Calluses: A Belly Dancer's Safety Net
Whether you are a belly dancer who wears shoes or goes barefoot when belly dancing, calluses are something that you develop. Though many belly dancers complain about how unsightly the calluses on their feet are, these areas of skin build up actually are a good thing. Like guitar players, drummers, and rock climbers, belly dancers naturally develop calluses in order to keep doing what they love to do.
Historically, Oriental dancers, for the most part, have danced without shoes on a variety of surfaces. Normally, when the foot hits a surface, it distributes weight evenly throughout the foot. But during belly dancing, certain parts of the foot are used more than others and receive more pressure. In order to protect sensitive areas of the foot that are in contact with these surfaces, skin tends to build up. Generally, calluses develop on the heel, the side of the big toe, or the ball of the foot. It may take take months or years for a good callus to develop. However, when a callus builds too quickly before it has time to harden, it can form a blister.
If a belly dancer's goal of having pretty feet is to completely remove calluses, they may be doing themselfs a disservice. So skip the professional pedicure because once all of that tissue is removed, the foot becomes smooth and tender and, therefore, vulnerable to blistering and small bruising. The goal, then, should be to maintain foot calluses while keeping them as unsightly as possible. Uncared for calluses can lead to cracking and other injury.
First, make time for taking care of your feet. Besides a daily shower and foot lotion, belly dancers need to spend time once a week, usually near bedtime, to really examine their calluses. Are they cracked? Are they painful? Are they more blisters than calluses? These conditions should be treated first and often protected by cushioned pads made of wool felt.
Next, the feet should be soaked in a basin of warm water. Some belly dancers have been known to add sea salt to the water. Some also scrub their feet with a paste made of a combination of a half cup of salt and the juice of a lemon or a mixture of body scrub and a half cup of sugar. Do not scrub if your feet are cracked, bleeding, or have blisters.
It has been customary to use a pumice stone (with or without a pumice scrub) or foot sanders (large emery boards) on calluses. Some people use callus removers or hand-held rotary tools called dremels. Others use the new foot trimmer that uses a microplane like a kitchen lemon zester. However, these practices should be done gently and periodically, perhaps only once a month. Some dermatologists suggest that vigorously using pumice or mechanical tools to reduce the size of calluses may actually cause more skin build up because the foot can often interpret this activity as harm and thus will stimulate more skin growth.
Finally, a belly dancer's feet should be slathered with a good moisturizer daily. This keeps calluses supple but sturdy and inhibits them from cracking and bleeding. Moisturizing agents can be something as simple as Vaseline or any of a number of foot creams, heel balms, or foot crack creams from a number of manufactures. Once moisturizers are applied, many belly dancers slip their feet into socks and letting the moisturizers work through the night. Some belly dancers cover their feet with plastic wrap before putting them into socks. If you do this, be extra careful if you get up during the night so that you don't slip on the plastic within the sock.
By carefully maintaining good calluses, a dancer can be secure on stage and still have beautiful feet.