For dancers, their feet are some of their most prized possessions. Dancers bend them, stretch them, turn on them and jump on them, sometimes for hours a day. And at the end of a long dance day, those feet probably end up a bit stinky, too. So make sure you take care of them and treat them well with these tidbits of advice. You need them in tip-top shape to dance!
Warm Water Soak with Epsom Salts
After a long day of rehearsing, soothe your tired toes with a warm water soak. Add some Epsom salts for an extra step in reducing inflammation. Epsom salts smooth the skin, neutralize foot odor and ease muscle cramps. Try salts infused with lavender for some extra aromatherapy. You can use a portable small tub or even sit on the edge of your bathtub and let the warm water and steam do its work.
Essential Oil Spray
At the end of the day, or even on breaks in between rehearsals, it can be nice to give your feet a little mist with an essential oil spray. You can find foot sprays in many health and body stores, or you can also buy essential oils and mix and match yourself. A combination of peppermint and tea tree oil diluted with water can be a great way to perk up your aching feet midway through rehearsal. Try lavender diluted with water at the end of the day for a more relaxing experience.
Every once in a while, treat yourself to a professional foot massage, but when time and funds don’t allow for that luxury, you can do it yourself! Try these steps:
- Sitting comfortably on the floor or in a chair, cross one ankle over the opposite knee so you can easily reach your foot with both hands.
- Beginning at the ball of the foot, begin to knead your thumbs in circles away from each other.
- Continue working through the foot in this way into the arch and heel
- Give the back of your heel and Achilles tendon a gentle rub with the thumb and first finger.
- Thread one hand through the toes of your foot (as if you were interlacing your hands together). Circle the hand in one direction 5 times while giving a gentle pull to the toes, and then reverse and go the other direction.
- Repeat with the other foot.
Take Your Legs Up the Wall
After being upright all day, take a moment when you get home to go upside down. This is great practice for improving circulation and reducing inflammation in achy feet, and it will also lower your blood pressure. Lay down on the floor next to a wall and simply extend your legs long above you so the heels are resting comfortably against the wall. You can take some soft padding under the pelvis as well. If you’re lacking in available wall space you can also try this next to your bed with knees bent over the edge.
Petroleum Jelly and Socks
Modern dancers often experience deep cracks around the toes from dancing barefoot, especially in dry climates or seasons like winter. These can be painful and severely limit dancing in class and rehearsal. The best way to care for these cracks is to soften the skin and prevent infection. Try placing some petroleum jelly around the cracks at bedtime, put on a pair of clean white socks, and snuggle in for a good night of sleep. To prevent infection, regularly clean the cracks and apply antibiotic ointment.
For those extra long days of rehearsal when your feet are really painful, a short ice bath can help you recover. Using a small portable tub with cool water and a few ice cubes, dunk one foot in the bath for about five minutes before changing to the other foot. Be careful here to not overdo it; you don’t want to freeze your feet!
Take a Day Off!
Nothing will help your tired feet more than a little common rest and relaxation. When a day comes by where you don’t have to be in class or rehearsal, stay off your feet! Read a book, watch a movie, and know that your feet will thank you for it tomorrow.
By Katherine Moore of Dance Informa.