Posts Tagged: feet

The First Living Room Sessions

The goal of The Living Room Sessions is to share information on many tango topics to a small intimate group of interested dancers. The first Living Room Sessions topic was about our Feet. Susanne made us gifts of sage salt scrubs for our feet (lovely!) and we snacked on apples and helva! The objective, as I explained to everyone, was to help dancers become better informed about their feet and this included information about the (negative) effects of wearing high-heeled shoes.

Daniela talks about feetI started the session with some basic anatomical information and pictures of our feet. We did some exercises and aligned our feet looking at each of our feet and legs individually. We also stretched and massaged our feet giving them some much needed attention. It was nice that everyone was open to sharing their “Foot autobiography”. I enjoyed looking at everyone’s shoes and having them explain how they felt about their tango shoes. Clearly, sometimes loving the cute painful pair but end up wearing the one or two pairs that are most comfortable.

Some take-aways from the evening:
1) the arch is a muscular construct and therefore, will be affected by muscular contraction
2) there are as many nerves in the sole of the foot as in your face: 1/4 of all motor nerves (of the whole body) are dedicated to your feet
3) from barefoot to 5cm heeled shoe the pressure increases on the forefoot about 65% and then adding another 2.5 cm to that heel (so 7.5cm) you increase the pressure on the forefoot ANOTHER 30%. And why is this bad? because there are 26 bones in your feet and the biggest bone of the foot is the heel, where the bulk of your weight is meant to reside. So if Daniela About the Feetyou’re increasing the pressure in your forefoot, all those little bones are getting the bulk of that weight. Ouch!

So when you are not in your heels what will you do for your feet to honor them?  Stretch, massage, go barefoot, go for a walk (not in your heels!), grab a tennis ball, a golf ball, and a dozen other recommended ideas that we shared!

Thank you everyone for joining me!

The next one 30, September: How to hug the giant (no matter what size they are).  In this Session we will look at the shoulder girdle and the arms, the ribs too,  anatomically and biomechanically. We will do exercises and of course, hug. As always, I am not necessarily here to change your mind, I just want you to be a more informed dancer! Open to both roles. Remember to RSVP.

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Daniela’s Foot Care Toolkit

With all the time we spend in our high heels and investing in beautiful shoes for our tango journey I think the time we spend out of them is just as important. Here is a short list of things I do when I am not in my heels dancing to take care of my feet: my foundation to dance forever.

1) Rolling the feet
Foot RollerI love rolling my feet out. I use this great device that was gifted to me during my modern dance days. You can use a tennis ball, too. I use it often. Even as I write this blog. I take it with me on trips. It’s an essential for me. Roll roll roll and often!

2) Happy Feet socks or a similar version of Foot alignment socks.
Some of you know that I am currently enrolled in a Whole Body Alignment course, where I have been reintroduced to my foundation: my feet! And these great socks! The goal of the socks is to separate those toes and enervate some of those unused muscles: 26 bones, 33 My Happy Feet Socksjoints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and 1300 nerve endings per square inch of your sole (thanks to Theresa Perales, DPM). The foot is impressive! She recommends starting with about 30 minutes of wearing your Happy Feet socks per day and then gradually work up to sleeping in them. I remember when I first got mine, I could barely stand wearing them for 10 minutes! And I still can’t bring myself to sleep in them…but I notice a big difference in my feet overall. Using the socks has helped to relieve some stress and pressure in my feet. I can’t isolate all of my toes individually but maybe one day my feet will be as articulate as my hands. You can buy them on Amazon. (click on this link Foot alignment socks.)

3) Cold water soak
I never thought I’d become a fan of putting my feet in cold water but even in my early days of tango when I danced for endless hours in Buenos Aires I would find myself sitting with my feet in a sink filled with cold water in the early hours of the morning. And this remains a ritual. After dancing or even after a shower I stand in cold water for a few minutes or longer until my feet almost feel normal again. I always tell people to start off as cold as they can stand it and then stay in it for as long as they can stand it. This one takes some trust to believe that it will actually feel good at all, but it does. I got an email from a student in New Mexico who wrote to remind me that while I had been teaching there he had seen me stick my feet in cold water and therefore, remembering that he did it and found it very helpful to him in relieving his aching feet.

4) Arnica Montana
Arnicais a homeopathic remedy and before you stop reading, it does help some people with bruising. I find that rubbing it on my feet before going to bed also makes me feel relaxed. So this could be the fact that I have to massage it into my feet or that it provides some healing benefits. I believe it helps with soreness. I like to use the cream or the gel that I can find at my local Sprouts or Whole Foods.

5) Calf Stretch and / or Theraband (TM) stretch
Calf StretchThere’s a fabulous calf stretch that I have added to my bag of tools. It too is from the Whole Body Alignment course. I take a towel and roll it up and place 1 foot with the metatarsals on the towel and the heel on the floor. I stand straight with the weight in my heels and then I slowly begin to move the other foot on the floor passed it. I keep my feet in a parallel position, weight in the heels and aim for the rest of my body to be in alignment, in a plumb line, and breathe into this stretch and then change feet. When you do this check to see if your but is sticking out or if your ribs are or what about your chin? Make adjustments to put them back in place and over time see the benefits of this one.
I also use my Theraband or use the towel and place it under my metatarsals and pull my feet towards me. Your feet will be flexing at the ankle joint. Do this with your knees straight and go easy – just a little at a time. I do it lying down and sometimes sitting down. Either way, remember to go easy.

And finally,

6) Massage and Elevate
Better yet, if someone else massages for you, with some arnica or with some lavender lotion. Or I invest in some reflexology or some Thai massage sometimes. Or stick your feet up on the wall for a little while: lie on a bed or the floor and raise them onto the wall and just breathe…..

You can find information online about these ideas and more. Don’t hesitate to ask me about them to or I can show you a demo. That’s the next step – on video!!!

What do you do for your feet?

 

 

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Finally, About Shoes!

I have been obsessing about shoes for a long time and obsessing about writing a blog about them for months. And I find that I can’t write about shoes without talking about feet!

How ironic to look back on my relationship with shoes.  Maybe part of it was learned from my mother who I remember coveted shoes. My Dr. Scholls Sandalschildhood memories consist of an early impression of a lovely pair of mary janes and then I used to look forward to summers when I could get a new color of Dr. Scholl’s sandals.  Somewhere in the midst of a growth spurt I was observed to have fallen arches, which spawned a whole adventure in office visits to sports doctors and orthopedists.  Which eventually resulted in a very ugly orthotic which could only fit in what looked like very uncool nurse’s shoes, especially when you’re a teenager.  Ugh! The challenge became looking for a cool shoe that I could sneak my orthotics into.

Somewhere during my shoe adventures I took my first modern dance class – no shoes!  And I loved it.  I’m sure the dancing barefoot helped my feet and my arches.

So when tango came along and I had to wear shoes – let alone 3 – 4 inch heels, I thought – “no way”.

14 years of tango and several pairs of Flabella’s later I have found myself completely interested in Tango Shoes.  Besides the questions that most people ask, “What makes a tango shoe a tango shoe?”  I have been observing those tango shoes on the milonga dance floors and I ask more importantly, “Why did you pick that shoe?” and thus “Why do women wear shoes that don’t fit them?”

I observe toes hanging off the edge of the shoe, bunions popping out of the sides of shoes, heels dying to come out for air, bandaids Hanging Toescrawling off the toes, toes that are too short and excess shoe exposed at the front of the shoe.  Not to mention the off-the-dance-floor- conversations of “oh my feet hurt”, “anyone have a bandaid?”, “do you think I can get my heels shortened?”, “have you heard of oliva’s, petals, cushy insoles, foam padding?” REALLY ladies?

And then come the injuries – plantar faschiatis, bone spurs, shortening of the tendons in the heel, shin splints, back pain, ….. just to name a few.

So what does it take to get ladies to stop buying with their eyes and start to shop intelligently.  Don’t you want a shoe that fits, actually fits your foot? And feels as comfortable as a high heel can??

One of my interests in my dance training has been anatomy and kinesiology.  In a nutshell, there are 26 bones in the foot.  And the miraculous design of the foot allows it to flex, point, evert and invert.  And the foot does not work in isolation, there are muscles in the calf and ankle, into your knees that assist in making all those movements.  The body works as a unit.  That back pain?  That knee pain?

So do we just blame it on the shoes? Or on our bad posture or a somewhat sedentary lifestyle?  Do we all have to be buff and in shape to wear sexy shoes?? I do think that proper training, alignment and body awareness will definitely help your body and your dancing.  But if you are wearing shoes that actually fit your foot that will help you as well.

I had a conversation recently with traveling tango teacher who mentioned that when she first started to dance there were only 2 places to buy shoes, only a few materials and styles available. The fact was that you would judge a woman’s dancing by looking at her feet, at her technique.  And now – there is so much variety and so much choice.  I have taken women to Buenos Aires repeatedly and watched them bring back suitcases filled with shoes.  Some return to the US and never dance again. What would it be like if those women spent that money on lessons in order to actually dance well in a nice pair of shoes!

So if you’re not a dancer or a person accustomed to wearing high heels, let alone for dancing, you are probably asking the same question – WHY do it?

Ladies, is the only answer “the shoes are SO cute? Beautiful? Sexy? Different?”

Let’s break some of this down.  I am not a shoe doctor or a shoe maker but I do have a vested interest in ladies’ technique and in the idea that we can dance for many years to come.  I’ll discuss briefly the shoe, the body and foot health and make some suggestions on what to look for in a shoe.

1. The FOOT

As I mentioned, the foot has 26 bones in it.  It has the possibility for many actions – if you aim your toes towards the ceiling you have flexion; you can aim the toes away from your body and point them; you can roll the whole foot towards the lateral sides and the opposite, towards the arches.  These articulations are happening at what we call the ankle and a few other complicated combinations of foot muscles, tendons.

With all this potential for movement the feet carry us along, they bear our weight, and we just shove them into a lovely shoe that could be causing us some damage.  Maybe not immediately but I’m sure over the long term.

Our feet need care.  Consider some relievers, some stretches and regular attention.  Please feel free to submit your favorite foot care routine so others can benefit as well.

I am a big fan of hot and cold foot baths.  Even if it’s not a full blown bath I often stay in the shower a few extra minutes with my feet sitting under the faucet running only cold water.  I love Epsom salts in warm water too.  And definitely do not shy away from cold water especially after a long night of dancing your feet will thank you later when you wake up!

There a lot of cool devices on the market too for foot care.  But even just a tennis ball to place under your foot and roll it around feels good.  I have a fantastic wooden rolling pin-like device that has little ridges on it. It was a gift from my modern dance days and I use it every day.  I sit at my desk and roll my feet on it while I’m working.  Massage is good, theraband stretches are great and easy enough.  You can take a theraband or even a towel and wrap under the metatarsals (just under where your toes articulate on the bottom of your foot) and pull those toes towards your nose.

As with any stretching, I highly recommend breathing and taking it easy, don’t over do it, and be gentle with your body.  Don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities.  So this means listening to when it hurts and stop!

There are so many more feet exercises and I highly recommend getting into some routine to save them and keep them healthy.  After all they do keep you walking and dancing, they deserve a little love!

I highly recommend Katy Bowmen’s website Aligned and Well and her wisdom. (http://www.alignedandwell.com) She has a DVD called “Fix your Feet” and a new book on women’s feet!

2.  So what do I think about The SHOES

I think it is so wonderful that we have choices. But we have sacrificed nice foot work for a cute shoe that we can barely walk in, let alone dance in.

So let me share what I look for in a shoe.  When I try on a shoe I stand up in them to see what happens.  There are some shoe brands that Daniela's Left Footwhen I stand up my foot slides forward and thus my toes go to the edge if not hang off the front of it.  But if I stand up and there is no sliding and my heel is intact in the back, there’s no excess hanging out the arch-side or the toe side I am almost happy. I also feel where the bulk of my weight lands in the shoe. I enjoy using my feet when I dance. I want to be able to feel an important articulation indicated in this picture by the purple area. As I dance I am using my whole foot. Not just landing on the metatarsals (balls of the feet) or just using my heels but using the whole foot and trying to keep my torso aligned over this purple area. So I want a shoe that supports this for me.

I also think that working your way to a higher heel is the way to go. If your foot has never needed to bend or flex then waking up the feet, taking care of them, and starting out in a lower heel is definitely sensible.

As I mentioned before, we are lucky to have choice. Try on many brands of shoes, they are not made the same. The relationship between between the arch and the heel are not created equally. This is why if you have a higher arch sometimes a higher heel actually feels better if the arch of the shoe makes contact with your arch. (Shameless plugs in a minute.)

I also just recently read a blog The Science of High Heels (http://www.totangoblog.ca/the-science-of-high-heels/) and I appreciate the research they have done however, my only question for them would be to clarify the position of the pelvis.

Many of you have read my blog on the pelvis and I do believe that the posture in Tango is becoming compromised and that more injuries are on the horizon due to bad posture and the heels. I go back to what Graciela Gonzalez has taught me, which is to have my torso, from crotch to head over my foot, just beyond the arch towards the toes and to use my whole foot when dancing. There is relief here. I dance my body and I definitely want to continue dancing for many years to come.

3. Shameless Plugs

I have not tried on every shoe that is out there but have been lucky to have tried on and tried out many. I have been a pretty loyal Flabella shoe wearer for my entire tango career. Don’t roll your eyes! I’m not talking about anything else except the shoe that fits my foot and that I can wear dancing all night right away. My first official tango shoes (after the hand me downs my teacher gave me) were from Flabella and the leather was soft, the heel was low and I loved them.

In 2010 I bought my first Soy Porteñas and was worried about the height of the heel. I ended up wearing them for several hours for an My Red Shoesentire weekend for my first Tango Competition. I couldn’t believe how great they were. They are my new favorite shoe brand. They have recently come out with a lower heel height and I have to say that the lower heel, for me, does not help to place my body where I need to be on my foot. Go figure!

In summary – pay attention to your feet, soak them, rub them, roll them, have someone do all that for you, but take some care of them. My reflexologist said to me that the feet are like the bottom of the ocean, they collect sediment too. And secondly, shop around for shoes. Try not to fall in love at first sight but at first try on instead.

And finally, I am really happy that so many people are taking an interest in learning more about their feet and their bodies. There are several articles and blogs available online about feet and high heels. Ask more questions and try on many pairs!

Happy Dancing!

 

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