‘I’m a Ballet Dancer, and These Are the 5 Things I Rely on To Make My Feet Feel Better After a Long Day’

Photo: Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial
Imagine spending your work day with your full body weight set squarely on the tips of your toes which are squished together inside a box made out of cardboard (literally), while satin fabric rubs against your latest gigantic blister. Sounds like torture right?

Well, for American Ballet Theatre dancer Kathryn Boren (who’s known within the ballet world for having particularly wow-worthy feet) it’s just part of the job. In some ballets, she even has to hop on her toes as if her shoe is hammering a nail into the floor—yikes!

So how does she cope with the pain of dancing on pointe all day? When she leaves the stage and heads home, she relies on a whole host of things that bring her feet relief so she can dance another day. Here are her must-haves:

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1. An Epsom salt soak

When performance season hits and Boren dances eight shows per week, she takes as many as two Epsom salt baths per day. “The lukewarm bath with salts helps with inflammation and swelling,” she says. That’s not all—this past performance season, Boren got an infected corn, and regular Epsom salt soaks helped clean out the wound and keep bacteria at bay. “It’s my go-to when my feet need a little extra care,” she says.

2. Safe sneakers

Though chic footwear trends are always tempting, Boren is committed to being sensible. After a full day in pointe shoes, she laces up quality street shoes to prevent potential injuries. “I can't remember the last time I put on heels,” she says. Her sneaker of choice? APL shoes or Hokas.

3. A good roll out

In an effort to wake up her muscles and release tension in her arches, Boren rolls out the bottoms of her feet on a tennis ball or wooden foot roller. “I also use my hands if I need to," she says. "Whatever feels good.”

4. Ice ice baby

Years ago, Boren’s boyfriend gifted her some orthopedic ice-pack socks. She thought they were only meant for elderly people, but now, they play a central role in her post-performance recovery process. “I keep them in my freezer and put them on all the time,” she says. “It was the perfect gift that has meant so much to me.”

5. Calming counterirritants

Boren says she’s a sucker for tried-and-true topical pain relief. “I am old-school—I use Tiger Balm,” she says. “I typically put it around my arch, and my Achilles tendon, and spend some time massaging it in.” During performance seasons, Boren moves through this process once every couple of days.

But don't forget:

Sometimes foot care is as much about what you don’t do as it is about which products you’re using. Boren, for example, never gets pedicures. “Frankly, looking pretty is the last thing on my mind,” she says. “For me, it’s really important that my calluses stay as tough and rough as they are even though it is not a pretty site. I also don't like other people cutting my toenails. I know my feet so well so I am the only one who knows the exact length and shape they should be.”

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