Not all of us are born with pretty ballet feet, but there is a lot you can do to improve both the shape of your foot and the strength of your feet, and if you are a dancer, you know just how important your feet are to your craft.
So what does the ideal foot for ballet look like?
The ideal ballet foot has a high arch and a high instep. Having a high arch is beneficial for a dancer because it makes it possible to get to a high demi-pointe in soft ballet shoes, and over the box if she is dancing en pointe. However the ideal looking ballet foot can also be a weaker foot, so the highly arched foot will need extra strengthening to avoid injury.
These exercises will also benefit you if you don’t dance, as we often tend to neglect our feet, which is a mistake as our feet are going to take us far in life, and you want them to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. They always support and work hard for you, so they deserve some special attention and some respect.
Ok we all know that there is no such thing as pretty ballet feet, as a dancer’s foot normally looks like it has been through the wars, but if you look after your feet and work on strengthening them, they will look a lot better, especially in pointe shoes, and they will also be a lot better off and strong enough to handle the demands of ballet.
If you don’t have naturally perfect feet, don’t worry. Most dancers aren’t born with them. However, even though you can’t change the bone structure of your arch or instep, there are things you can do to improve the overall look of your feet.
Here are some simple exercises that anybody can do to strengthen their feet and get a prettier shape to the foot.
Let’s Work On Those Pretty Ballet Feet
Playing The Piano
You can do this exercise either standing or sitting, as long as your feet are flat on the floor.
Start by lifting up your toes while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Now starting with the baby toe, lower one toe at a time to the floor ending with the big toe. Repeat this a couple of times. Now try and keep all your baby toes on the floor and lift your big toe.
Next, keep your big toe on the floor and lift the other four toes.
For a challenge try and drop your toes one at a time to the floor starting with your big toe and ending with your baby toe.
Throughout this exercise, make sure that the toes stay lengthened as much as possible.
Stretching Those Arches
In a seated position, place your one foot over your knee and grasp the top of your instep with the underneath hand and use your other hand to push your heel in the opposite direction.
Make sure your foot is not sickled or winged when you do this. Hold the stretch for a few seconds. You should feel a good stretch in both the arch and along the top of your foot. You may even feel a few toes pop as well!
Balancing with your weight behind you on your hands and your bottom off of the floor, lift your heels off the floor as far as you can, stretching your ankles forward. This stretch stretches your arches by forcing a strong three-quarter point (as far as you can go without rising onto full pointe.) Once again make sure your feet go up straight and don’t fall to the right or the left.
Some ballet teachers refer to this stretch as “Aladdin feet.” Point your foot in front of you just off the floor. Now l pull your toes back toward your ankle while keeping your foot stretched. Concentrate on the opposing stretch you feel your ankle pushing forward while your toes are pulling back.
This one you can do either sitting or standing and is excellent for flat feet.
Keeping your outer foot as flat as possible on the floor, shorting the arch of your foot by bringing the big to closer to the heel while keeping it on the floor.
It is more challenging to do this exercise standing up, because there is more weight on the feet. For even more of a challenge try doing it on one foot.
So in other words, you are shortening the foot without the heel moving. Here is a video that explains the exercise perfectly.
Now try to dome the foot, hold the contraction and lift the heels about two centimetres off of the floor. You will see just how many muscles in your foot need to activate to hold this pose.
Simply doing rises with the feet parallel does wonders for strengthening the feet. Try to put the power into your rise on the way up and resist on the way down.
Try placing a book under your heel to vary the height at which you lower your foot. You could also try standing on a step and lower your heels with control lower than the step.
Do on one foot and two feet. Make sure the toes remain flat on the floor at all times and don’t curl up.
Here are some more exercises you can use to improve your arch and get pretty ballet feet.