Dancers might tend to be lazy about certain things (because we know how hard they work on other aspects of their training), but your feet cannot be one of them! They are part of your instrument and if you don’t learn to baby them a little bit then they will balk, not do their best, and embarrass you publicly. A lot of dancers put store in their blemished feet. I think a lot of dancers also walk in a duck-like position for the same reason. I am not sure it helps turnout, but it does announce to the world, as a bun might, and a dance bag, “I am a dancer!” You don’t need to have ugly feet like those above-they are just neglected.
You need to try to take care of your feet. They are hardworking feet and are going to have signs of use and they need their callouses, but they can be well-maintained and reach a condition such as the one above if you are diligent and loving. Not doing so can result in many conditions, lesions, ingrown toenails, compensations and injuries. It used to be considered primary for a dancer to have bunions. They just couldn’t get that little bend in the toe, if they did not.Some people have hereditary bunions, but even if they do not, they can get them from dancing!
Other dancers knuckle over in order to stretch the top of the foot. This does not build strength in the foot, but rather weakens the muscles (sometime irretrievably), and does permanent damage to the nerves in the toes, sometimes the nail is jammed upwards, splayed and takes on a hideous appearance on its own.
Whacking the foot on the floor is a good way to break the sesamoid bones, and overdoing it may sprain the big toes or other parts of the foot. There are inflamed bursa. Then there are the all too common stress fractures, which untended can result in a real break which takes months to heal. These are all internal effects that outward treatment causes.
But the blisters and numbness, callouses, bruises and bleeding, bunions and foot fungus can be just as detrimental resulting in a breaking down of the skin, tissue, and opening up the area for infection, athlete’s foot and other problems. So, whenever a dancer gets a chance, she should pamper those feet.
I would think it would be welcome and liberating to massage ones’ feet, have them massaged, bath them when they are hot and swollen, pumice them, balm and salve them, and generally be nice to them as they do so much for you. Massaging the little ligaments of the toes can do wonderful things for cramped feet, such as Swedish facial massage can reshape the muscles of the face. Europeans seem to know more about this old technique than Americans do.
Certain treatments and protections (even for the most determined dancer) can actually help the feet stay fresh, clean and fit. Here are some basic precepts about self-footcare-
1) Always have a good nailbrush. I mean the kind with either actual bristles or sturdy, short, but flexible bristles which really scrub/slough the foot. This should not pierce under the nail, but should clean under the nail vigorously and safely. Ace Hardware sells a $3 brush that suits the purpose, with about a 4″ wooden top, which is large enough even for a guy’s hands. Scrubbing the foot keeps it clean, and a non-drying, or coconut based soap, such as castile is gentle but thoroughly cleansing and fresh. I do not go for the soft brushes or plastic ones as they usually have cheap plastic bristles that sort of rub the skin, but do little for circulation.
2) A loofah is good to use as well, periodically. Of course I mean a natural one.
3) A pumice stone should not be used everyday, but rather lightly every so often and never scrub with it. You need your callouses.
4) If you have stinky feet buy a small bottle of peppermint oil from the health food store and some lanolin. MIx a couple of drops of peppermint oil into the lanolin/mineral oil (natural food stores also sell small bottles). Keep this at home or in your dance bag and either massage it into your feet or add it to a foot soak. Regular, but not excessive, use of this product will help to keep bacteria at bay and provide a fresh, relaxing aromatherapy for your feet.
5) Don’t pop blisters. Leave them alone or cover them if you think they are going to break, trying to keep the skin intact until they are partially healed. Then cut away the dead skin carefully with clean cuticle scissors. All toe tools should be kept sterile and clean.
6) Add alcohol or a medical cleanser to water and scrub tools, rinsing in very hot water thoroughly and air dry. Oil scissors and clippers (mineral oil) every so often to keep working properly. Make sure all tools are dry and clean. Discard those that rust and use stainless steel. Cotton balls or q-tips should be used to apply antiseptic, Neosporin or anything else as a topical antibiotic. Never use fingers or apply nozzle directly to skin as bacteria develops in the container over time. No point in reinfecting.
7) Skin repair lotion containing emu oil and vitamins A and E works to heal dry, chapped feet and toes. Applying it over night (or during the night if your child fusses) can heal and repair most skin lesions in 24-48 hours. Deeper cracks may take longer and also should be treated as cuts, cleaned/soaked thoroughly with Betadine or some other non-tissue damaging antiseptic. Aligon makes a lotion which will heal feet to a healthy condition very quickly, is non-greasy and contains nano spheres (time-released moisturizers for skin therapy). Their phone number is (205)663-0521 Their website is http://www.aligoninc.com
8) Always put clean socks and clean feet into your shoes and then they won’t carry dirt and bacteria into your shoes where it grows in the dark. A simple, efficient routine for feet will prevent nasty foot conditions, prolong the life of your dancer feet and make unsightly dancer feet a thing of history. Just like an artist, a dancer doesn’t have to be messy. A loved foot is a happy foot!
Daily Mail advice on getting feet fixed in a snap: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2153704/Seven-quick-fixes-beautiful-feet-summer.html
9) If you develop any foot fungus, you can look up home remedies on the Internet or see a doctor. Athletes foot can be extraordinarily itchy and uncomfortable, even painful. There are several kinds and some are curable by natural methods, some are not. Any over the counter clotrimazole containing cream kills most foot fungus, but to determine which fungus it is, and avoid unnecessary treatment, it is best to see a doctor.
Neat Feet (New Zealand) cares about feet and has some nice advice about simple footcare routines and treating, controlling basic problems as well as selling a complete line of medical quality and healthy footcare products. I think they are great. See more by looking around the website. http://www.neatfeat.com/shop/cracked-heels.html
Footcare Products (will keep adding)
Keep on Dancing!