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By Nancy Wozny
Tips for keeping feet blister-free, plus remembering choreography, beating the PM drowsies and more
Blisters are a reality of dance life, but sometimes with early care they can be avoided. A blister occurs as the result of repeated friction and moisture. Pressure causes layers of skin right below the surface to tear, generating a serum-like fluid that creates the blister to protect the damaged skin below.
Dancers often get blisters when they wear new dance shoes, or suddenly increase the amount they’re dancing, like during a period of intense rehearsal. An untreated blister can pop and become infected, turning a distracting problem into a serious one.
It’s best if you can leave a blister to heal in the open air, but few dance schedules permit that. A clear blister can be drained with a sterile needle after the skin has been cleaned with alcohol, says Atlanta podiatrist Frank Sinkoe. “It’s important to keep the roof of the blister intact as a kind of ‘biological’ dressing,” he notes. Reduce further friction problems with powders, and cover and cushion the blister while dancing, says Jenna Calo, a physical therapist at Body Dynamics in Washington, DC, who works with dancers from The Washington Ballet.
But the best strategy is to avoid blisters in the first place. Here are some tips:
Do your shoes fit well? If your feet are moving inside your dance shoes, you are courting blisters. In the case of pointe shoes, you usually can modify the box width, vamp height and taper of the shoe to permit a more individualized fit.
Know your trouble spots. Even in shoes you’ve worn for a while, after a long dance session your feet will have some red spots. Those are the places most likely to develop a blister. Cover the spots with medical tape, 2nd Skin gauze or moleskin before they become troublesome, and make sure they have fresh coverings before your next dance session.
Keep your feet dry. Increased perspiration also creates a blister-friendly environment. “If feet sweat, they should be washed periodically during the day with soap and water and dried well, especially between the toes,” says Sinkoe. Keep in mind that plastic or gel toe pads can increase foot perspiration. If that happens, Calo recommends fabric toe pads or lambswool.
Layer it on. Tights and socks are more than a mere tradition. They provide a protective barrier between the shoe and your skin, and help absorb moisture. If you’ve been having problems, try adding a layer (or two) and see if it helps.
If a blister starts… Even with the best efforts, you can’t always avoid a blister. Don’t leave home without emergency supplies. Have some Neosporin, socks, tights, foot powder, moleskin, Dr. Scholl’s and Band-Aids at hand. That way, if you have to deal with a problem blister mid-rehearsal, you’re all set.
Don’t just grab the nearest Band-Aid when you have a blister. A regular one may aggravate a blister that’s popped. Advanced Healing Blister Band-Aids are designed to keep raw, sensitive skin dry and germ-free. A gel pad protects the blister area, while the bandage’s flexible, waterproof adhesive means it can be worn several days in a row. They can be found in most drugstores.
Want to up your ability to remember choreography? Have some hot cocoa. A recent Harvard Medical School study in the journal Neurology found that two cups of hot cocoa per day improves blood flow to the brain. Cocoa is high in the antioxidant flavanol, which has been shown to help circulation and heart function. The study also found that drinking cocoa led to improvement in memory function.
Beat the PM Drowsies
Skip the french fries at lunch if you want to be alert for afternoon rehearsal. A recent Penn State College of Medicine study in the journal Sleep found that consuming high-fat foods for breakfast or lunch can contribute to afternoon sleepiness; a carbohydrate-rich diet helped increase wakefulness. So pile your plate with options like eggs, fruit, nuts, whole-grain bread, yogurt and salads.
Photo at top by Eduardo Patino; istock; courtesy Johnson & Johnson