How to master your foot arch for ballet

Introduction: Ballet Feet Exercises

How to master your foot arch for ballet

How to master your foot arch for ballet

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Hello again! Welcome to my fifth instructable.
Today, I am going to show you some feet exercises to strengthen your arches for ballet.
You should do these daily to achieve maximum results.
If your arches are very flexy and not strong enough, then going En Pointe can be very dangerous.
Weak feet and too much foot flexibility can actually cause you roll over your box!
Remember that you can not actually change the shape of your arch without surgery.
You can only make your arches more flexible and strengthen them.

I am only twelve years old, so if you have any suggestions on how to make my instructable better, comment down below. If you have a certain instructable you want me to do, comment down below, I would appreciate it so much. Now enough talking, on with the instructable!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

What you will need for these exercises is:

A hand towel or small exercise towel

A foot roller or tennis ball

Step 2: Exercise Number 1

Start in sixth position (feet together, parallel).

Lift it up to demi-pointe, gently stretch it over.

Bring it back to demi-pointe, and back down into sixth position.

Repeat on the other foot.

Continue alternating feet until you have done it 40 times (20 for each foot).

Step 3: Exercise Number 2

Grab your roller.

You want to roll your foot from your metatarsals (I am pointing it to it in photo one), to the front of the heel (I am pointing to it in photo two).

Make sure you roll your foot on the inside, outside, and everything in between!

Do this on each foot for a minute.

Attachments

Step 4: Exercise Number 3

Point your foot and lift it off the ground.

Then circle it inwards ten times while pointing your foot.

Flex your toes and circle them outwards ten times.

Do this on each foot.

Attachments

Step 5: Exercise Number 4

Start in sixth position.

Slide your foot out to demi-pointe, and point it completely.

Take it back to demi-pointe, and slide it back in to sixth.

Repeat ten times on each foot.

Attachments

Step 6: Exercise Number 5

Place the balls of your foot onto the edge of your towel.

Pull your toes in, but try to keep them flat.

They will curl under a little, just try to wait until the very last second before letting them curl under.

Feel that squeeze.

Do this for about thirty seconds on each foot.

Attachments

Step 7: Exercise Number 6

Start in demi-pointe.

Push off the ground, fully pointing your foot.

Bring it back down to demi-pointe.

Do the same on the other foot.

Do this for a minute, alternating feet.

Attachments

Step 8: Exercise Number 7 (Last Exercise)

Do the same thing you did with the towel, except without the towel!

Do ten on each foot.

Attachments

Step 9: Do Them Every Day

These will strengthen and stretch your feet.

I will post an instructable on theraband exercises soon.

In case you don’t know what those are, they are basically long rubber bands.

They come in different strengths: easy, medium, and hard.

Thank you for checking out my instructable!

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4 Comments

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Hey there! I really do like this instructable of yours, and I noticed we practically have the same feet! (as in arches and insteps,) But anyways, to my real question, do you have any stretches for instep? I was just wondering if you do have them and I was just blind.

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Reply 2 months ago

hi, i am leon yusei sai and i see how your doing. it is very nice. i am doing ballet for 8 years. but i don’t have good feet, so i look this and i thought incredible.so, i will do this for every day. thankyou very much!

How to master your foot arch for ballet

You seem to have a talent for presenting and explaining the unusual and engrossing, keep ’em coming. ☺

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Reply 4 years ago

Haha! Thank you! If you have any suggestions on how to make my instructables better, just let me know.

As dancers it is a good idea to know about the neuropathy of feet and the different types and shapes of feet. Unfortunately very few of us have perfect ballet dancing feet, but we can strengthen and work towards the ideal.

The foot is very intricate indeed and your two feet have one forth of all the bones in your entire body. The human foot alone has 20 muscles, 3 arches, 26 bones, 24 ligaments, 33 joints and around 7 800 nerves. The force of the body weight taken on by feet is about 1½ times during walking and up to 3-4 times during running. Add in 10,000 steps during a typical day while wearing ill-fitted shoes possibly, and it’s a wonder that those poor feet are still working so hard for you.

If you have any sort of foot pain, you would do well to learn a bit more about the workings of your foot and the different types and shapes of feet.

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Types and Shapes of Ballet Dancing Feet

1. Giselle or Peasant Foot Type

This foot type has three short, stubby toes that are almost the same length. This type of foot is ideal for dancers and especially ballet dancers, as it is usually strong and perfect for balance en pointe.

2. Flat Foot Type

This type of foot is strong and functions normally in most cases, but it is not a pretty foot for dancing purposes. The arches tend to drop inwards and calluses often develop on the side of the big toe. Also the fallen arches usually create problems for a dancer as the whole alignment of the body is affected. People with these types of feet usually suffer with knee, hip and back pain, as well as metatarsal stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

3. Greek or Morton’s Foot

The Greek foot has a gap between the big toe and the second toe, making it an easy foot type to identify. The second toe is also normally longer than all the other toes. Unfortunately this foot is quite unstable, and people with this foot type suffer with quite a few foot ailments. Some of them include calluses, bunions, plantar fascitis, Morton’s neuroma and stress fractures.

4. Egyptian Foot

Egyptian feet are narrow with a longer big toe. The rest of the toes taper down from longest to shortest. This type of foot gives the least problems and is the ideal foot type to own.

5. Simian Foot

In this type of foot, the big toe leans towards the little toe. With this type of foot is is easier to get bunions, so try to avoid wearing pointed and narrow shoes. Ladies with Simian foot, will find high heels quite painful.

6. Rothbarts Foot

The Rothbarts foot is a genetic and abnormal type of foot. You know you have it if you put your foot on the ground in a neutral position, and your big toe and second toe cannot lie flat. This type of foot leads to bad posture.

Everyone should know what type and shape of foot they are, just as they know what blood type they are. Then you will be more aware of what types of problems can occur and why. For instance, if your knees hurt, it may stem from the way you are holding your feet, and nothing actually being wrong with your knees.

Trusting that this article on types and shapes of ballet dancing feet has helped somebody. Please feel free to comment below.

Let’s have some real talk here. If you didn’t come to pole from a dance background, having “point your toes” yelled at you as if you were in boot camp is a little intimidating.

Furthermore, it feels like you’re pointing your toes, right? This just doesn’t make any sense! What does “point your toes” really mean, how do you do it properly, and what about that beautiful ballet arch?

Today you’ll learn everything you need to know for a properly pointed foot. It’s true, getting that beautiful arch doesn’t just happen in a few minutes, or even a few days, but the first step is to learn how. Like other conditioning and flexibility exercises, it takes consistent effort.

What Does It Mean to Point Your Toes?

Despite the words, your toes have very little to do with the motion of a proper point. This is where many people get confused; they engage their toes, but nothing else.

Pointing your toes should engage the whole foot, not just the toes. In fact, you should feel it throughout the lower and mid-calf as well.

When you think about pointing your toes, think about how you would move if someone asked you to elongate, stretch, and point your hand. Would you clamp down so hard you had claws? No, typically, you’d reach out and extend your fingers out, starting with the palm and moving through the fingers. The whole hand would be engaged. Your feet are no different.

Unfortunately, unless you’ve practiced dance your whole life, you probably haven’t given your feet much of a thought before, and the bone structure of your foot will influence the shape of your point so you might not be able to curve your foot over itself to an extreme like some professional ballet dancers.

The good news is, however, is that ligaments and muscles in the lower leg and foot also plays an important role, so you can mobilize and strengthen your feet to achieve your own beautiful ballet dancer lines.

TIP: Would you be surprised to learn that not only does pointing your toes provide a stronger foundation for your body weight in general, but it also helps you grip the pole better? Sure, skin contact and various grip aids will help you stay on the pole, but your skin also grips better when the muscles underneath are actively engaged.

Improper Technique

Below are two examples of improper technique.

Published: 13 June, 2017

How to master your foot arch for ballet

When it comes to improving your feet for dance, it’s important to balance hard reality with a healthy dose of optimism. On the one hand, you can’t change what nature gave you. Your instep — the bony arch on top of the foot that runs from your ankle to the base of your toes — has a certain structure that can’t be changed. At the same time, there are practical steps you can take to enhance the appearance of your insteps and, ultimately, improve your leg line.

Warm up your feet thoroughly before you dance and be conscientious of how you use your feet during class. Before class, do small prances around the dance studio, working deliberately through all parts of your feet. Feel as though you’re peeling your heels, the balls of your feet and then toes off the floor. Take this awareness of your feet with you as you move away from the barre for center exercises.

Build strength in your feet and ankles with a flat resistance band. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, your feet flexed and your spine straight. Loop the middle of the band around the ball of your right foot and pull back on the ends of the band to make it taut. Slowly extend your right ankle and foot away from your shin, pressing the ball of the foot into the band. Hold briefly and then relax the foot back toward your shin. Repeat 10 to 15 times. For phase two, keep the ankle fully extended as you flex and extend just the toes. Do 10 to 15 reps, isolating the toes. Repeat the entire exercise with the left foot. Perform band exercises at least three times a week for best results.

Work your feet at the ballet barre. Face the barre — or a kitchen countertop — and stand in ballet second position, feet slightly more than hip-width apart and angled outward. Grip the barre lightly for support. Rise high onto the balls of your feet, or demi-pointe, with your weight centered. Press the toes of your right foot against the floor and extend them into a pointed position, shifting your weight slightly to the left. Replace the right foot to demi-pointe and repeat with the left foot. Rock back and forth rhythmically between your two feet, keeping the ankles engaged as you work your toes against the floor.

Continue facing the barre, working with your feet together in a parallel position. Bend your knees into demi-plie, raise your heels off the floor, straighten your knees and then lower your heels. Reverse the order. Rise onto your heels, bend your knees, lower your heels and straighten your knees. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times, working slowly and deliberately. When you’re on the balls of your feet, keep your heels lifted as high as possible and your insteps pressed forward over your toes.

Stretch the tibialis anterior, or shin, muscles to increase flexibility at the front of your ankle. Stand facing the ballet barre, feet together and parallel. Cross your right foot over your left ankle, resting the tops of right toes on the floor. Gently press your right instep toward the floor, stretching the top of the foot and right shin. Hold for up to 30 seconds, relax briefly and repeat up to four times. Cross your left foot over your right ankle and repeat the stretch for your left instep and shin.

Invest in a pair of instep enhancers if you’re still not pleased with the look of your feet. These slide on the foot like a sock and have a bulge made of gel that rests on top of the natural instep. Slip on a pair to give the illusion of higher insteps.

Don’t compare your own feet to your peers’ feet. Instead, focus on getting the best, most aesthetic line possible with the insteps you have.

Avoid scrunching or curling your toes under at the end of your foot. Always extend the toes to give the foot a longer line.

Warnings

Don’t resort to extreme tactics, such as forcing your feet under a couch or placing heavy objects on your insteps in an effort to manipulate them.

Avoid dancing in worn-out point shoes with broken shanks. You might like the look of your feet in older shoes, but you need the stability of a strong shank to avoid injury.

Things to consider before starting pointe ballet

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How to master your foot arch for ballet

Dancing “en pointe,” or on pointe, is a major goal in a ballerina’s dance life. Dancing on pointe, or your toes, requires tremendous strength of the legs and feet. Many ballet teachers have strict requirements for starting pointe work. How do you know when you’re ready for pointe shoes? The following five requirements should be met before considering starting pointe ballet classes.

Age for Pointe

The proper age to start pointe work is controversial. Many experts believe that a ballet dancer can begin dancing on pointe if she is at least 9 or 10 years old. Some teachers do not attach a number at all, they simply rely on ability. However, because the growth of the foot is about complete at age 11 or 12, the bones in the foot are still hardening, many agree that pointe work could be introduced at this time. Never try dancing on pointe shoes if an instructor tells you to wait. Dancing en pointe at a young age, before your bones are strong enough to support your weight, could result in permanent injury to your feet.

Years of Training for Pointe

You cannot begin a ballet career in pointe shoes. In order to be able to dance on pointe, a dancer must have had time to achieve the form, ​strength and alignment needed to make a successful transition into pointe work. Proper technique is required to be able to properly rise on the toes without risk of injury.

Class Enrollment for Pointe

In order to maintain proper technique and flexibility needed for pointe work, it is imperative to practice ballet formally at least three times per week. The pointe portion of the class should follow the regular ballet class, perhaps extending the class time by half an hour. This ensures that the entire body, especially the feet and ankles, are properly warmed up.

Physical Readiness for Pointe

All dancers should be formally evaluated by their ballet teacher to determine if they are physically ready to meet the demands of pointe work. The teacher should check for correct body position and alignment, sufficient turnout, strength and balance and mastery of basic ballet techniques.

Also, some people may never be able to dance en pointe, no matter how hard they train, simply because the bone structure of their foot would result in injury if pointe were to be attempted. There is an “ideal foot” for pointe. For example, toes should be about the same length, to provide a squared-off platform for stability. The most difficult foot shape is one in which the second toe is longest. Also, the dancer should have good ankle flexibility and a high arch on the instep of the foot.

Emotional Maturity for Pointe

Pointe work is hard work. Beginning pointe classes will be more demanding on your body, especially your feet. Are you prepared to suffer from sore feet and occasional blisters? Also, pointe shoes are complicated and demand a certain level of responsibility to maintain. You must be taught the correct way to put them on your feet and tie them to your ankles. You must also care for them properly to keep them in good condition. Another consideration, are you ready to devote at least three hours per week to ballet classes? Choosing to dance on pointe is a decision that should be taken seriously.

From biscuits to bananas, feet are the first thing dancers notice. They’re great fodder for humorous Instas and can make for some mesmerizing lines. But on a more serious note, foot shape can impact you and your dancing in many ways. DS turned to the experts for insight into how everything from the length of your toes to the height of your arch can make a difference. So, put your feet up and read on to see what they have to say!

Toe Length

Toe length and each toe’s relation to the next affects how your weight is distributed. As a result, certain foot types are more stable than others. Dr. Alan S. Woodle, DPM, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s consulting podiatrist, says the more equal your toes are in length, the more beneficial it’ll be.

“In general, dancers with three to four toes of relatively the same length feel that they are much more stable and have fewer complaints of pain in the toes,” Dr. Woodle says. “An even toe length pattern means more even weight distribution shared across more toes.”

But for those with one toe longer than the rest, weight is distributed unevenly, and the brunt of the pressure and pain falls on whatever toe is the longest, especially while dancing on pointe. Josephine Lee, founder of the pointe shoe fitting company ThePointeShop, says stability is harder to find.

“The more tapered the feet are, the more it’ll affect your balance,” Lee says.

In foot types with a long second toe that surpasses the first, the pressure falls instead on that smaller, weaker toe. On pointe, this can cause you to sink further into your shoe. Hammer toes—toes that curl under like claws—can occur, increasing the potential for damage to the big toe and the bones and ligaments surrounding it.

“When you curl your second, third, fourth, and fifth toes into a hammer toe position (known in the dance world as ‘knuckling down’), your big toes may start to stick way out by themselves,” Dr. Woodle says. “Your big toe nails can become ingrown or bruised. Stress fractures, tendinitises, and strains can occur anywhere from the tip of the toe coming up to the big toe side of the arch and all the way up towards the ankle.” Strengthening the toes, not just the foot, in order to better hold them straight against the pressure can help fight these effects.

The length of your toes can also affect how you shape your feet. “Toe length pattern is one reason why people sickle,” Dr. Woodle says. “If you have a really short big toe, for example, your foot may sickle to the shorter big toe side.” If the big toe slants inward, bunions on the big toe joint are more likely.

Heel Shape

The shape of your heel is unrelated to the shape and length of your toes.

Lee says the most common issue stemming from heel shape is shoe slippage.

“If the heel tapers back really sharply, the heel of a shoe doesn’t stay on as well,” Lee said. “But if you have a wider heel or a protruding heel, your heel will have an easier time gripping the shoe.”

Pronation, the inward movement of the foot (that’s often called “rolling in” in the studio), is also determined by heel shape. If you roll in, the line from the back of your ankle to the back of your heel will be diagonal. This orientation of your heel can cause injuries to move up the leg into the ankles, knees, hips, and back since the feet set the foundation for your alignment. Dr. Woodle encourages dancers to focus on keeping both heels straight up and down, as if they were guided by a straight line running from the bottom of the heel through the back of the ankle.

How to master your foot arch for balletLee checking the fit of the heel at a pointe shoe fitting (Photo by Linda Yun)

Arch Height

Arches can range from the flattest of flat to the highest of high—and everything in between. They also have different levels of flexibility. Some people are particularly flexible and can hold their feet in the high arch position. Some have only semi-flexible arches, allowing them to partially pull their arches up. Others have rigid arches that don’t move at all, resulting in flatter feet.

It’s important to note that this flexibility is where the foot bends, not the ankle—you may have a high, flexible arch, but you may not have a very mobile ankle, and vice versa. According to Lee, there’s a critical difference between pointing with your foot and pointing with your ankle, especially when it comes to pointework.

“Dancers who don’t point with their feet but bend with their ankle are able to get over on pointe just fine. But since their feet are flat, they’re not breaking through the shoe because they aren’t actually bending it,” Lee says “Then there are some dancers that can’t get over their box even if they have really flexible feet because their ankles don’t bend as well. So they’re breaking through shoes incredibly fast even though they’re not getting over their shoes at all.”

Arch height can also affect how your weight is distributed. Dancers with higher arches can better distribute their weight through their pointe shoes. “But if you have a female dancer with really flat feet that stay flat when she points, her feet will slide down the shanks, as if she’s going down a steep cliff,” Dr. Woodle says. “She will have no arch to put any weight in at all, jamming the entire forefoot into the shoe.” This can lead to increased pressure on the toes.

Lee explains that arch height can also affect your stability, particularly when coupled with weaknesses in the lower leg. “Generally, the higher arch you have, the more likely you are to roll your ankle,” Lee says. “But it’s not only about the arch itself. It’s usually about how strong your ankles are.”

How to master your foot arch for balletLee at a pointe shoe fitting (Photo by Linda Yun)

Asymmetry

No two feet are the same—including your own. Toes are longer, bunions are more pronounced, and anatomy can differ. Lee explains that pointe shoes, on the other hand (or should we say foot), are symmetrical. There’s no right or left shoe. They’re made exactly the same. The asymmetry of your foot shape, therefore, speaks to how your feet will fare in your shoes.

“The foot is not straight,” Lee says. “Anything that protrudes out from the straight line is in danger of getting blistered or injured, which is why padding exists, to compensate for your asymmetrical foot shape going into a symmetrical shoe.”

Dr. Woodle adds that structural differences between the right and left legs, such as extra bones, can affect abilities like the mobility of the foot and ankle. “Some girls may have a right foot that points quite nicely while the left foot is quite limited,” he says. “Maybe they’ve inherited an extra bone behind their left ankle called an Os Trigonum that’s blocking the pointing ability of one foot but not the other, creating asymmetry between the left and right feet.”

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Dancing en pointe requires tremendous strength in the feet and ankles. If your ballet teacher has not graduated you to pointe shoes, it may be because you do not have enough strength in your feet. Trust your teacher’s knowledge and work on building your muscles.

If you are new to pointe work, use these tips to help increase your strength.

To Strengthen the Feet

Basic ballet exercises, particularly those done at the barre, are great preparation for your work in pointe shoes. Every small movement from a closed position to an open position helps strengthen the sole of the foot.

Remember to use the floor as resistance. The harder you press your foot into the floor, the stronger the resistance. The next time you perform a tendu or a rond de jambe series at the barre, try pressing the sole of your foot harder into the floor. Really concentrate on using the floor as resistance.

You can also strengthen your feet using a flat resistance band tied in a loop. Practice pointing and flexing your feet against the resistance of the band.

It can also be beneficial to roll out and stretch your foot muscles on a ball or roller. Spend more time shoeless, too.

To Strengthen the Ankles

Rising to full pointe from the floor will strengthen the ankles tremendously. Standing in the first position, perform several relevés beginning and ending in a plié. Then try several é levés beginning and ending with straight legs.

Next, try standing on one foot with the other foot in coupé in back. In this position, perform several relevés and é levés, then repeat on the other side. The slower you rise, the harder it is and the more strength you will build in your ankles.

In the gym, you can also try standing calf raises with weights or in high repetition to build your calf muscles, which will contribute to stronger ankles.

Improve mobility and build strength (and control) in your ankles by imagining you are writing the letters of the alphabet with your toes. The various angles and patterns will work your ankles in a wide range of beneficial ways.

Sore arches may be one of the peskiest pain spots dancers deal with. This small area on the bottom of your feet may seem minor, but it actually does a lot of work: Your arches are what allow your feet to support the weight of your entire body.

While any sharp, unbearable pain should always be checked out by a doctor, a dull ache after a particularly long rehearsal can usually be alleviated by giving your feet the extra care they need. Here, two podiatrists weigh in on what causes arch pain and how you can manage it.

Why Arch Pain Happens

Arch pain in dancers is commonly triggered by overuse of the intrinsic foot muscles in the sole of the foot. “Properly strengthening the muscles surrounding this area will prevent fatigue, and thus soreness,” says Atlanta-based podiatrist Dr. Frank Sinkoe.

Another culprit could be tendonitis of the peroneal tendon on the outer side of the foot, instigated by forcing turnout, Sinkoe says. This tendon, which attaches to the underside of the foot, can aggravate the arch if you’re not properly engaging your turnout muscles in the hips, and instead forcing it in your feet.

How to master your foot arch for ballet

Dr. Thomas Novella, a Manhattan-based podiatrist who specializes in dance injuries, notes that weak calves may get fatigued early in class, causing the muscles in your toes to pick up the slack. When this happens, you’ll likely feel the after-effect in your arches.

How You Can Prevent It

To avoid arch pain, make sure the surrounding muscles are strong and stable. Sinkoe recommends intrinsic foot strengthening exercises like relevés in shank-less pointe shoes, and flexing and pointing the toes using the resistance of a Thera-Band. He also suggests practicing exercises that target the external hip rotators, to help strengthen them enough to properly engage when you turn out.

How to master your foot arch for balletMatthew Murphy for Pointe

Novella recommends the foot doming exercise to keep your toes strong. “It’s a difficult exercise to master, but one that I believe is necessary for all dancers,” he says. You can also try barefoot single-leg relevés on a half foam roller (with the flat part on the floor) to strengthen your calves.

Proper static stretching and self-myofascial release can also do wonders for pain. Sinkoe advises using a foam roller on the calf and outer calf muscles for 30 seconds. Whenever you feel a trigger point, hold the foam roller on that spot for an additional 30 seconds. Then, standing next to a wall, place the foot against it, with toes pointing upwards, for 30 seconds on each side. If you want to stretch the outer calf, do this with the toes pointing upward and inward for 30 seconds. “But be sure not to overstretch,” Sinkoe says. “Usually one repetition on each side is all that is necessary.” Over-stretching the calves can damage the Achilles, warns Novella.

The Best Way to Treat It

So what can you do if you’re already experiencing arch pain?

Don’t push through the pain—give your body the rest it needs. While dancing, pay close attention to your turnout and make sure you’re only rotating as much as your hips allow. And work on strengthening the surrounding muscles so your arches don’t have to over-compensate.

Wearing proper footwear outside the studio can also make a big difference. “A running shoe with a supportive outer-sole but flexibility at the ball of the foot is ideal for someone experiencing pain,” Sinkoe says. Novella adds that dancers should also look for extra support, like laces, and a firm, fitted heel area. He warns that completely flat shoes often lead to arch discomfort. “But there is no better shoe than the one you are pain-free in,” he says, so find what works for you.

Novella often advises dancers to rub a tennis, lacrosse or spiky massage ball onto the bottom of the foot for a minute once or twice a day. “This causes some inflammation in the area that brings in mending scar tissue,” he says. You can also apply a topical anti-inflammatory gel on the area, as long as it’s used very sparingly.

Above all, remember that the arches of your feet are a sensitive area that hold a lot of weight, so they should always be treated with care.