Ballerina Feet – Keeping your feet healthy is an important part of being a ballerina. If you’re on pointe, you need to take even more care of them.
The best way to take care of your feet is to keep them clean and prevent blisters with the right socks and shoes. Here are some tips on keeping your ballerina feet healthy so you can go on pointe without worrying about your toes.
There’s a lot that goes into being a successful ballerina, which is why it’s essential that they know how to keep their body healthy while also practicing their art almost every day. Keeping your feet healthy as a ballerina isn’t as easy as it sounds, so here are some helpful tips for keeping those piggies in tip top shape!
10 Ways to Keep Your Ballerina Feet Healthy
Did you know that the tips of your toes take on almost as much stress as your feet, knees and back? All that pointe work and split jumps add up: 25% of ballerinas will develop painful arthritis in their big toe by the time they’re 35. It feels like bad luck to catch arthritis from dancing.
But it’s not just about your body type, genetics and other random factors. Those with high impact or repetitive strain from dance are more likely to develop arthritic symptoms in their big (or any) toes.
Let’s help these ballerinas keep going for another 30 years! Here are 10 ways you can keep your dancer feet healthy so you won’t have to hang up those ballet slippers yet.
Change your shoes, change your life
You might not think about it much, but your dance shoe is a major part of your foot health. New shoes may feel great at first, but they’ll break down and become very hard after a few months of use. Depending on how often you dance, two or three pairs of shoes a year may be enough.
If you dance five times a week, you should start rotating in new pairs about every three weeks. Let old shoes break down in a closet and you’re just wearing down your feet. If you’re not sure how your shoes should feel, ask a fellow dancer who has experience with salespeople at dance supply stores.
They’re trained to help you find the right fit. If your shoes are too loose or too tight, they’ll pinch at the ball of your foot—putting extra stress on your toes. If you find yourself switching to looser shoes and wearing out your shoes too quickly, you might have wide feet and need an extra-wide shoe. Wider shoes will have more room for your foot to spread out and be less hard on your toes.
Get and give a foot massage
Massaging your feet will help you find knots, ease pain and speed up recovery. If you have a friend who’s a great masseuse, ask them to rub your toes and heels. Otherwise, grab a tennis ball and roll it under the arch of one foot for about five minutes.
Then switch to the other foot. If you do this daily, you’ll likely find your foot cramps and foot pain will ease up after a few weeks. Many dancers are tight in the calves, hamstrings and Achilles tendons, so if your calves or hamstrings hurt after a dance class, try massaging your feet.
A foot massage can also help you ease into the day. At the end of a hard foot day, massage your feet before you go to bed. Feel free to use essential oils to make this foot rub even more relaxing.
Stretch with foam rollers
There’s a reason why dancers stretch before and after every practice, warm-up and performance: Stretching keeps you healthy and helps prevent injury. Every dancer has to do different leg and foot stretches, but there’s one easy exercise that all dancers can do at home. If you have a foam roller, lie on the floor with one leg straight and the other bent over the roller.
Slowly roll up and down the outside of your bent leg for about 20 seconds. Switch legs and repeat for each leg. This exercise can be done daily or even multiple times per day to help release tight muscles in the inner and outer thighs and calves.
Plus, it feels amazing! If you don’t have a foam roller, you can use a tennis or lacrosse ball—rolling it back and forth on the outside of both legs to hit all the tight spots. This is a great tool to have around in case you have a friend who wants to do it or you’re at a hotel or hostel and want a stretch break.
Don’t forget the hamstrings
The hamstrings are a group of muscles found on the backs of your legs that are used in almost every dance move. While lots of dancers struggle with tight calves, few think to stretch their hamstrings. But it’s crucial to prevent injury and keep your legs healthy for years of dancing. Most dancers stretch their hamstrings by sitting on the floor with one leg straight and the other bent with the sole of the foot facing up.
Slowly bend your knee and pull the bent foot towards you until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for about 20 seconds and switch legs. In addition to stretching your hamstrings, many dancers are also advised to foam roll their IT bands, which lie on the outside of the leg. It’s easy to do: Roll back and forth on the side of one leg until you feel a slight stretch.
Eat well, stay hydrated and breathe deeply
Dancers often have a high-stress diet. We love junk food and caffeinated drinks. But good nutrition and hydration are key to your health. Try to eat lots of veggies and lean proteins, and cut back it. Similarly, staying hydrated throughout the day is important for your health and energy.
If you’re on refined carbs, sugar and other processed food. If you’re not eating well, your feet will feel you don’t drink enough water, your muscles and joints will feel tired and your feet will take the brunt of the exhaustion. Plus, dehydration also lowers your body’s ability to heal, so your foot pain may not go away as quickly.
Breathe deeply when you’re feeling stressed or tired. This will help keep you calm and focused. When you are calm, your body is able to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by worry and frustration. When your body is focused on the task at hand, it is able to do its job more efficiently, which means you will be able to dance longer and more comfortably.
Get some sunlight (or vitamin D)
Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in dancers. This vitamin is crucial for bone health, immune function and mood. You can get vitamin D from sunlight or supplements, but make sure you get enough to avoid issues like brittle bones and injury, low energy and depression.
Some people think that you should avoid sunlight because it increases your risk of skin cancer. However, studies have shown that sunlight is the best source of vitamin D and the benefits of getting enough vitamin D by spending a few minutes outdoors far outweigh the risks of getting skin cancer.
If sunlight isn’t enough, try taking a vitamin D supplement. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels. They can test your blood to see if you have a deficiency.
Try taping your feet to relieve pain
If your pain is just bad enough to be annoying, try taping your feet. Make sure to ask your doctor first and have them approve you for taping.
Here’s how it works: Place a strip of moleskin or athletic tape around the ball of each foot. This will help support your arches and distribute your weight more evenly across your feet. This can go a long way towards preventing future pain or helping you get through a particularly rough pain day.
Note: If you’ve never taped before, make sure you’re at a comfortable level of pain before you tape. You don’t want to add too much pressure and make the pain worse. If you’re not sure where to put the tape, grab a friend and have them help you. They can follow your arch and tell you where to place the tape. This is a good way to get used to the pressure, so when you do it yourself you know how much is too much.
Your feet are the foundation of your body. They take the most impact in every dance move, so it’s important to take care of them. With a few small adjustments to your daily life, you can drastically reduce your risk of injury and foot pain. These tips will help you keep your feet healthy and happy for years to come.