Oh My Aching Feet!


Staff member
Taken, with permission, from Terryl's Corner - Advice and tips for dancers

Oh My Aching Feet!
By Terryl Jones

Someone catches me quietly after class, they look around to see if anyone is within earshot, then they whisper the question almost guiltily. "My feet hurt so bad, is there anything I can do? They look at me with pleading eyes. Should I buy a new pair of shoes? It is the shoes isn't it?" Well maybe it is and maybe it isn't.

Understanding what causes the feet to hurt helps you understand how to remedy the issue. We will deal with the shoes first. For both men and ladies, the ideal dance shoe becomes part of the foot. They are extremely flexible and bend easily. Therefore sole is very thin so as not to interfere with the flexing of the foot. In ladies shoes the heel cup and straps should keep the foot securely in the shoes so that during spins the foot and shoe turn together and stop together. The heel is welded to a steel shank in the arch allowing the heels to support weight in them. This contrasts to ladies street shoes that usually have fragile heels which causes the lady to ALWAYS keep her weight forward on the ball of the foot. The supported heel means that the lady can use her entire foot rather than just the toes. The straps should be as tight as comfortable but not cut into the skin anywhere.

So the first problem is often a poor fitting shoe. Ladies - the tendency is to buy a "pretty" shoe. There are quite a few "pretty" shoes on the market that just do not provide the support. If the heel is wobbling or you have the straps cutting into the skin to keep the shoes from moving around as you try to dance..... the shoe is DEFINITELY either the wrong size, the wrong shoe, or broken down. Many brands of shoes carry similar styles, some running narrower or wider. A certain style from one company may be too wide/narrow, but be just right from a different company. If you have a hard to fit foot, you should try several different brands of shoes. The shoe should fit securely, a bit tighter than street shoes. You want to have the shoe move with the foot, but not have the foot move around inside the shoe. Remember that leather will stretch more than other materials and allow for the adjustments. As far a padding underneath the foot itself, the shoe does not have very much for the very reason it will interfere with the flexibility of the shoe. A pair of Dr. Scholls pads help. Ladies they sell some that fit under just the balls of the feet. As a side note ladies, it is ok and even preferable to have your sandals run shorter than street shoes. Sometimes the toes may even be in contact with the floor, this allows the toes to grip the floor better.

After ruling out poor fitting shoes the next thing to make note is the type of floor. In clubs the floor (either wooden or tile) is laid on top of concrete. This is hard on the entire body, not just the feet. Hard floors are destructive on the joints, hips and spine also. A good floor for dancing is a "floating" or "sprung" floor. A "floating" floor is raised off the concrete several inches and is just sitting upon widely spaced supports. This allows the floor to give under the body, thus lessening the stress on the feet and body. (Those that have been to Lets Dance note the ramps to the floors, both rooms have "floating" floors.)

Lastly your feet hurt because of you! Any muscles that have not been worked will get stiff and sore when you start working them out. You expect it when you go to the gym, you work the muscle and it gets sore Many people are pleased to be a little tender because they know they were productive. Your feet have many muscles. Just sitting at a desk or walking does not work them. When you are dancing those muscles are getting worked and stretched much more than normal. They are also attached to the muscles of the ankles and legs so those muscles will also become tight. So to feel better soak your feet or take a hot bath. There are two great products on the market: Footherapy and Batherapy. They are basically a mineral soak - they work. (Side story: I KNOW Batherapy works because when my dog and I were training for a marathon I used it. My dog hated baths but he would lay in the tub and soak in this stuff! ) Take time to massage the the muscles out with a sports creme. A foot roller is great for working the bottom of the foot, but you need to use hands to work the toes, the top of the foot and the ankle. Stretching out after dancing is wise. Take the time to stretch at least the feet, ankles and calves. Very likely you will feel the tightness all the way up your legs, hips and lower back. If you have spent a lot of time on your feet, they are probably a little swollen so propping them up will help.

Poor technique can also contribute to or even cause injury or pain. Since we are talking about feet I am not going to get into the issue of how poor technique could hurt your partner. Other than getting your feet stepped on, the poor technique that causes foot pain is usually your own. I also do not have the space to get into all the bad habits that would cause pain or injury. A general description will have to do. Ideally the bones of the leg are lined up on top of the part of the foot that is carrying the weight. All the joints of the foot, ankle and leg should bend, straighten and transfer weight without sacrificing that alignment. Any misalignment will cause micro trauma that can cause the flare up of an old injury, cause a new injury or just plain hurt. To avoid this you need two things: a good teacher that knows anatomy and physics of movement and good self analysis. Your shoes can also be a valuable sign, if they are wearing out unevenly you should book some time with a knowledgeable teacher. Be aware that in street dances such as salsa or swing many of the "popular" teachers are just someone that has some cool steps but very little training in body mechanics and movement. If you are hurting find a teacher that is a "technician" and have them take a look at you.
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Well-Known Member
I can really relate to paragraph two. When I switched to my current coach , he started me doing these endless footwork drills. Ouch! Big time foot and ankle pain. Not because I was doing anything wrong. I was just exercising muscles I'd never used that way before. And it hurt for weeks, until I got used to it. Not so bad, now. I have much stronger foot, ankle and leg muscles. Yay! :D


Well-Known Member
Yup. Technician. But that's what I need right now. Technique. Big time. Later on, I can add someone to teach me bigger/better styling. But for now, technique, technique, technique. Ouch! :lol:
pygmalion said:
Yup. Technician. But that's what I need right now. Technique. Big time. Later on, I can add someone to teach me bigger/better styling. But for now, technique, technique, technique. Ouch! :lol:
LOL remember styling doesn't look half as good with out technique to back it up!


Well-Known Member
Exactly. Actually, since that post, I have started taking lessons once a week with someone to help me with styling. But my primary focus is still technique.


New Member
shoe fitting.

I'm not sure if this is the right forum to be adding to, but I'm desperately trying to figure out whether my new salsa shoes fit right or not. I went out dancing a few days ago with them and ended with blisters and sore feet. Is this because they're brand new and need to be "broken into"? When I bought them the lady that was helping me said they looked like they fit nicely, but now i've been reading that your toes should cover all of the sole..Mine don't completely. (they're open-toe~obviously) I know I have one foot bigger than the other and so the lady told me to favor that foot when choosing sizes.. :cry: So I'm crossing my fingers that the shoes will just need a few more tries! (I'm also planning on asking my instructor for help next time I see her.) Thanks in advance for any help or advice !!! :?
Well breaking in your shoes wont make your foot any longer. They may fall forward in the shoe a little but your feet probably wont cover the whole sole any more after they are broken in.

I like to break in my new shoes by wearing them while I'm say typing on the computer so the heat of my feet will stretch them out


New Member
Thanks that may help. I did go to the store where I bought them and teh lady (a different one thank god) suggested that I get heel grips. They seem to be working pretty well, I have a class tonight, so that'll be the real test! Thanks anyways.
Sometimes I wish I could just paint on some straps onto the top of my foot just for aesthetic purposes and then wear a simple adhesive pad on the bottom of my foot to use as a shoe. Straps kill me!
For the first time in a while I actually have two or three days with no dancing. My feet were starting to hurt and I actually welcome it a little this time. I think there can be a performance benefit to wearing dance shoes, but also a physical detriment to your feet over time. I still haven't figured out the exact science of balancing the two.

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