Dance teachers the world over are always telling their students to put their heels down. This is an especially common correction during the petite allegro section of a ballet class or a fast variation or combination. In an attempt to be more efficient and perform jumps faster, keeping the heels off the ground between jumps can be seen as a “short cut”. However, dance instructors should continue to be diligent in correcting students who don’t put their heels down; over time, this bad habit can have serious implications.
Failure to press the heels into the floor after and between jumps increases the likelihood that the dancer will develop Achilles tendonopathies. Up to six times the body weight is placed on the Achilles tendon during a jump. Changing the angle of the leg by keeping the heel off the ground places even futher stress on the tendon, while pressing the heel down distributes some of that weight over the entire foot.
It is also thought that pressing the heels down into the floor before a jump can help the dancer jump higher. I have not found any evidence to support this theory directly, however it may be assumed that by pressing the heels down the dancer is able to achieve a deeper plié and therefore put more power behind the jump. Failure to press the heels into the floor for jump take off also places unnecessary stress on the Flexor Hallucis Longus tendon and can contribute to the development or exacerbation of FHL tendonitis.