As dancers, our feet are one of our most used tools, and their wellbeing is vital to having a good class, rehearsal, or performance. The strength and flexibility of our feet let us jump higher and balance longer. But all this using our feet can sometimes cause them to be swollen, hurting, and just exhausted. What happens when your feet are so worn-out, overworked, and sore that you don’t feel like you can even move them? Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve been using for years that have helped me make those tired feet feel relieved and energized again:
1. Lift those feet up!
This is probably the easiest and fastest way to help hurting and worn-out feet. This excessize is reat to do in between rehearsals and after long days. Simply lie on your back, lift your legs up in the air, and don’t worry about keeping your knees straight or turning out your legs. Let your feet relax, and enjoy the relief! I do this against a wall too sometimes, to give my legs something to prop up against. In addition to simply getting the pressure off your feet, this also improves circulation in both your feet and legs, as well as keeps your feet from being swollen.
Show your feet some love by giving them a little massage with your hands! Seated with both legs in front of you, bend one knee and turn it out, so that your lower leg can prop on top of the extended one, making sort of a number 4 shape. Take the foot of the bent leg in both hands, and gently press your thumbs into the sole of your foot. You can alternate between soft circular motions, light pressing, and stroking motions, depending on what feels best to you. This gentle massage will decrease lactic acid buildup that happens when you’re using your feet a lot and also improve circulation, leaving your feet feeling refreshed and movable again.
3. Roll it out
My feet often get cramped after lots of rehearsal, so I keep a tennis ball in my dance bag to roll my arches on during the day. I do this standing up, with one foot placed on the ball, and then I just roll the ball around on the bottom of my foot. You can do this with a foot roller, tennis ball, dryer ball, or any other small, firm ball. The harder the ball, the deeper the muscles you’ll be able to reach. It feels so good to roll those muscles out, and it helps stop lactic acid buildup too. My feet always feel so much happier after I roll them out!
4. Soak with Salt
The ultimate way to help feet that feel like they’re dead is a salt soak! I do this a few times a week at night and it really makes a difference in how my feet feel the next day. Using your bathtub, a foot tub, or any small, open container, fill with warm water that is a comfortable temperature for you. Then, sprinkle in anywhere between 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of Epsom salt. Let your feet soak in the tub for about 15 minutes and dry them off. Epsom salt has been used by dancers forever, because of its many benefits, which include reducing swelling and pain, and softening skin. Table salt or sea salt are fine too since they have a lot of the same benefits.
5. Freeze Your Feet
When nothing else seems to do the trick, ice is always a winner when it comes to tired feet remedies. Ice helps to alleviate pain and stop inflammation too. On days when my feet feel like they might fall off, I like to fill up a clean bucket with ice and submerge both feet in for about 10 minutes at night. It’s a pretty shocking feeling for a second, but it feels so good after that initial plunge!
6. Get Oily
Essential oils don’t just smell nice; they can help your feet feel more alive, too! Use a few drops of it when you massage your feet or put a few in your soaking tub. Lavender and chamomile oils are great choices for when you want your feet to feel calm and release all their built-up tension. Peppermint oil is awesome for relieving your feet when they’re sore.
Emily Strickland is a professional ballet dancer and writer from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is currently dancing with Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, where she’s had the opportunity to perform ballets like The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake, as well as in a collaborative performance with Cirque du Soleil. Previously she was an artist at Columbia Classical Ballet and a trainee at Richmond Ballet, where she was the featured soloist in Connor Frain’s premiere piece “Inertia”. She has trained with Richmond Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence, Nashville Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition, she is a ballet instructor at Avery Ballet.
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