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Dancer’s Heel- 3 Effective Treatment Strategies

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Dr. Jameel - MBBS, MCPS (Family Med)

Dr. Jameel, a compassionate family physician, simplifies medical information through easy-to-understand blogs. His holistic approach promotes healthier living, and he's actively engaged in local health initiatives. Join him on your journey to better health.

Dancer's heel

Dancer’s heel is a condition that affects the heel of the foot. It is common in dancers because they put a lot of pressure on their feet. This can cause pain and make it hard to dance or walk. Dancer’s heel is also known as posterior impingement syndrome. It happens when the tissues at the back of the ankle are compressed. It is most common in ballet dancers and athletes.

Causes of Dancer’s Heel

There are several reasons why someone might get dancer’s heel. Understanding these causes can help prevent it. Some of the important causes are:

  • Repeatedly pointing the toes can stress the heel.
  • High-impact activities like jumping can cause it.
  • Wearing tight shoes that squeeze the heel can contribute.

Is Os Trigonum  (Extra Bone) Responsible for Dancer’s Heel?

Sometimes, an extra bone in the foot can cause problems. This bone is called an os trigonum.

  • The os trigonum is located behind the talus bone in the ankle joint.
  • When the foot points down (plantar flexion), the os trigonum can pinch the soft tissues at the back of the heel.
  • Some dancers have a larger back part of the talus bone, called the Stieda process, which can also narrow the space in the heel.

A. Facts About Os Trigonum

The presence of an os trigonum can sometimes cause heel pain, but not always.

  • About 7% of people have an os trigonum, and it often doesn’t cause any issues.
  • For dancers and athletes, it can be a problem because of the frequent foot movements.
  • Not everyone with an os trigonum or prominent talus needs surgery or to stop dancing.
  • Pain must be directly linked to the back of the talus.
  • Many dancers with an os trigonum have no problems.
  • Heel pain can have multiple causes, not just the os trigonum.

B. Signs to Watch for

  • Pain right behind the talus bone during a physical exam.
  • A lateral (side view) x-ray of the ankle can show an os trigonum or a prominent posterior aspect of the talus.

Common Activities Leading to Dancer’s Heel

Certain activities put more pressure on the heel. These activities can lead to dancer’s heel.

  • Ballet dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Running

Other Contributing Factors

Sometimes, other factors can increase the risk of getting dancer’s heel.

  • Foot shape: Some foot shapes are more prone to this condition.
  • Previous injuries: Past injuries to the heel or ankle can make it more likely.
  • Overuse: Doing too much activity without rest can cause it.

Symptoms of Dancer’s Heelsymptoms of dancer's heel

Knowing the symptoms can help you recognize dancer’s heel early. This can help in getting treatment sooner.

  • Pain at the back of the heel
  • Swelling around the heel
  • Difficulty moving the foot, especially pointing the toes

How the Pain Feels?

The pain from dancer’s heel can vary. It can feel different for each person.

  • Sharp pain when pointing toes
  • Dull ache after dancing or activity
  • Pain that gets worse with more activity

Other Signs to Watch For

Besides pain, there are other signs that might indicate dancer’s heel.

  • Stiffness in the ankle
  • Redness or warmth around the heel
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving the foot

Diagnosis of Dancer’s Heel

Doctors use several methods to diagnose dancer’s heel. Proper diagnosis is important for the right treatment.

  • Physical examination: The doctor will check the foot and ankle.
  • Medical history: The doctor will ask about activities and past injuries.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays or MRIs can show damage to the heel.

A. Steps in a Physical Examination

During the exam, the doctor will look for specific signs. This helps in identifying dancer’s heel.

  • Checking for tenderness at the back of the heel
  • Asking the patient to point and flex the toes
  • Testing the range of motion of the ankle

B. Imaging Tests

Imaging tests provide a clear picture of the heel. They help confirm the diagnosis. Following imaging tests are done, if you’re suspecting dancer’s heel:

  • X-ray:  it shows the bones in the heel and ankle.
  • MRI: Gives detailed images of the soft tissues.
  • Ultrasound: Can show inflammation or fluid buildup.

Treatment Options for Dancer’s Heel

There are many ways to treat dancer’s heel. Treatment can help in reducing pain and improving feet movement. Following are some of the recommended treatment strategies:

1. Home Remedies

  • Rest: Taking a break from activities that cause pain.
  • Ice: Applying ice to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Medication: Using pain relievers like ibuprofen.

2. Physical TherapyPhysical therapy for Dancer's heel

Physical therapy can help strengthen the foot and ankle. This can prevent future problems. Physical therapy offers following benefits:

  • Exercises to improve flexibility
  • Strength training for the ankle muscles
  • Techniques to reduce pain and swelling

3. Medical Treatments

Sometimes, more advanced treatments are needed. These can help when other methods don’t work. Medical treatment involves:

  • Injections: Steroid injections to reduce inflammation
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery might be needed to fix the problem

How to Prevent Dancer’s Heel?

Preventing dancer’s heel is better than treating it. Some of the ways to reduce the risk are:

  • Warm-up exercises before dancing
  • Wearing proper footwear with good support
  • Avoiding overuse by taking regular breaks

Tips for Dancers

Dancers can take specific steps to protect their heels. Following tips can help keep their feet healthy:

  • Use cushioned insoles in dance shoes
  • Strengthen the calf and ankle muscles
  • Avoid dancing on hard surfaces

General Foot Care Tips

Everyone can benefit from good foot care. These tips can help prevent many foot problems:

  • Keep feet clean and dry
  • Trim toenails properly to avoid injury
  • Wear shoes that fit well and provide support

When to See a Doctor?

Sometimes, dancer’s heel requires medical attention. You should visit a doctor, if you experience:

  • Pain that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Swelling that doesn’t go down
  • Difficulty walking or standing

Preparing for the Doctor’s Visit

Being prepared can help you get the most from your doctor’s visit. Here are some tips:

  • Write down your symptoms and when they started?
  • List any activities that make the pain worse
  • Bring any previous medical records related to foot or ankle problems

The Bottom Line

Dancer’s heel is a common condition that can affect anyone, especially dancers. Understanding the causes, symptoms and treatments can help in managing the condition effectively. With proper care most people can return to their activities without pain. Always consult a doctor if you have severe pain or difficulty moving as early treatment can help in avoiding serious problems.


Content on this site is written with thorough research and keeping in mind the latest guidelines. However, no content on this site should substitute professional consultation.

Picture of Dr. Jameel

Dr. Jameel

Dr Jameel is a practicing family physician. He writes easy to understand medical blogs to create health awareness and help people to live a healthier life.

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