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Toe or Heel First?

Posted: 14:19, Monday 30 April 2007 by Megan Jones

Updated: 15:52, Monday 30 April 2007 by Megan Jones

A discussion came up a while ago on tango-l about ways of walking in tango: heel first, toe first, side of the foot first and third vertebrae aligned over the fifth metatarsal..

First this:

What I now understand is that the way one steps has a lot to do with the muscles in the torso. Specifically, developing my core muscles to hold up my chest and ribcage causes my internal obliques to lift the hip of my free leg higher than the hip of my standing leg. Although the hip of my free leg drops as I extend, my toe is still the part that touches down first without excess muscle. Forcing my heel down first uses more muscle. To step forward heel-first comfortably requires me to be more on the heel of my standing leg or to drop the hip of my free leg. But there is only so much I can drop my hip without breaking my axis.

..and then this..

When taking long, slow steps I land heel, toe. Mainly because you can not take a large step and land on your toe. It’s impossible with out hurting your self. Then to take a small, quick steps, landing on your heel, looks me, looks just as funny, and it doesn’t feel normal either. When I’m walking slowly, usually taking long steps, I land on my heel. When I’m walking quickly, the step get shorter, thus I land on my toes.

..and from someone else..

Stability is a function of posture and balance. Great posture is not only about looking good, but is necessary for leading and following and equilibrium. Plus as a person grows older, as we all will with any luck, posture and balance become more and more crucial in everyday life. As for worrying about the effect on various muscles, that mystifies me. Everything we do uses, stresses, stretches, affects any number of muscles, and that’s a good thing, yes?? Muscles are there to be used.

..and another view..

Quite the opposite, actually. If the leader’s foot gets out in front of his body, then his partner shortens her stride and she gets stepped on (because she is measuring her stride from his body). The real issue is whether the leader’s hips (and body) are carried forward over the ball of the foot. This is possible with landing on the balls, but it is a WHOLE lot easier using the heel-ball technique. Foot placement isn’t the main issue. Instead, we want movements or strides that make the body move in a natural, balanced manner.

..and finally..

I submit that striding forward heel-ball is far, far easier and solves more problems (like balance) for beginner leaders. I get beginner and intermediate leaders who have been instructed to dance ball-first, and they have weird, mincing steps, they don’t feel the ground solidly, they take uncertain, tentative strides. If I ask them to stand upright, walk normally, land with your hips over your balls, don’t lead with the toes, then I can (sometimes) succeed at countering the bad habits. It is kind of weird to start by telling them to do exactly the opposite of toe-heel.

The instruction I have received between close embrace and more open embrace has certainly been different in realtion to heel/toe first and what is possible/desirable to do in a controlled, smooth manner when wearing heels.


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Community discussion on this article

At 22:15 on Saturday, 26 May 2007 Brian Reader said: