Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caring for Your Feet as a Pointe Dancer

Ladies, for those of you en pointe, I feel your pain. You have to cut your toenails or they'll dig into your pointe shoe and hurt, or even worse, they'll flake or split. You get blisters when you're breaking in new shoes, or just all the time. You've got bunions, bunionettes, and corns. Your skin may be sensitive and rubbed raw. Your shoes may slip off the back of your heel. Band-aids are expensive! Finding the right padding is a horror. I hope to help!

For your nails:
I had a dancer friend who had to cut her toenails every time she did pointe. Literally, every time. Pointe is hard on your nails. For those of you with dry, cracking, weak nails, I heartily suggest this: the Nail Tek Intensive Therapy. I use formula II because my nails tend to peel off in layers (II is supposed to stick the layers together), but if you have nails that are brittle in general (or you bite your fingernails!), you can go for the next level up (I believe it's the XL therapy?). Also, keep a nail clipper in your dance bag in case you get a hangnail or forgot to clip them the night before! Bonus points if it has a pretty rubber grip!

For the occasional (or chronic) blister:
I get blisters every now and then too. Maybe I was just a little off that day, or I'm trying to break in a new pair of shoes and a spot on my foot gets irritated. The knuckle on my 4th toe is especially prone to blistering. This is my solution! Band-Aid makes these great blister band-aids for fingers and toes (if you're prone to heel blisters, they make a heel-shaped one too). The band-aid itself isn't too thick, is squishy, and immediately cuts down on 90% of the pain. You'll still feel a slight irritation, but hey, it's a blister. This is as good as it gets. The only thing is that it doesn't stick too well to a sweaty working toe, so you might want to put some paper tape on top of it. You might think they're slightly expensive, but to save you from the pain of a blister so that you can keep dancing? Priceless.

For the shoe that refuses to stay on your heel:
This is the stuff for you. It's called rock rosin - you crush the rock-like crystals into a powder, wet your tights on the heel a little bit, and apply a little of the powder. Instant stick without feeling sticky! If the back of your shoe doesn't slip off too often or you just want to make sure it doesn't on stage, just a little water on the heel of your tights will do the trick. Wetting the knot on your pointe shoe ribbons will keep the knot from slipping out too!

Bonus tip: if you're going onto a slippery stage, a little of the powder rosin on the box of your shoe will stop slipping and still allow you to turn without leaving a sticky residue on the stage! For ballet or jazz shoes, I find that rosin actually makes it more slippery halfway through the performance, so I prefer to use a light coating of hairspray on the balls of my shoes before I go on stage.

If your big toe doesn't point straight down in your shoe:
You need a little space between your big toe and your second toe so that your big toe doesn't push in. This will give you a squarer, more stable support base and will help you not to roll your ankles in towards your big toes when you're standing en pointe. I don't personally have this problem, but my dancer friend (same one who had to clip her toenails every day) did, and she loved these spacers by Bunheads.

Instead of band-aids on every toe:
Band-aids are so expensive if you use 10 every time you do pointe. Even if you only use band-aids on one or two toes, think about it. That's ridiculous. Paper tape is a wonderful solution that I feel works just as well. If you like band-aids because they're thicker, double up on the paper tape. Use several layers, or tear up a tissue and put a few layers of soft tissue on your toe before taping it down with the paper tape. It works just as well and won't break your bank!

For dry, cracking, or sensitive skin:
This stuff is such a lifesaver. You can use it all over your body, face, hands. It's aloe vera gel, which is soothing and will also work on sunburns. It has Tea Tree Oil, which is a natural antibacterial agent (if you have oily skin like I do, bonus tip: tea tree oil is not pore-clogging and will actually reduce oil, shine, and ance). There are other oils that won't clog your pores that are healthy for your skin. It won't soften your calluses which you worked so hard to build. It's in a great tube that's small enough for you to throw in your dance bag and use whenever. It's non-oily, so you can use it right before you put on your tights or shoes, wait a minute for it to dry, and not worry about oily stains. Gotta love it!

I hope some or all of this information was useful! If you have any questions, please leave a comment below to ask! I'd love to answer them.

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