Overuse of the feet during dance marathons was a common cause of foot strain and sore feet. The design of dancing shoes, particularly the formal types, is seldom consistent with the anatomical features of the foot and by their very nature tends to be smaller and tighter than everyday footwear. The degree of foot strain is related directly to time spent on the feet. Professional dancers are less prone to acute foot strain than the amateur dancer. To the uninitiated too many visits to the dance club may result in hot, swollen and tender joints. Depending on the severity this may range from mild discomfort to total collapse. Complete rest is indicated for a few days with absolute recovery guaranteed thereafter.
Disco Foot was a recognised medical condition and was first identified in the 1970's with the popularity of discotheques. 20th century dance crazes brought with them painful foot conditions generally associated with overuse. From the Black Bottom to the Twist, from Ballroom to Boot scooting, all have claimed their victims.
Dance marathons originated in the US and were very popular in the thirties and forties. More recently the nineties equivalent was the Rave and Raver's Foot brought the chemical generation chronic foot strain. The symptoms are pain and tenderness within the joints of the feet. Closer examination usually reveals hot, moist, skin and the foot is visibly swollen. Often the sufferer will consciously change the way they hold their feet and further injuries, such as ankle sprains and bone fractures, may follow. Secondary changes to the shape of the foot may result with inevitable advanced osteoarthrosis affecting the weight bearing joints. This is of great concern to the professional dancer especially since chronic foot strain does not readily respond to conservative treatment.
In the case of ballet dancers for example, years of abuse result in irreversible gross deformities of the forefoot. There are five formally defined positions with very specific movements. After young female dancers develop sufficient body strength and dance technique they change their footwear from pumps (technique shoes) to pointe shoes (or toe shoes). In pointe shoes, the body's weight is supported primarily on the first and second toes only. All parents want their offspring to develop deportment but fortunately not everyone will make a ballet dancer.
Tap dance and Soft Shoe Shuffle is gaining popularity as is ballroom and modern dancing. Dance shoes vary in design and construction depending on the type of dance performed. The tap shoe does however give support to the foot and a fighting chance to combat foot strain. As always with any recreational sport it is a question of exercise to tolerance and choose comfortable shoes especially for practice. When problems arise see your foot physician.