Dance till your toes hurt, and then, dance some more!
The feet, as part of human anatomy, are intriguing and since it’s used to move, balance and maneuver, it plays a vital role in a dancer’s life.
Dance and sports are physically demanding activities. Hours and hours of practice and strain add to the stress and overuse of the feet. Many of the common injuries related to the foot, the ankle can be prevented and treated.
However, taking good care of their feet is essential for dancers to keep their feet in perfect shape.
Here, we talk about some of the common foot problems and not really stress much on injuries that can affect a dancer’s performance and hinder day to day activities and practice. Every dancer has experienced foot care problems at some point in their careers and the only constant advice that they can offer is maintenance
Ballet and Footwork:
The use of foot and footwork is the very basis of Ballet and getting the right balance and posture is the very first lesson in Ballet. A ballet dancer’s graceful moves is a function of balance and stability that solely rests on the feet. The finesse and grace is only a reflection of the years of practice and determination.
The most challenging aspect of ballet is ‘En Pointe’, a technique that is an integral part of classical ballet, where the ballet dancer supports all body weight on the tips of fully extended feet within Pointe shoes. This technique, which creates the illusion of ‘floating' takes a while to master and without doubt, creates extra pressure on the toes.
From black nails to corns to blisters, to fallen arches and strained muscles and ligaments, professional dancers endure a lot to be in their pointe shoes.
Foot pain is also widespread for dancers. However, foot pain should not be taken lightly by dancers. Hence, dancers need to focus on the upkeep and care of their feet, even pamper them, periodically.
Keeping their feet in good shape is essential for dancers, to avoid missing out on critical performances and other serious injuries, which might require urgent medical care and in some cases even surgical remedies.
Common foot problems faced by dancers:
Care for Corns & Calluses - Calluses mostly appear on the big toes, toes and other joints. They can get painful when they become thick. Did you know that Calluses are good for dancer's feet as they protect the feet?
Use a pumice stone, quite gently to ensure that the Calluses don’t get too painful.
Another primary concern for a dancer is corns. Corns are a common foot problem among ballet dancers, and they are most prevalent between toes. Wearing tight pointe shoes is often the known cause of Corns. Always try and keep your feet covered and clean them thoroughly with lukewarm water and mild soap.
Applying moisturizer also helps to a great extent. Seek professional medical help if the corns are getting bigger and if they hurt when you wear shoes.
Ouch, the Blister! Breaking into new shoes is a nightmare for most of us. But, dancers have to be extra careful since pointe shoes tend to cause blisters and since these shoes cannot be avoided, constant wearing causes further discomfort and pain. Covering the blister with a tape at the first occurrence itself is an excellent way to prevent it from further going sore. Always use a sterile tape.
While blisters are a given with new shoes, ensure you pay particular attention to the lining of the shoes and the quality of the shoes that you are buying. If a particular type of ballet shoes are painful to break into, switch over to another one. Ask around for suggestions within your dance group or your dance teacher about their experiences with different brands and type of dance shoes.
If you have a significant recital or performance coming up and you plan to wear pointe shoes, it would be a good idea to wear them a few times beforehand and practice in them, just before the D-day. By doing this, you can prevent last-minute issues with the shoes and even injuries.
Nail care: Curved nails and long nails can lead to ingrown toenails, hence always keep your toenails short and straight. Also, avoid wearing nail polish on your toes on a regular basis. Polish may camouflage the ingrown nails and overtime, make your nails look yellow and jaded. Colored polishes and clear polish can be reserved for special occasions.
Bruised Big Toe: The big toe is again a standard issue with most dancers practicing the pointe technique. The big toe can be protected to prevent bruises and proper care of the toes and toenails.
Top Tips for Foot maintenance As Part of Dancer’s Daily Routine
Toe Protection: When it comes to pointe, toes take the maximum stress due to the constant pressure on them and hence need extra care and protection. Toes tapes are useful in preventing and protecting blisters and injuries. They come in various shades and designs with self-adhesive tapes and are a must-have in dancers' bag.
Many dancers also find the toe pads to be of great help in providing full coverage to the point shoes. Padding in the shoe which is dampened with sweat should be taken out and shoes dried thoroughly between each use.
The sweat may soften the glue of the box and soften it too much. As a result, the foot does not get enough support and sturdiness and sinks down too far in the shoe and takes the strain in other areas. Hot Stuff or Jet Glue help re-stiffen the middle of the shank to extend its life.
Another great way to prevent blisters and corns is by using Jelly Toes. They are a fantastic invention that can be cut to size and placed over any of the smaller toes to reduce pressure and prevent corns and blisters.
Pampering: A dancer’s feet need the maximum care and pampering as they are subject to a higher amount of pressure, sweat, and heat. After a long day of practice, soothe your tired toes with warm water and salt. There are a plethora of products available that can serve the purpose of rejuvenating the tired dancer’s feet.
Rightly named Dance Apothecary Set, is a well-curated set that includes foot sprays and powder for pampering your feet.
These are natural products crafted to soothe, disinfect, and heal using naturally derived plant and mineral properties. Moisturizing your feet regularly before bedtime with an excellent creamy moisturizer is the key to ensuring that your feet remain supple and soft.
Pointe shoe maintenance: The maintenance of Pointe ballet shoes is as essential as its fit. Regular cleaning and airing out of the pointe shoes is vital to keep the shoes from gathering dust and developing fungus. Keep your pointe shoes dry with pointe shoe bags made of mesh.
Poorly fitted pointe shoes can lead to many problems like bruised toes, ingrown toenails, calluses, and blisters.
Finally, ensure you get sufficient rest for your feet whenever you have days off from the dance practice and rehearsals. Do not neglect severe problems with your feet. Visit a podiatrist and obtain professional help in treating your feet problems.
A dancer’s feet is his or her biggest asset!
The above statement would not be an exaggeration because a dancer's feet are an essential tool that dancer possess to create magic on the floor and the coveted stage.