Taking care of your feet

If there is one thing that this injury has taught me, aside from “warm up. I mean it!” is that I should take care of my feet better. And this “taking care” of feet does not imply just the inside or the outside, but both.

People with diabetes, or that know diabetics will be familiar with the almost obsessive care that goes to their feet; as dancers, feet are what support us and allow us to move, and we should be equally obsessive. And a similar regime is not a bad idea either.

Start by having a good pedi, if you can afford it, or go to a podiatrist (or both). Most technicians and professionals will be happy to answer any questions you have that are particular to your own feet, and what sort of thing you can do to keep them in good condition: care routines, products, etc. There’s a lot of things you can do, so here are some tips, in no particular order:

  • start with a good warm soak; if you have one of those foot spas, they’re great, but otherwise a nice bath also does the trick.
  • hard, dry skin? I normally file down any hardened area using a PediEgg (mostly the rough file, not the metal shaver side), then a good layer of hydrating cream. If your feet have been very dry, a good trick is to put on the cream and then some woollen socks to sleep, do that often enough and your skin should start recovering in no time.
  • cracks? they can be very painful, but there are several good Heel Balms; don’t be afraid of using one, although you might need to file down the area a bit if you have really hard skin; just keep in mind that Heel Balms can sting quite a bit if you put them onto a fresh crack; always follow instructions
  • keep your cuticles happy, and use some oil on them, like CND’s Solar Oil; this should also keep your nails hydrated and prevent breakage and dryness
  • get one of those 4-in-one nail buffers and some hoof sticks; make sure your cuticles are out of the way, then use the buffers as instructed to keep the nails even and shiny
  • if you’re painting your toenails, make sure you use a good base suitable to your nail type and situation: ridge filler if you’ve got ridges that didn’t go away with the buffing, nourishing if they’re peeling or breaking, hydrating if they’re too dry, etc
  • always finish your colour with a top coat to prevent chipping

So that’s for the outside. What about the inside? You start by making sure you warn up and stretch properly; this means not just your upper body, arms and legs, but your calves, ankles, and toes; use circles, stretches, point and back, come up on relevé and control the way down, lather, rinse, repeat. Calf lifts, calf stretches are your friends too. If you are going to work on relevé a lot, it’s even more important that you do this, both to condition the muscles but also to gain strength and balance, and to warm them up.

If the cold usually causes cramps on your legs, don’t be afraid of wearing leg warmers or heel-less, toe-less socks. You can make your own by cutting them off long socks… you might look like an 80’s escapee, but better warm than in pain! Right now I’m wearing woollen socks and leg warmers on the way in and out of class, but thankfully the dance studio is warm so I can dance barefoot.

Finally, a fellow dancer and chiropractor has made a video with advice on other exercises you can do. The video does contain advertisement for her services (I don’t get a dime for recommending her, in fact I am NOT recommending her as I haven’t used her services personally) but it also has some good and common sense advice on things you can do to keep your feet happy and healthy, exercise arches, toes, soles, grip, etc.

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