After taking several hours of dance class, your body will feel the work and many accomplishments you have make in class. Tired, sore, and most beneficially stretched. But what about your feet? The most overworked part of and dancer’s body is often the most overlooked. Dancers, need to pay special attention to keeping their feet as fit as the rest of their body.
Pedicures are not the way for anyone who is en pointe or dreaming of going en pointe. They are off limits if you ever think of wearing Pointe shoes… ever. They are not a good idea for dancers because a pedicure will rub off all the calluses you develop through dance and later being en pointe. Those calluses are beneficial as they build up a resistance where the shoes rub, so therefore dancing with your pointe shoes on it will hurt less. If you do happen to get a pedicure, you might get blisters where your calluses were. The dancer must realize that layers and layers of dead skin, calluses, on the feet are helpful, like insulation against the strain of the pointe shoe.
Being aware of the length of your toenails is essential. Dancers who are en pointe must always make sure that they cut their toenails at least a day before their class, not the day of, Your toes adjust to the new length of the nails. Keep your toe nails trimmed properly. Pointe dancers should not allow their toe nails to be long, but rather trimmed neatly straight across. Do not cut too short or cut into the sides as this may prompt development of ingrown toe nails or other foot problems due to the extreme pressure put on the toes while dancing en pointe.
Sometimes toes can hurt even more once you take your pointe shoes off. That’s because lactic acid builds up in the feet after hours of being constricted. Feet have no extra space, so swelling tends to linger. To decrease inflammation and soreness, after you take off your pointe shoes, roll your arch over a tennis ball to loosen up the foot muscles before putting on your street shoes. This will help push lactic acid out of the ligaments and joints and keep the muscles from getting tight.
The above information was with dancers who are en pointe, but really ALL dancers need to care for their feet not just those en pointe.
Your feet are sensitive to touch due to the number of nerve endings located on the soles and that gives us a great reason to apply warm or cool compresses and massage them ourselves every day after class.
Tired dancers’ feet need warmth first. This is relaxing and calming to the muscles, bones and joints located in the soles, toes, arches and ankles. This is where those nerve endings will tell you to the correct temperature of your footbath. First test it with your hand, and if it feels right, dip your toes into the water first. It’s easy to underestimate the temperature with your hand, and if you’re feeling tired and worn out already, you could just rush in and do your feet more harm than good. Water or compresses should never be so hot that you have to “get used to it”. Your feet should not be bright red when you take them from the water or remove the warm compress.
Once you have the temperature right, keep the warmth applied for about 20 minutes. You can add nice things to your foot bath like epsom salt, eucalyptus salts, essential oils like lavender which is a relaxant.
While in the warm water flex and point your feet, holding each position for a few seconds. Spread your toes often. You can massage your feet while they are in the water, beginning with the sole, working down the bottom to the toes. Massage each toe individually. Stretch a couple more times before taking your feet out of the warm water.
After that nice relaxing warm footbath, cooling down is the next step. It’s good to have either a compress ready, sitting in cool water in a large bowl or pot, or a second foot bath of cool water nearby, or simply empty the warm water and to refill the footbath with the cool water. Remember to test the temperature of the cool water. Injury is less likely, but you may not want to plunge your warm feet into ice cold water either. At this point adding fresh lemon juice to the water is very nice, or, you can add essential oils like lavender or tea tree oil in the cool bathe too. The cool down period for your feet should be about 10 minutes or so, doing the same stretches as in the warm bath flexing, pointing, and spreading your toes.
Now when you are done, remove your feet from the water, apply a nice amount of witch hazel, let dry, and work in your favorite moisturizer.
Care for your feet ….you will be a happier dancer for it!