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Foot care for barefoot dancers.

Skin Splits

Barefoot dancers, feet are often callused. Calluses (normal, hard, thickened, slightly yellowish or brownish) can tear like paper, especially if you are dancing on floors that have become heavily rosined from pointe dancing. One way you can help prevent your calluses from tearing is to keep your feet moisturized twice daily with lanolin-based moisturizers. You should also avoid drying soaps. If you develop especially thick calluses, thin them slightly with Dr. Scholl's Callus Remover, a device that resembles a cheese grater. Don't cut calluses all the way down--you need them!

Callus tears that open the skin underneath are called skin splits. Skin splits can lead to infection (red, hot, painful). If you suffer from a skin split that has become sore and infected, a good first-aid measure is to rest the split on a wet, hot washcloth for ten minutes three times a day. In addition, keep your foot clean After class, wash it with a cream-based soap, taking care to be especially gentle around the split. Next, apply a disinfectant to the torn-skin area and cover it with a strong Band-Aid. Pinch the split closed before applying the Band-Aid, which should adhere at right angles to the rift, like a bridge across a river. Then, wrap that part of the foot with a turn of flexible adhesive tape (use tape that is at least two inches wide, such as Elastikon or Elastoplast). Change this dressing at least once a day, and keep doing so for two days after the soreness goes away (usually at least two weeks). During changing, especially early on, be sure to remove the Band-Aid with care Lightly pinch the split closed as you peel each edge towards the split, for if you pull right across the split, you might tear it further.

If the condition worsens despite these measures, seek professional care.

Stone Bruises

A common injury among barefoot dancers, stone bruises are sore spots that develop on the bottoms of the feet, particularly at the ball. You can feel that the area bruised, although it doesn't change color (if it does, the injury is more serious and you should seek professional help).

Common causes of stone bruises are hard floors, irregularities in the dance surface (linoleum seams, wrinkles in tape, trapdoor edges), and choreography that makes intensive demands on the ball of the foot. Stone bruises can also develop if you are shifting your weight to reduce impact on an already-injured area of the foot. In some cases the cause may be unrelated to dancing--the tread pattern on new sneakers can bruise the ball of the foot, for instance. Sometimes, the root of the problem is simply weak feet.

Dancers with disproportionately long second toes (a condition called "Morton's" or "Greek" foot) are particularly susceptible to stone bruises, and so are dancers with advanced bunions. In these foot structures, the second metatarsal joint gets extra pressure in releve, and it can bruise.

In cases of severe stone bruises even walking is painful. But they don't necessarily require that you take time off.

You can protect the bruise by applying self-adhesive "pontoons" on both sides of the bruised area. The best material for pontoons is adhesive felt, which should be at least 1/8" thick. If adhesive felt isn't available, molefoam or several layers of moleskin will work. Pontoons should come just to the edge of the bruise without touching it.

Bruises are usually about the size of a dime. You can test for the precise edge of the bruise with your finger. You may find it helpful to mark the edge with a felt-tip pen. Then, apply the pads to your foot just outside of the pen lines (see photo at right). Be sure they cover the entire unbruised portion of the ball of your foot. This allows the injured site to "float."

Before dancing barefoot, cover the applique with a not-too-tight wraparound of Elastikon (a tight wrapping will squeeze the pontoon edges into the bruise, defeating the purpose). When you're not dancing, be aware that your shoes may similarly squeeze the pads into the bruise. If they do, place the pads ever so slightly further away from the bruise--but not too far, or they won't work. A little experimentation here will give the most gratifying results. Change the pontoons daily, to avoid getting a rash from the adhesive.


Warts are viral and contagious and almost unavoidable in barefoot dancers who have inherited a susceptibility to them. Do try to avoid being barefoot in public areas when you're not dancing. Warts look like flat little cauliflower spots. Unlike calluses, warts hurt more when pinched than when pressed, and they interrupt the skin lines like islands in a rippling pond, while calluses have continuous "fingerprints."

There are many good over-the-counter acid preparations to treat warts. Follow the instructions and be precise in your application! Until they go away, or at least become pain-free positive thinking and keeping the pressure off with foam doughnuts are helpful (modern dancers: don't forget the elastic tape). Seek professional help for very painful or rapidly multiplying warts. In many cases, a doctor will tell you that there is nothing more to be done than what you are doing. When your immune system figures out how to fight the warts, they will quickly vanish, but this can take a long time. Surgery to the bottom of the foot, which can leave a painful scar, should absolutely be a last resort.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:The Young Dancer; treating injuries that can lead to foot disease
Author:Novella, Thomas
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 1994
Previous Article:Stephen Petronio: mixing it up.
Next Article:Major worldwide competitions: where and when.

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