This weeks blog post is from the physiotherapy team with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, focusing on the importance of taking care of an essential tool for dance – our feet! Dancers of all ages and teachers should consider the following when searching for just the right fit. The search may be lengthy, but the health of your feet is worth it in the end.
As a dancer your feet are your most important “tool”. Proper foot care is vital to avoid injuries and painful feet so that you have an enjoyable dance experience. And while there is no way to completely avoid irritation or injury, there are a number of things that you can do to minimize the risk.
1) Dance shoes-
- Make sure your shoes fit properly, no matter what type they are. Remember too, that your feet continue to grow even when the rest of our bodies stop growing so the size of shoes you wear at age 16 may not fit at age 20. Tip: If the material at the back of your pointe shoe extends more than an inch beyond the end of the shank of your shoe, your pointe shoe is probably too small.
- Make sure the shoe is still in good condition and not worn out, torn or over stretched.
- Let your shoes dry out well after use rather than just stuffing them in your dance bag until you use them again. This helps cut down on odor and reduces bacterial and fungal growth.
- Look for areas of redness on your feet that may indicate areas of excessive pressure or friction that could later lead to blisters or painful joints. This may indicate an improperly fitting shoe, a worn out shoe or poor technique.
- Do not break open a closed blister. Protect it with a doughnut pad and tape. If the blister does break, use an antiseptic to clean it and cover with a bandaide until healed.
- Wash and dry your feet well after you dance to protect your skin from infection. Your feet perspire a great deal in a dance shoe and this warm moist environment is a good one for bacteria and fungi to grow.
- Keep your toenails trimmed short (close to the quick in the centre) and straight across to the nail edges. Nails cut short at the edges can lead to ingrown toenails. Maintain a consistent thickness to your toenails by using an emery board or nail file.
3) Technique and alignment-
- Good technique and body alignment helps to reduce the stress on your feet. Do not force your turnout or over grip with your toes. This places a lot of shear stress on your joints and on your skin and can lead to painful joints, blisters and ankle pain.
- While stretching and flexibility are important in dance, strengthening your foot and ankle muscles is important too. These muscles help to absorb the forces and loads you are putting through your feet when you dance.
4) Outside of the studio-
- Wear good shoes or runners when not in the studio. A mechanic always puts his tools away in his secure tool box. Your feet, like the mechanics tools, need to be protected and supported well when you are not dancing. Avoid long walks or prolonged standing in non supportive shoes like flip-flops, sandals, or slippers.
Following these few suggestions may help keep your feet happy and healthy through your dance season. Should a problem arise, however, you should promptly seek the advice of your healthcare professional to get it sorted it out early. In this way, you will avoid a more serious problem that will keep you out of dancing.
Authors: Kevin Dyck/Janine Didyk/Sam Steinfeld