Dancing Feet

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Learning rhythm tap dance, I find that my feet really take a pounding so I make sure I spend some time caring for them so that they’re in tip-top shape. This obviously applies to all areas of dance or sport where you are primarily on your feet.

Here are some of my foot care tips:

Use a foot roller immediately after dancing to give your feet a bit of a massage to relieve aches and prevent aching the next day. There are many different types. I like a spiky ball roller, but you can even use a golf ball if you have one handy.

Stretch your feet and toes before and after class. Resistance bands are great for this.

Soak tired feet in warm water with a good sprinkling of Epsom salts, and maybe a few drops of your favourite essential oil. I LOVE lavender oil and sweet orange oil. Peppermint, tea tree or eucalyptus are also good choices. You may want to follow up with a dip into some lukewarm water.

Hard Skin is inevitable, and you’ll want to make sure you remove some of it with a pumice stone or foot file…but not too much. If you go too baby soft with your feet, you may find you are more susceptible to blisters, especially if you dance barefoot. Being someone who is prone to eczema (thankfully eczema-free for maybe 2 years now), I have naturally parched skin, so I need to use a pumice stone quite often.

Moisturise moisturise moisturise – I say this again as someone with Sahara Desert dry skin. These days I only use natural butters and oils (e.g. shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil) which are full of essential fatty acids, because synthetic petroleum based-moisturisers tend to sit on top of the skin rather than soak into it.

Keep Toenails Trimmed so that they don’t injure your other toes when dancing or press into the ends of your shoes. Always cut straight across rather than round and file off any sharp edges. (Make sure they’re not too short but have a bit of white tip left as nails are there to protect the toes from injury). I used to paint my toenails for class when I was doing the Contemporary and Jazz Workshop at City Lit because we danced barefoot, but it’s probably better to stick to no polish or clear polish just so you can monitor the health of your nails when you’re dancing a lot. (This applies to runners too!)

Wear supportive footwear when you’re not dancing. Unfortunately, a lot of shoes aimed at women are completely flat with no arch support, which can lead to plantar fasciitis (had this!) and ankle problems, or at the other end of the spectrum you have sky high stilettos that put stress on the balls of the feet and toes and can lead to bunions and other problems. I wear a pair of Skechers slip-on trainers with arch support and extra thick soles for my commute.

Dry thoroughly between your toes after bathing. I cannot stress this enough. I tend to use a bit of talc between the toes too, just to be sure. And make sure you wash your feet and change your socks as soon as you can after your class…

Get a foot massage every now and then if you can – I recently went to my local salon for a full body aromatherapy massage because my shoulders are so tight at the moment. This included a foot massage – amazing! Just what I needed.

And if you have any foot problems – please visit a chiropodist/podiatrist!

I was half-considering retraining as a podiatrist, because I like working with people…but I don’t think I have the stomach for other people’s feet LOL

My foot care kit:

  • Nail clippers
  • Pumice stone
  • Foot file
  • Nail files
  • Plasters
  • Blister plasters
  • Peppermint foot spray
  • A good moisturiser
  • Spiky ball roller
  • Anti-fungal foot powder
  • Gel toe separators
  • Bamboo Compression socks

Anything to add? How do you keep your feet in tip-top condition? I’m sure the Ballet dancers out there will have much more in their kit! Let me know in the comments below.

**I have a confession to make. Last year, my lunchtime tap class re-started while I was still on 2 weeks’ Summer holiday, so my SO and I travelled in especially so I could go, and then we planned to go for lunch afterwards and then meet his sister for a catch up. Well, the day ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be, and silly me, although I changed clothes at the restaurant, I didn’t end up showering until I got home after 7pm that evening, and I ended up with athletes foot. Yuk. Thankfully a course of Daktarin spray sorted it out. NEVER AGAIN**

Review: Yoga Toe Spreaders

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Doing tap dance (or any dance!) every week really pounds your feet, so it’s important to have a good foot-care regime. After class I tend to roll my feet with a spiky ball roller, stretch my toes and so on. However, while browsing the internet, I came across these gel yoga toe spreaders which are supposed to help relieve bunions and plantar fasciitis, realign wayward toes and hammer toes and generally relax aching feet. Well, I need help with all of the above, so I ordered a set.

How did they fare?

After a bit of a fight to get the thing between my toes and the initial weird feeling of my toes being spread out beyond what they were used to, I really noticed just how relaxed my feet and toes started to feel. We spend so much time running around in shoes, or scrunching our toes up that it feels almost weird to feel truly relaxed feet where each toe is an individual. I guess it’s a bit like going from running trainers to those bare-foot five-finger running things where there is a space for each individual toe. You eventually get used to the realignment of your toes and feet.

The toe spreaders were definitely easier to put on each time and I could wear them for longer, which suggests perhaps a subtle correction of alignment, or that my toes were getting used to wearing them each time.

Verdict: I love them!

  • Very good value for money at ¬£3 a pair
  • Any post-class ache in my feet and toes was reduced
  • You can wear them and put your feet up to relax in front of the TV or with a book
  • Made of silicone, they’re easy to manipulate and to wash (I would advise washing with soap & water and dusting them with talc before next use)

They’re not going to vanish your bunion or hammer toes overnight, but they are a good stretch for the toes ūüôā

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Check out my tan!

A Little More Time 

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Roll it out

Ballet at the Barre

Ballet was pretty good this week, considering I was pretty tired when I went along at 5pm last night. We did our warm-up followed by some pli√© relev√© foot exercises, and then some coups de pied, tendus, gliss√©s, grand battements, fondus and developp√©s. We finished the lesson with some jumps – petit jet√©s, and our favourite exercise of chasses and changements, which I was asked to demonstrateargh! I was complimented on the fact that when doing a 2nd arabesque I lifted my toe off the floor on a particular note in the music. I really wasn’t aware I had done that! My weaker left knee did bother me a bit during the hour, but it will get stronger.

Rhythm Tap

I was there in almost a haze really. The two girls who had also been chatting last week when 4 of us were late going into the studio were, like me, watching the clock, and we went in the MINUTE the music stopped! K, who was already in there for level 1 said it’s alright to come in and start getting ready.

I think I was a little thrown by the amount of extra people who were there from the Wednesday night classes, and found it difficult to see what was being demonstrated at times. Or we were too close together.

We warmed up, did a couple of exercises and then got into our routine. I was all geared up to demonstrate the fact that I’d practised what we’d learnt the previous week, but we moved on to learning a new bit instead. It kind of went over my head. I think I could get it if I had more time going over it, but it was going too fast for me this week ūüė©

Chatted afterwards to a girl who does level 3 tap and does Swing dance classes. I asked her about level 3 and she said it’s really hard. Yikes!

LCBE (Last Class Before Easter )

Today I went to my last Tap class before Easter. I feel really tired today as the cat keeps waking me up at 4am(!) so I wasn’t feeling at my best when heading down to Morley College at lunchtime, but I didn’t want to miss out.

As usual it was too hot, I was too hot and with a fuzzy foggy head, I was wondering if I was going to be able to get through the entire 45 minutes. I had hydrated before the class and made sure I drank throughout, but if you’re tired, you’re tired.

Rucksack

Our teacher explained after our warm up in a circle that we were going to spend the entire class on our routine. Oh no. That would require some serious brain power.

Despite my reservations, it was actually good fun as we tackled a whole extra section which included scuffs, shunts and turns. She did say to me “Sorry, but I’m going to push you” which made me slightly nervous, but I do like the challenge, but she also told me to try and push my toes forward and out as she felt I was clawing them. Yes, that is my trademark. I will try and work on that because I KNOW I do it all the time. I was told off for that in a Jazz class taster at Morley a few years ago after the teacher felt where my toes were through my shoes and it made me slightly paranoid. But it is good to be made aware of things that are hindering your progress so that you can correct them. ¬†That is the thing with dance training – they’re always correcting your feet!

Anyway, I am going to enjoy the two week break and catch up on some sleep before returning to Wednesday night classes!

Foot Flexibility 

It is good to regularly stretch the feet and toes when you dance, for health and for flexibility. I have a tendency to grip the floor with my toes (like cat claws!) and last summer I had plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the band of muscle along the sole of the foot) from repeatedly wearing a pair of unsupportive memory foam Skechers, so I got into the habit of stretching my feet to sort it out. However, as soon as it got better… I got out of the habit.

Deciding that 2016 was going to be my ‘year of dance’ (as in dance all year) I’ve been pounding my feet a lot with Tap and Ballet, so I really need to look after my them.

I have a set of 3 Pilates Stretch Bands (light, medium, heavy) and two spiky massage balls. Every evening I roll the massage balls along the bottom of my feet to loosen the muscles and improve circulation. I then use the stretch bands to pull my toes towards myself. I also do some point and flex exercises while sitting on the floor. It definitely makes a difference.

Week 11 (of 12)

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I was back at Ballet at the Barre last week after a week away in amazing Tenerife! Anyway, missing a week really didn’t help because I felt like I was a bit behind on everything, but it was ok. This week the class was a bit smaller as quite a few people were absent, so I was on a barre…on my own! Everyone else was at the mirror or at the wall, where as I prefer to be by the window as I’m always hot in dance classes!

Anyway, my points for improvement this week are to keep my legs straight and press my feet into the floor when I bring them back from a tendu. For some reason I arch my foot, or want to stick my toes in the air! Although this is probably due to the fact I had a silent DVT some years back following a looooong coach trip home from Germany and my right foot tends to swell slightly (especially after a day at a desk, and in warm weather) and gets easily tired. Towards the end of the class, I could hardly feel my feet! I tend to wear compression socks before and after on dance day, but didn’t have a clean pair this week. (I have since added 2 new pairs to my collection!)¬†Anyway, I think I’ll have a go at some band stretching exercises to increase my foot and toe flexibility. I realise I rely heavily on my big toes as they are my longest toes, so the big toe joint tends to suffer at times.

On a fashion note, I decided to treat myself in the sales and ordered Capezio’s LIMITED EDITION floral ballet leggings (although these weren’t on sale) and a pink ballet wrap cardigan with thumb loops from Revolution, via Dance Direct.