re: Foot care Posted by vcalvin 8/18/1999 1:28:00 PM
I'm a competitive dancer with foot problems, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart I've developed a "regimen" that keeps my feet relatively healthy, so maybe it will be of some help!
I wear three-inch (and snug) latin sandals for dancing, and while they're great for my latin technique, they wreak havoc on my feet. The balls of my feet swell painfully, and if left unattended, will become rock-hard and sore after a night of heavy practice. I suspect that this is some kind of bursitis. The first thing I do to protect my feet is add padding to my latin shoes. I use gel ball-of-the-foot cushions made by Dr. Scholl's. These are more expensive than other similar pads, but I've found the gel to be superior. I don't use a full insole for several reasons: it would be unlikely to fit in my tiny shoe; I need the shoe to remain flexible so that I can point my foot; and the ball of my foot is my major area of concern. You might find that a different insole works better, depending upon what you need.
Secondly, I soak and simultaneously stretch my feet for 20 minutes after every night of significant dancing -- no exceptions. I use a foot bath with heat and massage, water as hot as I can stand it, and a cup of epsom salt in the bath. I repeat several different stretches on each foot while in the bath. I don't know if this helps the bursitis, but the heat and stretching will definitely minimize overall foot soreness the next day.
The final step I took was to change my street shoes. I wear primarily Birkenstocks or running shoes when I'm not dancing. If I wear uncomfortable or confining street shoes, there's no chance that my feet will be pain-free for dancing. Thankfully, my workplace is understanding enough to allow this!
As far as competitive dance shoes go, I've steered away from the ankle straps and gone back to traditional T-bar sandals. The ankle straps look great, but they interfered with the use of my ankles and foot extension. The ankle strap itself also provided no support, so I didn't feel secure unless there was also an instep strap. I got tired of all that and went back to a basic shoe (Supadance's Denise) which provides both support and flexibility. Dance shoe fashion is always changing, but I think I've learned my lesson that function is more important than form.