While shoes play a significant role in graceful, effective dancing, why do some dancers practice barefoot from time to time? Well, it turns out that despite the bane of safety issues, dancing barefoot has its fair share of boons. The following arguments would help you to construct a better idea of whether or not you should be shoeless on the dance floor.
|Pros for Dancing Barefoot||Cons for Dancing Barefoot|
|1. Better dance strength and form||1. Fungal infections|
|2. Better development of hidden muscles||2. Injuries|
|3. More precise movements from calluses|
|4. The ability to embrace modern dance better|
You should dance barefoot because of:
1. Better dance strength and form
Several dance styles such as contemporary and Afro-Jazz incorporate barefoot training for dancers to fully feel the dance floor. After all, no shoes are hampering your ability to feel your feet grip the ground.
Credits: Conscious Coils
Such a direct connection to the floor enhances proprioception which is the ability to know where your body is in, how it is moving and how much energy it expends in its movements. Every nerve at the base of the feet is activated, transmitting signals to your brain faster to build stability, coordination, and balance. You can find the best dances to learn outside of ballet too.
Such traits would be extended to other parts of the body, from your core to your ankles. Over time, you would realize that you become a lot less prone to injury while dancing. The sensation of your feet as you jump, slide or brush against the floor facilitates sensory development as well.
2. Better development of hidden muscles
Credits: Dance Teacher
Many dance shoes have excessive cushioning or support, which could prevent you from using certain muscle groups that aim to strengthen your body. Thus, dancing shoeless could help in developing such neglected areas.
According to the Evidence Based Fitness Academy, strengthening small feet muscles by barefoot training can result in a 200% increase in the activation of your gluteus muscles alone. As mentioned by Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, a foot and ankle specialist, going barefoot “more closely restores our ‘natural’ walking pattern, also known as our gait”.
3. More precise movements from calluses
A callus is a type of injury that resembles a hard, thickened part of the skin.
You may be surprised to hear that an injury can end up being beneficial to dancers. As long as they are neither too thick nor too dry, calluses tend to aid dancers in sliding and turning.
If the calluses aren't growing evenly with the rest of the skin, you can let them be as long as they don't become too large. You can use a natural pumice rock to shave them off if they're too large. If they are becoming too big for your comfort, you can shave them down with a natural pumice stone.
4. The ability to embrace modern dance better
Barefoot dancers were often considered rebellious, since showing one’s ankles was once considered scandalous. Soon after, barefoot movements became associated with modern dances. Perhaps if you want to immerse yourself in the history of modern dance, going barefoot is one way of doing it.
Credits: The New Yorker
You should not dance barefoot because of:
1. Fungal infections
The outbreak of these contagious maladies is aggravated by unhygienic conditions. Since huge groups of dancers step around on dance studio floors every day, these floors are usually not the most sanitary of surfaces. As long as you thoroughly wash your feet after a dance class, or during breaks in between the class, you have little to worry about
However, injuries also play a part in potentially raising the risks of such infections.
Without the protective padding of footwear, a dancer’s feet are prone to be trodden into a battlefield of injuries. Indeed, the friction between the floor surface and the ball of the foot can be too great for your skin to bear, especially for dancers who do lots of floor work. You can also read about our post on tap dancing on the concrete dance floor.
One of the most common injuries among dancers is blisters. If the skin covering the dome of the blister breaks, you are at risk of developing a fungal, viral or bacterial infection. Infected blisters are notorious for the abject pain they send through the area, and can be dangerous if not treated early by spreading to other areas of the body. That is why people who dance with shoes get good dance socks too.
Another common injury is splitting skin between or beneath your toes, which reminds me of paper cuts on the base of your foot! Since it is hard to bandage the skin in between and around the toes, the splits often reopen and deepen, increasing the risk of infection. To minimize this, you should moisturize your feet at night before class the next day. By keeping your feet well-hydrated instead of dry, there is less chance of them scraping easily against the floor surface.
For foot injuries in general, even abrasions such as floor burns should be treated as soon as possible with a topical ointment and bandaged to be less susceptible to further injury or infection. For diabetics, it is best to consult a physician before dancing barefoot since they might fail to treat foot bruises early.
As Dr. Christopher Dietz from MedExpress pointed out, “If they have peripheral neuropathy, they can sustain wounds on the bottom of their feet and not realize it.”
Although there seem to be more pros than cons here, some might be turned off by the inconvenience of injuries or infections. Still, I think that there’s no harm in giving barefoot dancing a go and seeing if it works out well for you in the end!