Ever since I decided to throw myself 110% into Tap Dancing, I have found that it has affected my knees a bit, depending on what exercises we’ve been doing. The culprits for me have been things like shunts and stomps. I’ve been dancing fine, but then hobbling around like an old lady at the weekends. I did start to wonder if this was just part of starting Tap in your thirties, but after doing a bit of reading around, I realise it is probably more a case of needing to strengthen the muscles that actually hold the knee in place. I have to say it has helped a lot after just a week!
My top exercises for dodgy dance knees:
- Demi-pliés – in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions
- Sitting on the floor and raising each leg alternately to strengthen the quads
- Leg raises while lying on your front to strengthen the hams
So basically a mini ballet class! I just used a chair (as my purple foldaway ballet barre is currently in storage). It also helps to stretch the quads and hamstrings on a daily basis.
This week is half term, so there are no tap classes this week. I am actually glad of the break because I have barely gone a week without tapping recently, and my knee was bothering me a bit over the weekend. I’ve also had a bit of plantar fascia twinge recently, so instead of schlepping about at home barefoot or in slippers, I’ve been trying to wear my (not) Birkenstocks because they give excellent arch support.
Speaking of the weekend, there were LOADS of dance wear sales on, and I got some very tempting emails from Pineapple, Dance Direct and Bloch. However, I resisted!
I spent my money on something else instead…tickets to see 42nd Street in the West End! I’m going with a dance friend on the 22nd June after work…can’t wait!
Another method I use to control my wayward big toe is to strap my foot up so that the big toe joint can’t spread out. I can do this for all my dance classes, it doesn’t interfere with my shoes or the flexing of the foot – but make sure you don’t wrap too tight! I use the self adhesive stretch bandage from Superdrug which is available in blue (as shown), pink and pink and black leopard print!
I have had the beginnings of a bunion on my left foot since I was about 15, which I now believe is hereditary looking at the feet of my mum and grandmother. Dancing regularly in styles such as ballet (not on pointe) and even tap, I am very conscious of not letting the thing get any worse!
Various dancewear websites and shops sell toe separators and bunion guards, and I decided to try Bunheads Bunion Guard (£5.95 Move Dancewear).
Pros: The gel toe separator and guard is very comfortable to wear and does a good job of keeping the big toe better aligned while protecting the protrusion. You get two in a pack!
Cons: A little expensive and can make your shoes too tight, depending on what you’re wearing.
It is good to regularly stretch the feet and toes when you dance, for health and for flexibility. I have a tendency to grip the floor with my toes (like cat claws!) and last summer I had plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the band of muscle along the sole of the foot) from repeatedly wearing a pair of unsupportive memory foam Skechers, so I got into the habit of stretching my feet to sort it out. However, as soon as it got better… I got out of the habit.
Deciding that 2016 was going to be my ‘year of dance’ (as in dance all year) I’ve been pounding my feet a lot with Tap and Ballet, so I really need to look after my feet.
I have a set of 3 Pilates Stretch Bands (light, medium, heavy) and two spiky massage balls. Every evening I roll the massage balls along the bottom of my feet to loosen the muscles and improve circulation. I then use the stretch bands to pull my toes towards myself. I also do some point and flex exercises while sitting on the floor. It definitely makes a difference.