In ballet, when you point your foot, the line from the top of your leg to the tip of your toes must curve down towards the floor as much as possible.
The higher the arch in the foot, the more aesthetically pleasing you will look as a ballet dancer. Ballet dancer feet are normally quite highly arched, but also strong and flexible. En pointe, a “good” foot gives the illusion that you are “floating” over your toes, rather than grounded solidly, as it looks more ethereal/graceful.
The use of feet and footwork in ballet is super important, and is stressed from a young age. In order to gain the flexibility and strength needed there are many foot exercises that are given to children during their training to develop ballet dancer feet. Of course some of us are more blessed than others as far as pretty ballet feet go, but we can go a long way to improve on what we have.
We all fall into either one of these foot types:
- Greek foot
- Egyptian Food
- Giselle or Peasant Foot
You can read more about what foot type your are by clicking here.
Many dancers have fine-boned, delicate feet to go with their slender, fine-boned bodies. More than often dancers have Greek or Egyptian type feet and these foot types are compressible in the metatarsal area; they are not fleshy. If you gently squeeze the sides of the foot at the metatarsal, the bones will move easily.
The beauty of a dancer’s foot need not be measured by the height of her instep. While highly arched feed are prized in ballet, they are often weaker and need extra strengthening to be ready to go up on pointe.
What makes a foot beautiful is its strength and articulation, and the way in which a dancer uses her feet.
There are stretches that a dancer can do to coax more flexibility from them, but really working them in every tendu and every jump is more effective in creating a foot that both looks good and produces lovely footwork in ballet.
Exercises to Help Create Ballet Dancer Feet
One thing that no dancer needs is flat feet. Apart from the health issues related to flat feet, it is best to keep those arches strong and looking good in those pointe shoes. Here are some things that you can do to strengthen those arches.
- To strengthen your feet, it is a good idea to walk with no shoes as often as you can. Walking bare footed on beach sand is also another way to keep those arches healthy. Gentle running in the sand, or if you don’t have a beach nearby, in the soft grass is a great way to strengthen those feet.
- Another great exercise for ballet dancer feet is to sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Point your feet and toes, and hold for three to five seconds. Next, keep your foot arched, but try to flex only your toes. Hold for three to five seconds, then point the toes. Repeat this about 10 times. This exercise is particularly beneficial for the upper arches.
- Keep those Achilles Tendons stretched out. Tight Achilles Tendons can also cause arch problems in the foot. Face a wall and place both palms on the wall. Lunge and try to get the back heel to stay on the floor. Push the bottom down to increase the stretch.
- Perform this balance exercise, which uses your arch for stability. Stand barefoot with the right side of your body next to the back of a chair. Place your right hand on the chair for support as you lift your right foot off the floor and balance on your left leg. Slightly bend your left knee. Engage the arch of your foot; make sure the big toe stays on the floor. Bend forward at your waist and reach forward with your left hand as far in front of you as you are able while still maintaining your balance and keeping the knee at just a slight bend. Return to the starting position. Complete two sets of 10 repetitions on each foot.
- Try picking up things with your toes, like pencils or towels.
- Massage the arches of your foot with a tennis ball or even a can of frozen juice. If you massage the arch, you can increase flexibility and alleviate tightness on the bottom of your foot. Place the can or ball on the floor and roll your mid-arch over it, moving back and forth for three to five minutes. Repeat on the other foot. See the note on arches and this exercise at the bottom of this post.
- Walking or even just standing and shifting your weight on smooth rocks, like those smooth ones people use to landscape with, will do wonders for your feet and your entire body.
- Walk around on the balls of your feet and do rises on both two feet and one foot every time you get a chance.
Some Notes on the Arches in your Feet and Rolling Them Out
Did you know that there are thee arches in your foot – Lateral (outside), Transverse (center) and Medial (inside) and these arches all work together to spring load your foot to increase balance, strength and power.
The Lateral or Outside Arch ties directly into your Calcaneus or heel bone, which is the heel bone.
The Transverse or Center Arch is located just behind the ball of your foot and when rolling on a tennis ball, you need to approach this one gently. Roll the ball from your ball to your heel rather than the other way around. You can also roll it both ways, but make sure to emphasize the ball-to-heel direction with more pressure than the other direction.
The transverse arch will feel the most sensitive when rolling it out, and it will be more painful as you get closer to the heel, so be careful not to press too hard in the tender area.
The Medial or Inside Arch does not directly connect to your heel and effectively rests on to of your Lateral Arch. Make sure to address your lateral arch first, then move to your medial arch when rolling.
So now you have some great tools to get those ballet dancer feet into shape.