Health & Body

Ask Deb: Will My Feet and Knees Ever Line Up?


I would like information on how to manage tibial torsion for a dancer who has been "duck-footed" since birth. For years teachers told me I needed to strengthen my lower-leg muscles to make them align, but this just forced my feet to roll to the outside or put pressure on my knees. What should I do?

When you have tibial torsion, you need to monitor the weight placement on your feet to determine if you are placed correctly. I understand many teachers will say to put your knees over your feet, but dancers with true tibial torsion can only do that by sickling the foot.

Supinating (the opposite of pronating: putting most of the weight on the outside of your feet) shifts your weight backward, making it hard to keep your pelvis placed correctly over your feet. This will force you to compensate and have trouble balancing.

As teachers, we need to constantly remind our students that the weight needs to be divided equally between the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel. If you pronate, you need to strengthen and lift the instep until those three points have equal weight. The same is true for supination—it's that simple.

To check for tibial torsion, have the dancer sit on a high surface with her leg hanging down. The knee will be facing forward. Note where the foot is facing. With external tibial torsion, the foot will be turned toward first position.

Tibial torsion often gives you a better looking first position than what you truly have at your hips. At the barre, dancers with tibial torsion can get into trouble if they force the knee out over the foot. When a dancer with tibial torsion is moving across the floor, it's less of a problem, because they automatically shift their leg alignment to allow for faster movement.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

To work with Deb Vogel in person, check out her summer workshop, A Dance Teacher's Retreat to Tuscany!

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