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Dancers are better aligned in Gaynor Minden pointe shoes according to an independent study recently completed by the Exercise Science Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst led by Lise Worthen, B.F.A., a graduate student and Research Assistant in Biomechanics. Proper alignment is extremely important not only for ballet technique, but also for correct muscular development and for protecting the joints from injury.
In the study, ankle adduction ("sickling" in dance terminology), was reduced and, on average, subjects stood straighter in Gaynor Mindens. These results were announced at the 15th Annual Performing Artists Medicine Association Conference in Aspen, CO on June 21, 1997.
In an earlier separate study*, 80% of professional dancers were shown to suffer an injury to one or both ankles at some time in their careers. Worthen now points out that the high rate of injury may be a reflection of forces at work in the dancer's ankle joint - forces which reach up to 10 times a dancer's body weight in full plantar flexion (en pointe), according to an earlier study by Canadian biomechanists.** Worthen, a former ballet teacher at Bates College, says, "Straight ankle alignment is stressed as a part of proper ballet technique. This is a biomechanically smart element of technique because misalignment transmits these high forces to the medial/lateral ankle structures."
Worthen's study used a kinematic analysis of dancers' ankles. The test subjects were advanced level ballet students with at least eight years training. Two video cameras and Motion Analysis software were used to record and analyze the dancers.
"Preventing sickling and winging is important," says Worthen in the text of the study, "because each degree of misalignment in a dancer means force directed to the medial/lateral ankle structures (ligaments, bones, tendons and associated muscles). For example, the dancer who straightened her alignment by 12° in the experimental shoe (Gaynor Minden), alleviated approximately 24 lbs of laterally placed force each time she balanced en pointe... Seen in this light, redesigned pointe shoes may be important ergonomic tools for ballet dancers."
* McNeal, Watkins, Clarkson and Tremblay (Medical Problems of Performing