How to Avoid Foot Injuries in Barre Fitness Classes

Barre Fitness Instructors, did you know that excessive plies in releve put participants at risk for injuries in the feet, knees, and ankles?! Check out why.
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Recently, I have been asked by several barre instructors why I do not believe in training participants to be in a forced arch with knees driven over the feet while pulsing rapidly for a lengthy period of time. I believe this position overly compromises the functionality of the body, thus creating a lot of risk for our participants. In this blog, I want to discuss how not to compromise your feet and knees while in a fitness barre class.

Let’s talk about your feet…

First, why would we ask our participants to perform this movement? Do you see it replicated in life anywhere?

Secondly, there is always a risk to benefit ratio in exercise. This movement has a much larger risk associated than benefit. It is one of the most compromising positions you could put your body in for injuries! Most women feel an excruciating pain during this exercise. They are told they are “spot reducing” and/or “toning,” which is false. Let us remember that the body works as a whole, not as a part.

Consider a foot that is forced into a high arch.

This position prevents the foot from doing what it is designed to do: absorb gravity and disperse impact throughout the rest of the body. When the foot hits the ground in gait, the subtalar joint locks up and creates stability for the foot as it goes through inversion, abduction and adduction, with the ankle moving through dorsi and plantar flexion.

Forcing students to stay in this position for extended periods of time will create dysfunction of the foot. Remember that very few ballet dancers leave the world of pointe shoes without major foot issues!

Also, without proper foot function the rest of the kinetic chain is compromised. Here are a few issues directly associated with improper foot training:

  1. Bunions will develop
  2. Mortons neuroma will develop (which is extremely painful)
  3. Planter fasciitis, due to such stress on the fascia of the foot and over stretching it
  4. Calves will become extremely tight
  5. Glutes will become extremely weak

What about the knees?

Next, forcing the knees over the toes places the patella femoral joint in a very painful and compromising position. The knee is designed to naturally flex and extend but not be placed in a forced abduction and over the toes for a lengthy period of time. Once again this position forces compression on the knee laterally, and most women have lateral knee issues stemming from torn meniscus to arthritis. Lengthening the muscles above and below the knee, especially the glutes, will create strength, flexibility, and function.

Stay Safe!

For the safety of your participants, PLEASE do not over pulse, hold, or use this risky position. Replace this motion with a true squat position with the knees and ankles in a safer and more functional position. We need to train better movers, so give them exercises that replicate true life movements.

Avoid Foot Injuries in Barre Fitness Workouts

Leslee Bender

Leslee Bender

Leslee Bender has been in the fitness industry for over 25 years. She is the creator of the Bender Ball method of training and co-creator of Barre Above. Leslee has filmed over 25 DVD’s, has been on national TV as a fitness expert, and presents internationally at several educational conferences. Leslee is a trainer to professional athletes in Orlando, Florida, where she is also the fitness adviser of Club True Barre. Leslee is the co-creator and education director for True Bar Fitness Systems. Leslee’s field of expertise is Functional movement analysis with an emphasis on flexibility. Leslee has had the experience in working in a Cadaver lab of which gives an understanding of the complexity of fascia. Leslee also works to help trainers learn the purpose of exercise and why they are performing movements and not simply memorizing them. She believes that the fitness industry need to have higher standards of education, requiring trainers to truly understand human movement, as it applies to science.

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