Sun’s out, toes out! If you’re giving your feet some fresh air this summer, you’re likely dealing with a few hot weather ailments. Swollen feet, aching feet (flats don’t offer much support), rolled ankles from walking in grass, cracked heel skin, and even athlete’s foot can quickly derail your party plans. To the rescue: Dancing With the Stars pro dancer, Jenna Johnson Chmerkovskiy, who has a few tricks to keep your feet in tip-top shape.
Johnson Chmerkovskiy, who first joined the show as a troupe member in 2014 and became a pro in 2016, knows a thing or two about foot (and ankle) woes. She’s personally suffered from rolled ankles, swelling, blisters, athlete’s foot, you name it. So, finding ways to pamper her feet and strengthen them has become essential to the health of her career.
“I wish I would have been smarter when I was younger and taken care of my feet and ankles a little bit more,” she confesses. “I think we forget what our feet do and that they take us around all day. You know, they’re so incredible and I neglected them for so long.” Fortunately, she’s now sharing five pieces of foot wisdom she’s learned through the years — so we can all work to enjoy pampered, strong, and healthy feet in the future.
1: Wash your feet in the morning and at night.
This step might seem excessive (why wash your feet if you were in bed all night?), but it’s important if you have athlete’s foot, ingrown toenails, cuts, blisters, or calluses. Bacteria and fungi love dark, damp spaces, and sweaty socks create the perfect environment for bacterial or fungal growth. And since the general recommendation for athlete’s foot is to wear socks in bed to prevent spreading the fungus, it’s hard to avoid the problem of sweaty socks while sleeping.
As Johnson Chmerkovskiy suggests, the solution is to take five minutes at the beginning and end of your day to wash your feet with a gentle cleanser. After each cleanse, pat your feet dry with a towel, paying special attention to the areas between your toes. Be gentle around cuts, blisters, and open wounds.
After cleansing and drying is the perfect time to apply bandaids and other treatment products. From there, you’re ready to start your day or climb into bed.
2: Soften cracked heels.
While cracks in your heels don’t usually cause severe issues, deep and dry cracks are at risk of infection. But not just any lotion will do; Johnson Chmerkovskiy prefers to use a cream with lactic acid.
Lactic acid is a chemical exfoliant derived from milk. It increases cell turnover by removing dead skin cells, and in concentrations of 12 percent and higher, it may help firm the skin. This makes it ideal for heels in this condition — it smooths and reduces cracks and lines, then helps strengthen the skin to prevent future cracking.
A lactic acid cream that Johnson Chmerkovskiy recommends: AmLactin Foot Repair Foot Cream (Buy from Amazon, $9.29).
3: Try these products for athlete’s foot.
As someone who’s constantly on her toes in tight shoes, Johnson Chmerkovskiy is no stranger to athlete’s foot. The star partnered with Kerasal to promote their new Athlete’s Foot products, and has incorporated them into her daily routine.
“By far my favorite product is the invisible powder spray,” she shares (Buy from Amazon, $10.57). “It’s because it is so easy to apply, especially for somebody on the go. It is not oily and it doesn’t leave a greasy residue … And then once I put on my ballroom shoe, it doesn’t slip, it doesn’t slide, it doesn’t create irritation, [and] it dries really quickly.”
Here’s how Johnson Chmerkovskiy uses the other products in Kerasal’s Athlete’s Foot line:
- To alleviate burning and itching in specific areas, apply the Kerasal Silky Clear Gel after washing and drying your feet (Buy from Amazon, $14.97).
- For itching relief at the end of a long day, soak your feet in Kerasal’s Foot Medicated Soak (Buy from Kerasal, $14.99).
4: Use epsom salts to relieve swelling.
The end of the day is usually when your feet need the most care. They’ve carried you around all day, and any resulting pain and swelling may not go away on their own. Johnson Chmerkovskiy’s remedy, an epsom salt soak, is tried and true.
“One of my favorite things to do after rehearsal is a soak of some sort,” she says. “A full body soak is amazing with some epsom salts.” If you don’t have time for a full body soak (and want to save water!), a simple foot soak is the perfect wind-down treatment.
While there isn’t enough research to prove that epsom salt draws toxins out of your skin and reduces swelling, there is evidence that it can:
- treat fungal infections (though it shouldn’t be used as the primary treatment)
- exfoliate dead skin cells
- relieve aches and pains
- remove splinters
- relieve blister pain
A few words of caution: Epsom salt may irritate certain wounds. Also, some people should not soak their feet in warm water or use epsom salt, including those with diabetes. (Diabetes reduces sensation in the feet, and it’s often difficult to tell how hot the water is. In addition, diabetes can cause dry feet, and epsom salt may exacerbate that dryness). Be sure to speak with your doctor before trying a foot soak.
5: Strengthen your feet and ankles with a resistance band.
If you want to prevent rolled ankles and aching feet in the first place, incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises into your foot care routine.
Johnson Chmerkovskiy stresses that strengthening exercises are important for preventing injuries. “I have the world’s tiniest ankle … They’re my husband’s favorite part of my body,” she shares, referring to fellow DWTS pro Val Chmerkovskiy. “But they are so, so tiny, and when I’m having to dance, it can be pretty dangerous … I am so prone to rolling my ankle, twisting my ankle. It’s the worst.”
To help strengthen her ankles (and feet) as best she can, Johnson Chmerkovskiy turns to the Thera-band (Buy from Amazon, $13.99). It’s a very stretchy resistance band that you can use while sitting to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your calves, ankles, and feet. “You can do such a wide variety of exercises with the Thera-band,” she adds.
For a simple follow-along Thera-band routine, check out this YouTube video below.
Lastly, Johnson Chmerkovskiy has one final tip for strengthening your feet and having fun while doing it: dancing. “It’s never too late to start dancing,” she says. “You see that firsthand on Dancing With the Stars. We have people in their 60s, 70s, almost in their 80s … [dancing] is for everybody. I think the biggest hurdle to get over is just signing up and saying, ‘I’m going to do it,’ and taking that first step. You might not be able to do splits and things, but you never know what your body is capable of … it’s never too late to go dancing.”
We couldn’t agree more! Here’s to hoping you find the right tools to pamper your feet and have more fun this season.
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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