Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ask Helaine: How can I conquer the wobble in my foot?

Today’s question comes from a tanguera in Massachussetts.  She started our Advanced Tango Fundamentals program a few weeks ago. 

She writes:

"I have been practicing your balance and walking exercises. I am definitely feeling more relaxed and natural with it, and the balance is a lot better. 

"There are a few moments here and there--less than before--when I'm wobbling. I'm not sure why that is. It is a side to side wobble with me rolling to the outsides of my feet. I think it might be a shoe issue."

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This is such a great question, tanguera!  A foot-wobble is a common challenge to both women and men.

I have a tip for you about how to use your foot to eliminate the wobble.  

But first, some comments about your shoes:  

If the sole of the shoe is even a little narrower than your foot itself, a wobble's almost guaranteed.  You can tell if that's so, if the uppers of the shoe (leather surrounding your upper foot) bulge a little beyond the sole.  

It can be the shoe's fault if it's is old and broken-in too much and has started losing it's structure, especially if it's wearing down/breaking down on the outside of your foot, where you tend to pronate.

It can be the shoes' fault if they're simply shoes that are not well constructed for stability when dancing, such as when the (high) heel is located too far forward under your heel or too far back. 

If you feel it's the shoe, make it a priority to get tango shoes in which you can feel really stable.  See two of my earlier blog posts for women about shoes and feet:

Other than that, to elimate foot-wobble, which messes up our balance, I always tell MEN to use their big toe as an anchor with every step - to really press their big toe into the floor, as they transfer their weight to the new standing foot.  

For women in high heels, I advise something slightly different:
Imagine a beautiful wood peg or dowel that penetrates your "pivot point" - the spot between the joint of your big toe and the joint of your second toe.  When we pivot on one foot, as in an ocho, this spot feels like where our weight is concentrated, or where our Infinite Axis passes through.  I hope you can understand or even feel where this spot on each foot is. (Go ahead and do a few pivots, in balance, and see if you can feel your "pivot point".)

Next, as you transfer your weight and arrive on your new weight-bearing foot, imagine your "pivot point" getting anchored to the floor by the peg or little dowel that penetrates that spot in your foot and goes down into the floor.  Instead of anchoring yourself with your big toe, as I advise the men, anchor yourself with your pivot point.  It will help you keep your weight in the center of your body, and help reinforce your Infinite Axis with every step.

Doing this will feel better, eliminate the wobble, and make all your walks more stable and beautiful. 

Don't think about this all the time you're dancing - just when you're practicing or doing walking drills.   It will become a habit, and be more comfortable to you when you dance.

I invite everyone to let me know how this works for you, as well as any observations or feedback, by posting in the "comments" area below this post!

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  1. More posibilitys:
    1- Spread the fingers of your foot as much as possible..
    2- "Grasp" the floor with the fingers of the foot.
    3- Put your weight on the "ball of the foot".

    1. Thanks for contributing your thoughts on this, Shlomo. (In English we call fingers of the foot "toes". In many languages it's as you say.)
      My take on your suggestions.
      1) Excellent.
      2) Yes, as long as you're grasping with "spread" toes, like a tiger or jungle cat, and not curling toes downward to grip.
      3) I don't agree on this one! Here's are a few reasons why (more reasons in the articles linked above): Women often end up with weight on the balls of their feet because of letting high heels dictate their weight distribution. It gives them shaky balance AND painful calluses or even sores in the center spot of the balls of their feet, unless they know how to use their toes dynamically. Some people teach milonguero style and tango salon with weight forward, but I think it's both healthier and creates greater stability to use your entire foot, distributing your weight evenly between front of the foot and heel.