Fairchild, quoted by the Huffington Post. "You want to make sure you don't have to worry about any extra things besides your dancing."

Every tailor-made pair of pointe shoes is subsequently busted, broken, shaven and sewn so they perfectly suit the preferences of each dancer. Sometimes, ballerinas will even tape their toes to keep blisters at bay – a common occurrence when one spends eight hours per day on their toes.

The man behind the curtain

The task of buying shoes for the dancers of the New York City Ballet is so involved that it's a job on its own. Angel Betancourt is the company's shoe supervisor, seeing to it that each dancer's feet are adorned with fresh, pink satin pointe shoes from Freed of London. 

"Everybody here has specifications and the shoes are made according to that. If they cut the shoes wrong, they will know it, the ladies will know it," Betancourt said, quoted by the Daily Mail.

There is relief from foot pain for dancers

Ballerinas who return from rehearsal or a performance with sore toes may want to consider icing their feet and taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, like aspirin or ibuprofen. Additionally, dancers who develop bunions may be interested to know that bunion splints and orthotics have been shown to reduce the appearance of bony deformities without bunion surgery.
 

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Podiatrists warn against cosmetic foot surgery

 

In the olden days, it wasn't uncommon for a woman to endure painful foot binding or pinching corsets in order to appear fashionable. While we're not exactly cracking bones left and right to fit into today's hottest trends, many women are still going under the knife so they can more easily wear pointy-toed stilettos and the like.

I've talked about the Cinderella Procedure in previous posts, detailing the set of operations that can include bunion surgery, toe shortening, toe lengthening, foot narrowing and injections to pad the ball of the foot. 

Bunion surgery: A risky operation

The procedure has been touted by some as a way to obtain aesthetically pleasing tootsies, but physicians warn that all surgeries come with risk, and the foot is a rather important part of the body to be tampering with. As such, elective operations on the foot may not be a great idea.

"Our function is to relieve pain and correct deformities. We are not trained to allow women to fit into a narrower shoe," said Kathleen Stone, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association, quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

Complications that may arise following bunion surgery include infection, bunion recurrence, nerve damage, continued pain and over-correction, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

These side effects occur in about one in 10 bunion surgery patients. New York dermatologist Debra Jailman was one of the unlucky ones. She told the Wall Street Journal about her experience.

"I should never have had foot surgery," said Jailman. "Now my foot hurts all the time. I can't wear high heels ever. I can't play tennis. It's really impacted my life. It limits me tremendously."

How much are open-toed shoes worth?

CBS News also reported on the topic, talking to one woman who was getting her hammer toe shortened so she could don open-toed heels. However, the news source also concluded that elective foot surgery may not be a sound idea.

"The complications can be devastating. Some women have had to go through five or six surgeries just to get back to walking on their foot, much less getting into their shoes," said Stuart Miller, D.P.M, quoted by the news source.

Ladies who are thinking about undergoing the costly, risky operation may want to consider all of their options. For instance, using bunion splints and orthotics regularly has been shown to help women reduce the appearance of bony foot deformities – sans scalpel.

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Nigella Lawson talks about bunion surgery as a weight-loss plan

Last summer, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson revealed her bunions in public, leading numerous media outlets to plaster images of the voluptuous domestic goddess' feet on their pages. Well, it appears as though the attention affected Lawson, because she's since resorted to bunion surgery – which she said had a positive unintended side effect.

Lawson spoke with UK news source The Telegraph recently, revealing that she had bunions removed on both feet and that the subsequent pain was so intense that it prevented her from getting up for second servings or making midnight trips to the fridge.

"I couldn't walk to the fridge afterwards and, actually, it's quite a good diet; not because I stopped eating but because you can say to someone, 'Can you get me a slice of cake?' but it's kind of embarrassing to say, "And now could you get me a second slice?'" Lawson said, quoted by the news source. "And then when I did start hobbling around I had to feel I was hungry to go to the fridge. And that was quite good, because I suppose it trains you a bit."

Excess weight and foot pain have a cyclical relationship

It's not a rare thing for bunion correction to help people lose weight, though Lawson's situation may not be typical. Usually, fixing foot conditions – such as bunions, hammer toe and fallen arches – allows people to exercise more comfortably, thereby helping them shed pounds.

Conversely, carrying excess weight around can be the cause of foot pain. Everyday Health reported that being just 25 pounds overweight can lead to issues with the lower extremities, especially the foot and ankle.

Bunion surgery is not to be taken lightly

While bunion surgery may have worked for Lawson in unexpected ways, the operation comes with risks of infection, over-correction, scarring and bunion recurrence. (Moreover, those who are especially prone to overeating won't let crutches get in the way of their snacking. Can we say 'mini-fridge'?)

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends trying non-invasive methods of bunion correction before going under the knife. These include wearing supportive shoes with a roomy toe box, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and icing bunions when they become painful or inflamed.

Additionally, many individuals report that bunion splints and orthotics are able to help reduce the appearance of bony foot deformities – sans scalpel.
 

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Boston Marathoner talks about glory, dedication and foot pain

On April 16, approximately 25,000 runners will take to the streets of Boston and its suburbs to complete one of the most challenging physical feats in the country. The Boston Marathon is the holy grail of athletics for many runners, some of whom endure months of hard training, foot pain, shin splints, bunions, hammer toe and fallen arches to earn a spot on the roster of athletes who have completed the 26.2-mile race.

The Bunion Blog was lucky enough to sit down with one of this year's runners, Amber Christoffersen, a Boston resident and landscape architect, to talk about the challenges that come along with being a marathoner, and the glory of crossing the finish line.

Christoffersen ran her first marathon in 2002, and since then has completed one every other year, making the 2012 Boston Marathon her sixth.

"I've had a lot of painful moments during the races, but I think it's like having a kid where you block out the pain of pregnancy once you have the baby," Christoffersen said, referring to the mitigative feeling of accomplishment that one has after completing a marathon.

Foot pain topped the list of her running woes, as she's been plagued with blisters and calluses. Moreover, Christoffersen said she's beginning to develop ankle tendonitis, which may be the result of overuse or imbalanced foot landing mechanics. (These are also known causes of bunions and hammer toe, though at age 30, Christoffersen has a relatively low risk of the bony foot conditions.)

In order to take care of her feet, the runner said she buys good-quality running shoes – Nike and Asics being her brands of choice – and also remains conscious of the footwear she chooses not when hitting the pavement, but going out on the town. She explained that a blister that developed on her arch from wearing a trendy new pair of wedge booties wound up being a significant annoyance when training for the marathon.

"I tend to walk a lot in the city," Christoffersen said. "If you walk a couple of miles in cute shoes, that can do a lot of damage. You can have the best running shoes in the world, but if the ones you wear out at night hurt your feet, that can affect training." 

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Much work goes into the making of bunion-exacerbating heels

 

Some high heels come at a steal, while others cause ladies to live on ramen noodles for a month just to be able to afford a red-soled or other famously named pair of footwear. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article detailing what goes into the latter variety of shoes, giving some insight into why certain pumps cost so much.

A reporter with the news source went to Italy, the home of arguably the most finely crafted leather goods in the world.

"Orchards and cabbage fields are interspersed with small factories serving the most famous names in shoes – Louboutin, Ferragamo, Chanel, Armani, Prada, Alexander McQueen and Gucci among them," wrote author San Mauro Pascoli.

The writer spoke with Sergio Rossi shoemaker Francesco Russo, who explained that crafting the perfect pair of shoes is like designing a piece of architecture, because they're the foundation for a woman's body structure, which requires precise support.

For example, Russo said that heel height and strength are key factors to making a quality pair of shoes. Heels should be no more than 4.1 inches high, according to the designer, because anything taller alters the way a woman walks. Additionally, a weak heel – one that is made from anything but tempered steel – may cause significant stability issues.

"When you see a woman and her heel is shaking, it's normally because the steel isn't strong enough," said Russo, quoted by the news source.

The toe box presents another key factor in comfort, as it should be cushioned enough to absorb impact while walking – which can be great when wearing high heels because so much weight is placed on the ball of the foot.

The Harvard School of Public Health reports that a narrow toe box can be a catalyst for bunions or hammer toe. The bony foot conditions are thought to be genetic, but bunions or hammer toe are sometimes made worse by wearing towering stilettos and sky-high wedges because they place extraneous pressure on the toe joints.

Additionally, the university reports that conservative means of bunion correction should be tried before resorting to bunion surgery, which can potentially be painful and expensive. These non-invasive methods include wearing supportive footwear, using orthotics and icing inflamed areas.

Bunion splints have also been shown to reduce the appearance of bunions or hammer toe sans scalpel – and they may even allow women to slip back into their Louboutins.

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Jessica Simpson accused of copying Christian Louboutin’s bunion-inducing design

Previously, we discussed that Jessica Simpson is putting herself at serious risk of developing bunions or hammer toe, as the singer was spotted trotting around town wearing towering heels while pregnant. Now, the former reality television star may be looking at a different kind of trouble after being accused of ripping off a Christian Louboutin design.

Media outlets and fashion blogs are all over this story, showing side-by-side images of the high-end version and Simpson's department store brand. Readers, they are pretty darn similar.

Looking like something that would be worn by Barbie circa 1985, both pairs of shoes feature bright pink straps with yellow piping and a lavender heel and platform, topped off with a matching pastel buckle at the ankle.

Simpson's version is more brightly colored, has thicker straps and a slightly higher platform than Louboutin's, but the dissimilarities end there.

Louboutin has been in the throes of a legal battle with rival fashion house Yves Saint Laurent over the French designer's allegedly proprietary red soles. Currently, the case is held up in an appeals court, but New York Magazine points to the suit as an example of Louboutin's "litigious nature," suggesting that he may sue over the design.

However, the website Jezebel reported that clothing and accessory designs are not currently eligible for copyright protection, so it's unlikely that Louboutin would have a case if he chose to pursue legal action.

Many commentators on these websites point out that Simpson is simply offering people who can't afford the $995 price tag of the Louboutin version the opportunity to wear the trendy design. The singer's shoes retail for about $98.

Genuine high-end design or not, these shoes are almost certain to exacerbate bunions or hammer toe. Women who already have the bony foot deformities may end up with their bunions peeking out between pink-and-yellow straps – not a pretty look.

Ladies who are prone to bunions or hammer toe – meaning those with a family history of the foot conditions – should probably steer clear of shoes like these.

But if your willpower is just too weak to resist hot pink suede, consider using bunion splints or orthotics in order to reduce the appearance of bunions or hammer toe. Additionally, non-invasive means of bunion correction may help prevent painful bunion surgery.

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