No, I don’t mean giving me hugs and boxes of chocolates (but feel free to try it). Dancers’ feet are seldom pretty. They’re achy, bruised, grazed, and in my case deformed (damn you, bunions). But they’re our most important tools, so let’s look at a few ways to keep them in good nick.
PART 1 – PREVENTION
Buy Good Shoes
I know that’s kind of my thing, but seriously, your first defence against damage to your feet is wearing comfortable, supportive shoes with decent padding. Also, as we get older, the fat pads under the balls of our feet start to thin, so this becomes even more important.
I swear by these Scholl cushions for the balls of your feet, which can get me back up dancing when my feet are saying ‘no’. They hook over your second toe and you barely know you have them on. I see some ladies using gel insoles, which I haven’t tried, so let me know in the comments if you have a favourite brand.
Check Your Technique
When I was a baby salsa dancer, I realised that some aches I’d been experiencing were due to a little habit I’d developed of clicking my feet together at the big toe joint (again, hello bunions). Working on basics to ensure proper weight distribution and foot placement, and ironing out any little ‘tics’ you’ve developed, could help address a persistent pain.
Let’s also put ‘dangerous dancing’ in this category. A while back there was a vogue for guys wearing winkle-pickers and doing showy foot-stamping in their basic. Obviously, foot placement is key, and I’ve fallen foul of this at least once. The major culprit for ladies is stiletto heels stomped down too enthusiastically. But you can find more ingenious ways to hurt yourself if you try hard enough. I once lost a toenail kicking a wall during some over-enthusiastic styling in a very dark club. Felt pretty idiotic.
PART 2 – TREATS FOR YOU FEET
Foot Rubs and Soaks
There’s nothing like a good foot soak to soothe your aches and pains after a hard night’s dancing. It’s hard when you just want to fall into bed, but you’ll feel so much better the next day!
I like to enjoy a nice cup of tea sitting on the edge of the bath. Then, a quick foot rub with a body bar from Oakwood Aromatics UK (they have an Oomilegs range just for dancers).
I also love the Body Shop’s Foot Rescue, which is a thick cream you put on clean feet at bedtime. It is pepperminty and zingy, and it makes my tired jaded feet feel clean and soft.
I’m not fancy enough to get regular pedicures, and I ruin nice nail polish too often to pay for it. But DIY foot scrubs can be really nice on occasion. I’ve tried fancy contraptions like the Scholl Express Pedi, but I think overall a good old pumice stone or foot file is more effective. I get callouses on my big toe and balls of feet from dancing (which probably prevent pain to some extent!), but they need a good scrub.
You can also make your own scrubs using something gritty like sugar or coffee grounds, an oil base (coconut, olive, or whatever floats your boat), and some essential oils, fresh herbs, or citrus. Cheap and cheerful, but pretty messy!
I’m not going to tell you how to stretch because I’m not a qualified physio or fitness instructor, but do stretch! If you tend to get sore joints (for me it’s knees), foam rolling and/or stretching is essential to keeping you pain-free and on the dance floor. Social dancers probably shouldn’t be doing extravagant lifts or dips (safety first, people), but sometimes you also need to give your back a little release. You know what works for you, just don’t forget to do it!
I hate to say it, but sometimes not dancing is the answer. In a recent TED talk, salsa star Magna Gopal described how she ignored a persistent injury and kept on dancing because she didn’t want to seem antisocial. I am a very clumsy person and am constantly sustaining comedy injuries (most recently, trapping a nerve in my toe in my sleep), and sometimes it’s just better to miss one night and rest up, rather than risk further damaging yourself more and being out of action for longer.
How do you take care of your feet after a hard night’s dancing? Let us know in the comments.