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Caring for a vital asset: feet (Part 1)
Feet are surprisingly complex. Of the 208 bones in the human body, 52 are in the feet. Being dancers, we cannot take our feet for granted. We have, therefore, compiled some simple ideas to keep your feet in tip-top condition. As a musician must care for their instrument, the same principle applies for dancers.
Hot soak: great for tired feet
Either run a bath or fill a tub/basin with enough water to cover your feet. This will relax and calm muscles, joints and bones in the ankles, toes, sole and arch. Once you have the temperature at a comfortable level (not too hot; beetroot-coloured feet are not a good sign), soak for at least 15 minutes.
Adding nice things, such as bath salts, commercial muscle soaks or Epsom salts, really helps. (Epsom salts used to be common in the laundry section of supermarkets, but now can be found at pharmacies). Essential oils, or even slices of lemon, will be refreshing. Lavender, ti-tree oil, rose or orange water are the most therapeutic fragrances.
Ice bath - perfect for swollen or injured feet
Fill a basin or tub with cold water and ice cubes and soak each foot once at a time (five mins each is enough) or have a cold wet towel ready and use as a compress. Or use the RICE technique:
For instance, a simple treatment: drop some ice cubes in a old oversized sock, pop them on, put your feet up, and rest for 10 minutes. Finish by rubbing in some thick moisturiser and wearing cotton socks. Even better - leave the socks on overnight. If you have a tendency for dry, split skin, use a heel balm instead. This will banish the cracks. Make sure you buy a heel balm with urea in it, as that’s the key ingredient. Ongoing foot care reduces the event of calluses and blisters. Try a soak, and moisturising any time your feet are tired. You’ll be amazed how good you feel – and your feet will love it!
Trim those toenails
Painful problems with toenails can be prevented with correct nail trimming:
- Always trim your toenails straight across
- Do not trim down the sides of your nails; this causes ingrown toenails
- Use a file to gently smooth and round the corners
If you have nails that are highly curved or difficult to cut, it’s best to have them trimmed by a podiatrist. If you have diabetes, you should consult a podiatrist and have regular treatment. Read up more here.
Massage them footsies
Rub out the tension. Give yourself a foot massage - ideal when having a bath - or perhaps a kind friend will do it for you.
Make yourself comfortable in a chair or on the floor. Cross one ankle over the other knee. You should be able to reach your foot with both hands
- Using your thumbs, knead the ball of the foot in circles away from each other
- Keep working up into the arch and heel
- Gently rub the back of your heel and Achilles tendon with the thumb and first finger
- Hold one foot with your hand and rotate in a circle five times, then rotate the reverse way
- Swap feet
This will bring nourishing blood to tired sore areas, which helps ease pain.
Take a day off!
Nothing beats tired feet and stressed bodies more than some good old rest and relaxation. On your next free day, stay off your feet! Watch a movie, read a book or even have a massage - and know that your feet will be refreshed for tomorrow.
The bottom line
Never, ever, ever forget to take care of your feet! This information is of a general nature only. Please seek professional help if you need specific answers. Most suburbs and larger towns have podiatrists/chiropodists, commonly known as foot doctors.