Prime dancing describes the simple joy of physical movement and ballet is considered the highest form of movement, the perfect synthesis of abstract and the human mind. The aesthetics of ballet call for a long, tapered line of the leg, which is enhanced by the almost conical shape of the shoe.
Dancers wear blocked slippers called toe shoes or pointe shoes in order to dance on the tips of their toes. Ballet dancers are tradionalists and very suspicious about their footwear.
Scientists in the US (Inova Fairfax Hospital of Virginia) developed plastic coated pointe shoes, which they believe would reduce peak pressures on the dancer toes. Pressure measurements obtaining sophisticated in-shoe and mat sensors suggest the synthetic shoes improve stability and reduce stress on a dancer's legs while en pointe (on her toes) or in a stance position. Pressure data comparisons between professional dancers wearing traditional pointe shoes made of paper, burlap, and a cardboard shank and the new pointe shoes made with multiple layers of elastomeric materials in the shank and toe box revealed the new synthetic shoes gave 38% more surface area during an arabesque (dancer balances on one foot with the opposite leg extended behind her), which suggests more stability in the ankle and subtalar joints. In addition, the average overall plantar pressure during jumps in fifth position (one foot in front of the other) was 18% lower for the synthetic shoes, suggesting that the accommodative design alleviates stress on a dancer's legs and feet. Now all they need to do is convince the professional dancers who stoically bare their foot injuries as a right of passage.
An Australian innovation to help prevent feet related injuries in ballet dancers are elasticated foot support called Dance Arches . Well worth checking out.
Bieze J 2003 Synthetic pointe shoes should help ballerinas hold up under pressure BioMechanics October 2003.