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How to Find the Best Pair of Street Shoes, According to Podiatrists

Last month, members of New York City Ballet teamed up with designer Cole Haan to create a comfy, yet stylish line of shoes that are wearable from the stage to the streets. Because in a career where you're almost constantly working on your feet, it's vital for dancers to have supportive and safe footwear, even when you're not in the studio.

To ensure your feet are always feeling performance-ready, we asked two podiatrists who've worked with dancers what to look for—and what to avoid—when shopping for new springtime kicks.

Video: colehaan.com


Make Sure It’s Wide Enough

According to Manhattan-based podiatrist Thomas Novella, dancers often have "wide-ball, narrow-heel" feet. Soles not manufactured widely enough at the ball will eventually stretch and produce pressure and discomfort under the borders of the foot.

Look For a Firm, But Flexible Sole

Look for a sole that's flexible at the ball of the foot, but firmer in the mid-shank. "A shoe which is too rigid will force the Achilles tendon to work overtime, and flexibility at the ball of the foot will reduce that stress," says Atlanta-based podiatrist Frank Sinkoe. Novella adds that this enhances a normal gait, protects the midfoot from strain and helps protect tired feet and ankles.

Try this test: If you grab the shoe with both hands at the ball and the heel, it should resist twisting (like the way you would wring out a towel).

Check The Inside

Before purchasing a new pair of kicks, put your hand inside the shoe and press into the sole at the ball. You don't want to feel bumps or irregularities.

Consider Insoles

Both doctors suggest investing in a removable insole—they can be customized more than the actual shoe to cater to your specific needs.

Buy Often

Replace heavily worn shoes "as often as you can afford," or at least annually, says Novella.

Shop At Night

Never try on new shoes at the beginning of the day, since your feet will be less swollen than usual. According to Novella, it's best to fit your shoes at the end of the day and maybe even after class, while your feet are at their largest, and always size up if you're unsure.

Avoid Sandals and High Heels

If you're prone to injury or are dealing with foot pain, it's smart to avoid high heels and sandals altogether. "When wearing a sandal, the toes will curl to keep the foot in contact with the shoe," Sinkoe says. "If you're having pain in the ball of the foot, this may increase stress to the area and worsen the pain." Novella warns that wearing high heels will lead to a greater chance of sprained ankles or metatarsal injuries, especially in dancers with prior injuries. "Too high of a heel can cause a heel bruise, yet a low heel can also lead to foot strain," he adds.

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Courtesy Ava Noble

Go Behind the Scenes of USC Kaufman’s Virtual Dance Festival

Now more than ever, the students of USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance are embodying their program's vision: "The New Movement."

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, the dance world continues to be faced with unprecedented challenges, but USC Kaufman's faculty and BFA students haven't shied away from them. While many schools have had to cancel events or scale them back to live-from-my-living-room streams, USC Kaufman has embraced the situation and taken on impressive endeavors, like expanding its online recruitment efforts.

November 1 to 13, USC Kaufman will present A/Part To/Gather, a virtual festival featuring world premieres from esteemed faculty and guest choreographers, student dance films and much more. All semester long, they've rehearsed via Zoom from their respective student apartments or hometowns. And they haven't solely been dancing. "You have a rehearsal process, and then a filming process, and a production process of putting it together," says assistant professor of practice Jennifer McQuiston Lott of the prerecorded and professionally edited festival.

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