It is important for dancers to look after themselves in terms of their health and appearance. However, prime assets that are often overlooked are the feet.

It is vital for dancers to keep their feet in premium condition so they can perform to the best of their ability. Dancers’ feet experience considerable wear and tear in comparison with the average person, due to long hours spent exercising, training and performing.

The constant pounding of your feet on the hard floor places immense stress not only on your feet, but also your legs and spine, as the feet absorb the full impact of the dance move.

Common dancer foot ailments

Common foot problems amongst dancers include: Metatarsalgia, Plantar fasciitis, Shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, calluses and blisters.

Forefoot pain is very common and is due to the amount of moves that involve loading the forefoot eg landing on the forefoot after a jump. This in most cases can be alleviated or avoided with elastic metatarsal bandages or a simple orthotic (insole). This type of device will unload the pressure at the forefoot.

Friction blisters are another big problem for dancers and in severe cases (especially with young dancers) can stop them dancing. These are caused by your skin rubbing against something - usually a poor fitting shoe. Most friction blisters are filled with clear fluid. It is best to leave most small blisters alone.

To minimise blisters, firstly ensure that your shoes fit correctly. This does not always prevent blisters, especially after a long dance session, but ill-fitting footwear is the most common reason for blisters. If the blisters persist try wearing two pairs of socks to ease friction against foot or use an anti-blister foot cream before putting your socks on. This will make the skin more supple and able to resist friction.

Focus on Irish Dancing

By Robert James Hill

How Irish Dancing impacts on the foot

In Irish Dancing feet have a great deal of stress placed on them, more so than in other dance sports. The majority of the body weight is placed through the ball of the foot and the big toe. The tendons and muscles on the bottom of the foot which support of the arch also get frequently strained. As is the nature of the dancing, these stresses are often repetitive and traumatising.

Potential problems and symptoms to look out for and when best to seek the help of a podiatrist

Four main areas subject to stress are:

  • Soft tissue: such injuries which are common are bruises, blisters, strains of the muscles (plantar fasciitis).
  • Nerve: common injuries are pain shooting into the middle three toes (Morton’s neuroma), damaged nerves and numbness (neuropathy).
  • Bone: slight breaks of the bone are called stress fractures.
  • Nail: Bruising of the nail and ingrowning nails are common.

Maintaining healthy feet for Irish Dancing

  • Use of emollient (foot) cream enables the skin to retain moisture.
  • Stretching of the foot and ankle can help keep the foot flexible. One such stretch is done using a tennis ball and rolling it backwards and forwards under the arch. Calf stretches are also very useful.
  • Cut nails short so they don’t impact on the front of the dancing shoe, causing damage.

Equipment required

  • Strapping tape can help support the foot if injured.
  • Nail cutters are useful if the nail is damaged
  • Ice on standby for swelling.

Five top tips when Irish Dancing

  1. Massaging arches in between sets.
  2. Stretching in between sets as mentioned above.
  3. Joint mobilisation, grasping hold of joints and rotating them (ankle and big toe).
  4. Shoe padding, protection and orthotic correction to aid the support of the foot.
  5. Correctly fitting shoes.

If biomechanical imbalances are present, these existing stresses will overload certain structures, and predispose the golfer to overuse of muscles and strain on ligaments and tendons. Orthoses will equalise the weight load on the lower extremity and in essence rest the overused muscle.

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