Ballet, a form of dance performance which started around 15th century (Italian Renaissance) is also a bio-mechanical wonder for its technical complexity. However, several foot and ankle injuries associated with this dance format are easily overlooked in the serenity of its visual experience. As an inventor, one needs to understand methodically all the physical discomforts of a dancer which can be alleviated by redesigning silky slippers known as pointe. A safer pointe shoe needs to be envisioned, one which can adapt to movement of a foot with the speed of a muscle itself. At no cost should it interrupt the swift movement of the body and foot.
Solution in Nature
After sifting through myriads of cushioning mechanisms in nature there appears to be one which is most unique and suitable for the nature of problem at hand. The selected organism is golden-fronted woodpecker. It is chosen because when its beak produces an impact on a surface, that impact is not carried through around its skull and through rest of the body like in rest of the birds. The impact gets nullified instantly, before it even reaches the skull. It is made possible with the help of a porous collagen layer called cancellous bone between the beak of the bird and its skull.
It is the most suitable example because the cushioning mechanism of a pointe shoe should be so subtle that it silences down any impact before the dancer even notices it (whether comforting or not).
Row1Column1: A Closeup of Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Row1Column2: Skull of Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Row1Column3: Complications Cause dby Pointe Shoes in Biomechanics of Ballet
Row1Column4: Pointe Shoe Physics
Row2Column1: Ballet Slippers at 1000fps
Row2Column2: Pointe Shoe Components
Row2Column3: A Few Examples of Ballet Slippers
Row2Column4: Pointe Shoe Diagram
Row3Column1: Anatomical Analysis of Ballet Dancers
Row3Column2: Construction of a Soccer Shoe Toe (in Comparison)
Row3Column3: Self-Customized, Moldable, Weight-Distributing Insert for Ballet Pointe Shoes
Row3Column4: Toe Shoe Details
Row4Column1: Foot Posture Inside a Pointe Shoe
Row4Column2: Anatomy of Pointe Shoe
Row4Column3: Pointe Safety Tips
Row4Column4: Pointe Shoes Design Details
After reviewing the literature presented above, it is discovered that in almost all cases the focus is being put on providing a cushion to the tip of the toe. It would only be partially effective however, as the dancer is not always standing on his or her toe. The main impact is temporal and dynamic and is caused when a body spins about its pivoted toe. The centrifugal force which acts on a fully bent inner arch of the foot, attempts to uproot and displace the toe from its position. A slight resistance to this force inside the stiffened fibers of the arch can put tremendous amount of pressure on the buckling foot.
It is imperative therefore, to have cancellation mechanism in place which does not let the impact travel up the ankle all the way up to the leg and spinal cord. It should relieve the dancer of a narrow psychological restraint too. Also, the impact generated through pecking of a beak is much linear in direction as opposed to multiple forces acting on the foot. The proposed slippers must exhibit an interwoven pattern of silk thread and smart fibers, which supports the entire arching area of the foot (instead of just cushioning the toe). Fibers on the upper side of the foot should change their stiffness in response to the arching of inner side of the foot. The compression resistance of smart fibers would attempt hence to nullify the centrifugal force. It would relieve muscle fibers of the foot and help dancer pivot him/herself more steadily on the toe. Details of this pointe shoe are presented below.