The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NY Bunion Surgery for Ballerinas: Examining Foot Issues that Plague Dancers

Posted by on Friday, June 27th, 2014


Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo has been praised as “one of the most extraordinary dancers” in our time.  In addition to giving audiences memorable performances in classics like The Nutcracker, she’s also extremely tough. She performed through a ruptured appendix and a bunion the size of a tennis ball! It’s not uncommon for our NYC foot surgeons to see bunion deformities this big, especially in dancers. There are more than 40 different procedures to remove bunions, but our bunion surgeons will determine the best course of action, given your unique situation.

ballerina bunion surgery
Ballerinas often suffer from bunions, but dancing does not directly cause this type of deformity.
Image source: Flickr user Melissa Dooley

Does Dancing Cause Bunions?

First of all, it’s important to clarify the myth surrounding dancers with bunions. NO — ballet and other types of dance DO NOT directly cause bunions! This is a common misconception because almost every dancer knows another dancer who suffers from bunions. Research tells us that bunions are largely hereditary, but they can be exacerbated by wearing shoes that are too small or high heels too often. Occupations and pursuits that place above-average stress on the feet (like dance) may increase a person’s risk for developing bunions, but do not directly cause them.

What Can a NYC Foot Surgeon Do about a Jumbo Bunion?

One of the common procedures we do for extra large “jumbo” bunions is called a “Lapidus.” We like to use this procedure when the first metatarsal is long. Lapidus bunion surgery is done under local anesthesia and mild sedation right here in our office. The metatarsal joint is realigned at the midfoot, with surgical screws holding the joints together. This setup creates ideal stability and function. The Foot and Ankle Institute assessed over 400 Lapidus bunion corrections and found there were no recurrences or complications. Following bunion surgery, patients will need to keep weight off the foot for six weeks, and undergo physical therapy to maintain strength and mobility. Normal activities are generally resumed after three months. Of course, this is just one of the procedures our talented NY foot surgeons can perform. The exact one chosen very much depends on you.

How Do New York Bunion Surgeons Decide on a Particular Procedure?

We assess a number of factors before setting you up with just the right bunion surgery.

Some of these variables include:

– How old are you?

– How active are you?

– How stiff is your joint?

– What type of shoes do you wear?

– Can you take time off to recover?

– Do you worry about the possibility of requiring future surgeries?

– How tight is your Achilles tendon?

– What does your arch positioning look like when seated and when bearing a load?

– Do you have calluses on the medial great toe or the metatarsal head?

– How much laxity is in the hallux valgus deformity itself?

– What are your expectations for the surgery?

Is Bunion Surgery Worth It?

Dancers who are suffering from extremely painful or disfiguring bunions can benefit from surgery. Sabina Allemann, former principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, had an osteotomy done to realign her big two and the two toes next to it. Her foot surgeon cut bones and tendons, and then reattached everything with permanent pins and staples. She enjoyed a pain-free recovery, but needed to wear a walking boot for six weeks. It took a year to recover and rehabilitate after her bunion surgery, but she is now back to performing full-time. “I have really great flexion and I have no regrets about having the surgery,” she told Dance Teacher Magazine

New York Bunion Surgery for Dancers

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC specializes in bunion surgery, with particular sensitivity to dancers who need their feet for their livelihood or pursuits. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert is is Board Certified in Foot and Ankle Surgery and has been performing bunion surgeries for over 25 years. Contact him to discuss your options here.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.