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Aerobic Dancing And Your Tootsies

Because aerobic dancing involves quick lateral movements, jumping, and leaping for extended periods of time, proper care of the foot plays a crucial part in keeping the entire body fit to endure the "pain" that precedes the "gain" of a more fit physique and efficient heart and respiratory system.

If your feet suffer from excess pronation or supination (your ankles tend to turn inward or outward too much), it's especially important to see a podiatric physician, who may recommend controlling the sometimes harmful motions with an orthotic shoe insert.

Proper shoes are crucial to successful, injury-free aerobics. Shoes should provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for pressure on the foot many times greater than found in walking. They must also have good medial-lateral stability. Impact forces from aerobics can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot.

Because of the many side-to-side motions, shoes need an arch design that will compensate for these forces, and sufficiently thick upper leather or strap support to provide forefoot stability and prevent slippage of the foot and lateral shoe "breakup." Make sure shoes have a toe box that is high enough to prevent irritation of toes and nails.

According to the American Aerobics Association International (AAAI), the old sneakers in your closet are probably not proper shoes for aerobics. Major shoe companies today have designed special shoes for aerobics, which provide the necessary arch and side support; they also have soles that allow for the twisting and turning of an aerobics regimen.

Running shoes, perhaps the most popular athletic shoes, lack the necessary lateral stability and lift the heel too high to be considered proper for aerobics. They also often have an acute outside flare that may put the athlete at greater risk of injury in sports, like aerobics, that require side-by-side motion. Running shoes are not recommended by podiatric physicians for aerobics.

Once you've found the proper shoes, tie them securely, but not too tight, in the toe box to allow toes to spread, and tightly around the arch. Double-tie the laces to prevent accidental slippage in mid-routine.

Purchase shoes in the afternoon, when the feet swell slightly. Wear the same socks (podiatrists recommend athletic socks made of an acrylic blend) that you will wear in training.

Prevention of Injuries

In a physically challenging sport such as aerobics, injuries are common, and often involve the foot, ankle, and lower leg. (Other susceptible parts of the body are the knee and back.)

Physicians say most injuries from aerobics result from improper shoes, surfaces, or routines, and overuse of muscles through too vigorous a regimen.

New, properly tied, well-fitted aerobic-specific shoes will address the first problem, and common sense will help the with the others. The key to injury prevention is proper conditioning, which will provide muscles the flexibility and strength needed to avoid injury.

If you are attending an aerobics class, make sure it is led by a certified instructor. Hardwood floors, especially with padded mats, are the best surfaces possible. If you can, start with a multi-impact class, where you can start at a low-impact level and work your way up as your conditioning improves.

If your routine is at home with a video, be very careful. Read the label to determine whether the video is produced by certified aerobics instructors and whether you can handle the degree of impact. While it's safe to do low-to-moderate impact aerobics on the living room carpet, that's not a proper surface for high-impact routines.

In addition, make sure the video includes a proper warm-up period. Make sure there are no rapid, violent movements. Do not bounce or use ballistic stretching, or stretches known as the Yoga plow or hurdler's stretch. Knees should always be loose during warm-up. A static stretch held for 10 seconds can help avoid overstretching injury.

As you work out, monitor your heart rate to stay near the target heart range (start with 220, subtract your age, then multiply by 0.8 to find target heart range). You should be within five of the target range. Monitor pulse at peak and after final cool-off and compare. The difference is known as your cardiac reserve.

Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration during workouts; it can cause nausea, dizziness, muscle fatigue, and cramping.

Don't underestimate the importance of the cool-off period. It burns off lactic acid (which makes muscles feel tired) and adrenalin, while keeping blood from pooling in the extremities.

While fitness professionals exercise vigorously six times a week, it's best to start slower. Although it varies by the individual, it's safe to start exercising twice a week for several weeks, then gradually increase to a maximum of five times a week. Remember to pace yourself, and listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop. Don't attempt to exercise through pain, or you may aggravate an acute injury into a chronic or even permanent one. If you continue to be bothered by pain more than 24 hours after exercising, see a physician.

Source: The American Podiatric Medical Association,

Copyright 2004 Health Resources Publishing

© 2004 Health Resources Publishing