Dancing in heels is painful - especially if you’re not used to wearing heels in the first place! But if you want to become a better dancer, you have to train yourself to dance in heels comfortably. The thing is, not everyone is like Beyoncé who seems to be born wearing heels while dancing, there will be foot pain!
Why Wearing Heels Hurts
One of the reasons why high heels are so painful to wear is the way these shoes shift the body weight to the balls of your feet. The shift puts more pressure on the forefoot and the pain is heightened on the pad of the feet because of peak impact every single time you take a step.
Add the fact that the shape of the shoes themselves constrict the toes. Most high heel shoes have a narrow shape and when you wear the shoes, the foot is pinched forward because of the shift in body weight.
Wearing high heels does not affect the feet alone. It also affects the ankles, legs, spine, and hips. Wearing high heels makes the ankles and legs unstable, akin to standing on your tippy-toes. This puts a strain on the ankle and calf muscles. It also stiffens the Achilles’ heel that connects to the calf muscles. The height also weakens the arches. To dance in high heels, the ankles and legs must remain stable to maintain balance.
The pressure causes the bones in the foot to mold into the shoe despite the narrow space, causing pain and eventually, bone distortion of the toes (bunions, hammertoe, osteoarthritis in the feet, etc.)
Your posture is also affected when you wear high heels. High heels push the body forward. As a way to correct its balance, the body pushes the chest and lower back forward, hips are pushed back. This posture gives you a lovely silhouette but it's unnatural so the spine is misaligned, causing undue stress to the lower back and muscles.
How to Dance in Heels Longer without Pain
Thankfully, there are ways to ease foot pain from dancing in high heels! To save your feet from forefoot pain, try these tips:
Choose Your Shoes Wisely
There is a reason why dance shoes were created, these shoes are designed specifically for dancers. Unlike ordinary heels, dance shoes like Latin dance shoes are meant to make dancing less stressful (and painful!) to the feet. The design and components are meant to optimize freedom of movement without the pain.
For example, the dances shoes could be customized to fit wide or narrow feet for more comfortable wear. The materials are flexible to minimize constriction and boost movement. The soles are crafted from suede or microfiber so you can execute your routine without the pain!
A great example of this would be our very own Yami Shoes. Each pair boasts of steady heels, sturdy heel cups, a mid-level shoe shank, arch support, and of course, built-in cushions. All these components are designed to help you dance in heels for hours without pain. The inner soles are crafted from hypoallergenic microfiber to minimize odors. On top of that, we use flexible yet durable materials like vegan leather, flock, and PU for the dancing shoes.
These materials are not only animal-friendly, they’re also more comfortable to wear than leather material and low maintenance to boot! Vegan leather, for example, may be thinner than genuine leather but it’s just as resistant to cracking and tearing. No babying required to make a pair of Yami heels last. And unlike genuine leather, vegan leather is thinner, more flexible, it allows total freedom of movement.
Different shoe designs have their own pros and cons. Ultimately, you want a pair of dance shoes that you are most comfortable (and confident) in wearing regardless of the heel height. Choosing high heels that are made specifically for dancing will definitely make a world of difference on your feet compared to regular heels.
Heel Height: Start Low
Being used to wearing high heels does not come naturally, you have to train yourself to walk - and eventually dance - in high heels. Wearing heels, in the beginning, is painful because every inch adds about 25% of your body weight to the balls of your feet.
If say, you are wearing a pair of 3-inch dancing shoes, 75% of your body weight is added to the balls of your feet! The forefoot takes the brunt of the added bodyweight with every step.
Unfortunately, there is no real way of speeding up the process when it comes to wearing and dancing in heels comfortably. You have to build muscle strength and flexibility in the feet, ankles, and legs gradually so you can dance in heels without pain.
Wearing low-heeled dance shoes is a great start if you’re new to dancing and/or you’re not used to dancing in heels. Once you’ve become accustomed to dancing at this heel height, you can increase the height to half an inch to a full inch. Increase the heel height until you’ve become comfortable wearing your desired dancing heels.
Go for the Extra Padding
Dance shoes with built-in padding like Yami dance shoes are perfect for dancing for long hours because of the extra cushion. Because high heels shift the body weight to the pads of the feet, the forefoot becomes strained and painful. The built-in cushions help spread the bodyweight evenly. The extra padding also absorbs peak impact so every step doesn’t feel like fire on the feet. Also, the insoles are made of hypoallergenic microfiber so the shoes do not develop bad odors despite the hours you spend dancing in your Yami heels.
If your Latin dance shoes do not come with built-in cushions, we suggest investing in high-quality padded insoles. These are inserts that attach to the bottom of the shoe’s footbed to minimize peak impact and optimize comfort. However, the constant movement could cause the inserts to detach from the shoe bed, something to think about when looking for the perfect pair of Latin dance shoes.
Check Your Foot Shape
Comfort is important when choosing any kind of shoes. You want a pair of Latin dance shoes that are designed perfectly for your foot shape. Before investing in a pair of dance shoes, check your foot shape. Do you have a narrow or wide heel? Do you have high or low arches? Are your toes thin and long or short? All these factors will come into play when it comes to the wear of the dance shoes.
Here at Yami, Shoes, we have dance shoes for narrow, normal, and wide feet. We’re also happy to answer questions related to your foot shape so you’ll get the best shoe style that suits your foot shape.
Be Mindful of Every Step You Take
One of the reasons why dancing in heels is painful is that not a lot of people are mindful of how they walk in heels. The feet hurt in heels because the weight is concentrated in a small area of the foot. Now add the heel height into the equation. When you walk, the added weight crushes the forefoot, leading to muscle pain and gradually, bone distortions.
Simply put, the way the foot falls on the ground with each step affects the pads of the feet as well as the arches or the inner sides of the feet.
So be extra careful on how you use your feet, think of your high heels as extensions of the legs. Be sure that your weight is not resting solely on the forefoot, it should be distributed on the ball of the feet. When taking a step, push from one step to the other using the inside edge of the feet.
Strengthen Problem Areas
You have to flex and strengthen the foot, leg, and back muscles so that dancing in heels becomes exponentially easier. Think of the way you use your feet, what areas are the most painful?
If the arches and forefoot hurt the most, which is almost always the case, you have to perform point and flex exercises to warm up and strengthen these areas. If your leg muscles are killing you after dancing in heels for a few hours, add calf raises to your fitness repertoire. At the end of the calf raise set, stand on one foot, or raise one knee for a few seconds to build strength and improve your balance.
If your foot and heel feel excruciating after a few hours in heels, try these simple yet effective feet and heel exercises:
5 Feet and Heel Exercises
Plantar Stretch: This simple foot exercise minimizes muscle tightness in the feet and calves, relieving pain.
Lean with your hands flat against a wall. Straighten the knee of the affected leg while bending the other knee forward. Keep both feet flat on the ground by extending the leg. There should be a stretching sensation as you straighten your legs, hold for ten seconds then repeat.
Rolling Stretch: The best solution for painful arches!
Just place your foam foot roller on the floor or any type of round object you have on hand - golf ball, tennis ball, etc.
Sit on a chair then roll the ball around under the arch of your feet. Press the feet as you roll the ball around to massage the arches and loosen the stiff muscles. Do this for 2 minutes before switching to the other foot.
Marble Pickup: A great exercise that will flex and stretch tired, stiff foot muscles.
Gather several marbles or pebbles, a bowl, and get a chair. Sit on the chair, scatter the marbles or pebbles on the floor. Start picking up the marbles or pebbles by curling your toes and place these in the bowl. Repeat on the other foot.
This is a simple yet effective stretch that strengthens the calf muscles. Perfect if your legs and arches are always in pain after dancing in heels.
Stand against a chair, resting your hands on the back of the chair. Push yourself up by lifting your heels off the floor. Hold this position then slowly lower yourself down.
This gentle stretch relieves tension in the calves. You can either use an elastic stretch band or a towel for this foot exercise.
If you're using an elastic stretch band, sit on the floor. If you're using a towel, sit on a chair. Place the elastic band or folded towel under the arch of the foot. Hold on to the ends of the towel or elastic band and gently pull towards you. You should feel the calf muscles stretching. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds then repeat 5 times on each foot.
The way you stand, walk, and dance is changed the minute you wear dancing heels. Yes, dancing in heels takes a while to get used to but practice makes perfect! Of course, it pays to invest in high-quality heels that are made for dancing, like Yami shoes. Our dance shoes are guaranteed comfortable, so comfortable you could dance in them 4 times longer than other heels.