As a dancer, you submit your feet to daily abuse. You cram your toes into pointe shoes, land on them repeatedly from high jumps and scrape your bare soles across stage floors of questionable cleanliness. But your feet are also two of your most important assets. In order to rejuvenate your peds and keep them injury free, set aside a portion of your daily regimen to give them extra attention.
Water •Get Soaked. There’s no better antidote to tired feet than a good soak. Instead of the traditional warm water mixed with scented oil or bubble bath, try this homemade herbal recipe: Combine rosemary, chamomile or peppermint herbs with warm water. (Buy fresh herbs at a supermarket or health food store or use the contents of herbal teabags.) Place small marbles at the bottom of the bowl and rub the soles of your feet in a circular motion over the marbles. Soak feet for 10-15 minutes.
•Take Your Temperature. “Revitalize and renew tired and aching feet with the use of [alternating] cold and warm foot baths,” recommends foot-health clinician Margaret Dabbs. To get the appropriate temperature for the warm bath, boil water, then let cool for 30 minutes; for the cool bath, use cold water from the tap. “Plunge your feet into the cold foot bath for 20 seconds, then into the warm one and repeat a couple of times.” This routine will boost blood circulation, which will help deliver more oxygen to cells, alleviate soreness and help to speed up the healing of strained muscles.
•Fizz It. Because bubbles rising to the surface help to stimulate blood flow, “carbonation can be soothing for tired feet,” says Larry L. Alexander, MD. Fill a bowl with one part soda, one part warm water. Use any unsweetened beverage (seltzer, club soda, etc.), as long as it’s fizzy.
Massage Massage feet to rejuvenate muscles, stimulate nerve endings and rub away fatigue.
•On a Roll. For relieving cramps and arch strain, chill a small, sturdy glass bottle in the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove and place on the floor; roll under your foot, bearing down with gentle pressure. (You can also use chilled golf or tennis balls.)
•Pin Pals. Apply your favorite moisturizer to your heels, toes, arches and ankles for lubrication. Then, place a towel over a rolling pin and roll the bottoms of each foot back and forth over the pin. It’s important to use a moisturizer to prevent cracked, hard skin from tearing.
•Reflexology. Reflexology is a foot-massage technique, based on the idea that different parts of the foot are connected with different organs of the body, and claims to alleviate many internal ailments. Find a reflexologist accredited by the American Reflexology Certification Board near you through arcb.net. The average session lasts one hour and costs about $45. Or, follow these directions for a do-it-yourself massage:
1. Beginning with the sole of one clean, bare foot at a time, move the heel of your hand or your thumb in long continuous strokes from the heel to the base of the toes.
2. With firm pressure, use a fingertip or thumb to make circles the size of a coin over the sole of your foot until you’ve massaged the entire sole.
3. For deep relief, press your thumb directly into one point on the sole and hold for a few seconds. Do this all over the bottom of your foot.
4. Grasping one toe at a time between your thumb and index finger, gently pinch the flesh, then release. Work toward the tip of the toe, pinching and releasing. Spend one minute on each toe.
5. Press your three middle fingers against the anklebone on the inside of your foot, circling around it. Repeat on the outside anklebone.
Check Ingredients •Avoid foot-care products that contain ingredients such as alcohol, formaldehyde, and paraben preservatives (butyl, ethyl, methyl and propyl). The drying qualities of these toxic additives weaken toenails and can irritate skin.
•Both coconut oil and shea butter have restorative properties, especially for cracked heels or hangnails. Before bed, slather your feet in these natural moisturizers and put on a pair of thick cotton socks, which allow your skin to breathe while keeping the product on your skin and off your sheets.