Foot Care

I did a little online survey the other week to round up dancers’ favorite foot care treatments. If you read Toes and Tall Tales you know that though we don’t have the bloody mess people normally envision, we still do battle with other things. In this article we will tackle blisters, corns, bruised nails and lower leg pain.

Like one of my friends said, “If you have bloody and blistered feet all the time, it means you don’t know how to take care of your feet.” -Anna Roberta Lahesoo. Learning how to do that often takes experience, but also learning from others can save yourself some unnecessary trouble.

*Don’t forget to wash your hands before any kind of treatment and that everything you used is sterile.

Let’s start with Blisters and Corns.

What are they? Blisters are bubbles that form on the skin. They are normally filled with a clear fluid or blood and are most often caused by, in our case, friction. Corns on the other hand are a thick buildup of skin. The body does this to protect a certain area from intense friction, but they are very painful. The people who are most susceptible to corns are “people who wear ill-fitting shoes, have sweaty feet, or stand for long periods each day.” Sound like someone you know?

How to Treat blisters. 

  1. The number one answer that came in from ballerinas across the board is second skin. Second Skin is in a way a thin bandaid that acts like, well, a second skin. “2nd Skin moist pads are used to protect against pressure, friction and blistering; moist pads cool and soothe on contact and won’t stick to skin”. These little inventions have proven to be lifesavers to many ballerinas!
  2. Another Ballerina, Lena Scherer, recommends using antiseptic cream during the night to speed up the healing process.
  3. Another thing that helps some people is taping your toes around the spots that are more likely to blister. This can reduce the friction that causes blistering.

How to Treat Corns.

  1. Ballerina Triinu Upkin introduced me to a type of bandaid that I had never heard of, Coricide. This is designed to cushion the corn from the hard structure of a shoe, or in our case, a pointe shoe. She said it also works for small blisters! And you can even get creative and make your own.
  2. My personal go-to cure for corns is soaking my feet in hot water, then using a pumice stone to scrape away all extra the skin. I am gentle, but also, I don’t hold back. That skin has gotta go.
  3. Another new tip I learned was from a former dancer, Kirsten Kemp. She recommends applying a drop of clove oil on the corn after scraping away the build-up of skin.

Worst comes to worst you can always follow Kim’s advice, “Make your pointe shoes really tight so you can’t feel your toes anymore.” Jokes. Don’t do that.

How to care for bruised nails.

There is actually very little you can do once you have the bruised nail, but there is a lot you can do to prevent it.

  1. Have a good pair of pointe shoe pads. Some girls love the “perfect fit” pads that form to your feet.
  2. Another girl, recommends using an extra toe cap for more protection.
  3. Dancer teacher Mari Stankus recommends seeing a podiatrist and/or pedicurist to go the extra mile in nail maintenance. 
  4. Kim Hügi’s advice is also to try to get the nail out. No, she’s not joking this time! Often once the nail is off, it’s far less painful. Wiggle it a bit, does move a lot? Is it already just hanging on by a bit of skin? If yes, then soak your feet in hot water and try to get it off.
  5. Make sure your nails aren’t too long or too short. Keep them comfortably trimmed.

Joint and Muscle Pain. 

There can be a huge number of causes as to why your feet hurt, but here are some things to look out for.

  • Dead shoes. Dead shoes often cause joints to get jammed up when your shoe no longer has the strength to support the joints in your foot. This disruption can cause not only the joints to ache but also the muscles and tendons that are working overtime to keep your foot stable and injury-free. 
  • Incorrect technique can be another factor. For example, forced turnout and sitting in hyperextension causes not only hip and knee problems but they will eventually ricochet down the leg to the foot. Take care. Work smart. Work according to your body, not according to someone-else’s.
  • Flexibility to strength ratio being off. If you’ve got crazy flexible feet, it’s your responsibility to make sure you have crazy strong feet. Weak + flexible = injuries.
  • Another reason is just Ballet. If you’re dancing you have to accept that you have chosen an art form that demands a lot of the feet. And so, being 100% pain-free, always, is just not going to happen. Maintenance is key. It’s also not too hard! 

Here are a few great tools from the pros.

1. Ballerina Lauren Janeway gave the healthy reminder of contrast showers for the calves. This is as simple as sitting on the tub, using your shower head to run the water along your calves and feet, switching the water from hot to cold every minute or so. Always end on cold. 

2. Another tip from Kirsten is to massage your calves in the evening. Buy some of your favorite lotion or oil and work your way from the top of the calf to the ankle and foot. I like to pay attention to how our sports masseurs massage me and try to mimic it at home. This will get the blood flow going again!

3. And ofc, the old trick of throwing your feet up in between rehearsals and before bed is so healthy. I used to do this on the bus, yes, on the bus, on the hour ride home from ballet class. But I only did it once we got on the freeway and they turned if the lights, haha. Still got the job done. 

If pain ever is very constant or getting worse, see a Physio!

As you can see, foot care isn’t complicated. It’s quite simple and cheap too! Unfortunately, there will still be days when the toes just hurt like crazy. But those days will pass and now at least you have some new ideas that you can try to incorporate into your foot care routine. Thanks to all the ballerinas who shared their inputs!

I can’t conclude this article without sharing a couple of pieces of advice from the boys too.

“Tape the toe that’s painful and off you go. Also, pain killers.” – Hidetora Tabe and my personal favorite, “Peanut butter cookies.” – Oliver Jahelka, because peanut butter cookies make everything better.

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