After living in Canada for a year and a half, I have had to re-learn how to do foot care. I gave up on foot care after I left ballet. It wasn’t important to take care of my feet regularly in sunny California or rainy, humid London because the climate didn’t require it. After my first winter in Calgary, I thought, “Yay!! No more foot care for at least 3 months!!” I was dead wrong. I still had to take care of my feet in the summer. It should have been a clue when I heard the following quote.
“Canada is not for the cold of heart or the cold of feet.” – Pierre Trudeau
Before I Share My Foot Care Advice, A Few Things:
Disclaimer: I HATE feet!!
I used to be a ballet dancer, so of course, I hate feet.
Don’t worry. I won’t be sharing any pictures of my dancer’s feet!
I have Small Foot Syndrome because everyone I knew was surprised I had small feet, even for a dancer. Still, I am happy I knew about foot care before I moved to Canada, even though I have a strong case of foot care fatigue. Winter foot care applies to the summer too. Don’t think you can’t get problems by walking a lot in sandals. I only call it winter foot care because winter is the dominant season here.
Prevention is Better than Cure:
That is extremely true for feet! When you get new winter boots or even any type of shoe, you learn where the rub points are. The best thing you can do is put Band-Aids or Moleskin on the areas before going outside! When I was in ballet, I would tape my toes prior to putting my pointe shoes on. That drastically reduced the number of blisters I got! The same thing is true for putting Band-Aids on areas where your shoes rub before you go outside. If your feet are blister-free, try to keep it that way! I used microporous tape and made sure it was good quality. Bad quality tape does NOT prevent blisters! At all. Band-Aids work well for wrapping my toes in shoes though.
Additionally, be mindful of how you put your shoes or boots on and take them off. I’m serious. That can determine whether you get blisters. Last winter, I kept my boots laced and slid my feet into them. It didn’t matter that I had Band-Aids on my heel. It still dug into my heel. Sliding my feet into my boots moved my socks into the wrong position too, even though I didn’t know it. Once I loosened the laces before putting my boots on and made sure my socks were in the right position, no more blisters on my heel!
When I lived in Colorado, I learned how to ice-skate and enjoyed that sport for three years! I found the lessons I learned in not letting my socks wrinkle and not sliding my feet in my boots are similar to putting on ice skates.
A Note About Boots and Sub-Zero Temperatures:
Too many layers of socks can give you blisters too. Blister prevention is critical in sub-zero temperatures because frostbite is a danger once the temperature drops to -20 C or below. Have you ever seen Scott of the Antarctic starring Sir John Mills? Well, it shows how damaged skin leads to frostbite. Know how many layers you need inside your boots and make sure they don’t wrinkle as well! Last winter, I walked a total of 20 blocks when it was -30 C with a windchill of almost -40 C. It was my first time doing something like that. Before I left, I inspected my hands and feet for damaged skin. When I left, I automatically knew that if I hadn’t checked for damaged skin, I would have turned back. When it’s too cold to be outside with damaged skin, no amount of layering makes it feel better. IYKYK.
If after all the prevention, blisters still happen, here’s what I do. Have you ever had a painful bubble of skin and wondered whether to pop it or leave it? Here’s my answer: Pop it. Plus, if you follow my steps below, it will feel a lot better, and faster.
- Soak your feet in warm/hot water with unscented Epsom salts. Scented ones irritate your skin. Move your feet around because it helps the blister stop hurting sooner.
- When your feet get wrinkly, or when the blister stops hurting, take a sterilized implement (I use nail scissors or a nail clipper) and burst it. Or get someone to burst it for you. Note: if waiting for your feet to get wrinkly isn’t an option for you due to nerve damage, wait until the blister stops hurting to pop it.
- Keep your feet in the warm water until the pain goes away.
- Wrap it snugly in a Band-Aid (it needs pressure). You can put something to moisturize the skin too if you want.
- Put on some socks that you love and put your feet up later (I will explain in a minute what my recommendations for that are).
You’ll be amazed at how much faster your blisters heal!
When I was a ballet dancer, putting lotion on my feet was VERBOTEN after starting to dance en pointe! I basically went 8 years without moisturizing my feet while I was in ballet, and then it was another 10 years of never needing to do it. When I moved to Calgary, it felt brand new to me to start moisturizing my feet.
I found some foot masks at Dollarama which are great for moisturizing or exfoliating. I use them once a month during winter. Additionally, I use a cream that is dermatologically approved. In terms of cream, I like to use a balance between ones that are dermatologically approved and ones that are environmentally friendly. My favourite brands are both Burt’s Bees (for environmentally friendly) and Cerave (for dermatologically approved). It’s a shame that so far, I haven’t found anything that has both qualities. I’ll bide my time though. Here’s what I do: I keep an organic, environmentally friendly cream with honey in my bag. I apply it before I go outside in subzero temperatures and reapply while outside as needed. I also use organic, environmentally friendly face cream. When I need something to moisturize deeper into my skin, I use dermatologically approved cream.
When I was living in London, there was this solution that I bought called Surgical Spirit. I know, kind of a creepy name right? It was an alcohol solution that contained castor oil to prevent your skin from cracking. It toughens your skin without drying it out. I used it every night after my bath when I was in ballet. If liquids were still allowed on planes, I would go to the UK and fill up a suitcase with Surgical Spirit! But, since I can’t do that, Mum figured out how to make it! With her chemistry background and my ballet background, we make a good team!
Recipe for Surgical Spirit Substitute:
- 1 cup Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
- 1/4 cup Listerine
- Note: It must be Listerine! It has the required amount of methylated spirits.
- 1 tbsp Castor Oil
Mix together well.
The reason this works so well is the alcohol breaks up the dense fat molecules in the castor oil. Give this a try and let me know if you see a difference in how tough your skin is!
Calluses, Corns and Plantar Warts:
I keep a steady supply of callus removers and corn removers. Plus, if anyone gets a plantar wart, god forbid, we have home treatment supplies for that. I’m currently treating this plantar wart that I have had for years without knowing it, and doing it aggressively! Summer is the time to treat plantar warts because I’m not shoving my feet into winter boots! One thing I have not tried yet, but will likely try next year is getting a medical pedicure after putting my winter boots away. That way, my feet will be all refreshed for summer. I’ll let you know how that goes!
My Mum knows that if she sends me to the pharmacy to get one thing for our feet, I will come back with things to replenish our supply of what we currently have! She’s fine with it because that’s the ballet dancer in me! We joke that we should buy stock in Life Brand, Dr. Scholls and Compound W!
Remember the post I did about the best material possessions I got since moving here? There’s a reason why some of those items have to do with feet! A proper footbath is an investment here, not a luxury! During the winter, I use it once a week to get rid of dead skin. A buildup of dead skin is a bad thing when you have months of winter ahead of you!
I deliberately got a footbath that runs for an hour. Twenty minutes in a footbath is not enough to get rid of dead skin! Originally, I bought a footbath with a 20-minute limit, but the motor started to smell after 10 minutes, even when I used it the first time. A strong motor is imperative! I also use a pumice stone and scraper on my feet when my footbath is done but the water is cooling down. I change the pumice stone and scraper every 6-12 months.
Nice Socks and Leg Pillows!:
After I have had a rough day on my feet (or not), there’s nothing I love more than wearing nice socks and raising my feet on a leg pillow! In the post I referenced in the previous section, I talked about the leg pillow and reading socks that I got. I personally love leg pillows that are adjustable. Mine can be used in four different ways! It benefits circulation to raise your feet to your heart level on a regular basis. But there are some other benefits. Sometimes, my skin gets this burning feeling when I wear shoes too long. Putting my feet up relieves it, but also wearing special socks.
I wear different socks depending on what I need. If my feet are too hot, I just go barefoot. Sometimes, I need something super soft against my feet because the skin feels tender, so I wear my reading socks. I can’t believe I didn’t discover toe socks until my mid-20s! They would have been a lifesaver in ballet! I have moments where the joints feel bad and putting on toe socks relieves the joints because it spreads my toes a bit to relieve the inflammation. As a former dancer, I absolutely LOVE good-quality socks! You would have thought I had a major sock fetish if you knew me when I was in ballet!
I have some other hacks for footcare and winter self-care, but that’s another post! Hope you liked what I had to say about the subject from a dancer’s perspective. What do you do for foot care? Let me know in the comments!