Everyone wants the perfect ballet arch. Dancers will always remember the one person in their class who had a flawlessly over-extended point, seemingly since birth. The truth is, it does not come naturally to most of us. Below are proven tips and exercises on how to safely improve your arch, simultaneously testing their limits in flexibility while strengthening them.
Seated Arch Stretch
A classic – and for good reason. While sitting, hold the heel in one hand and stretch the toes into an arch with the other. To avoid stretching a sickle foot, be sure to lift the heel higher than the level of the toes. Some achieve this by using only one hand in the stretch: Place the wrist underneath the heel to hold it high, then wrap the hand around the toes and stretch them down.
Grab a Friend
Before class, find a friend and take turns with these stretches:
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended, and have your partner place their hands over your toes. As you try and flex your feet and point your toes to the ceiling, they should gently apply pressure to keep your toes flat on the floor. Pushing back against this resistance will strengthen the arch.
- Raise yourself on a knee, while placing your other leg’s foot flat on the floor. Like the above, have your partner hold your toes to the ground carefully. As you slowly lower yourself off your knee and into a sitting position, your toes will naturally lift off the floor. It is your partner’s job to make sure they remain in a high arch by pressing your toes down. Proceed carefully with this exercise, and do not push too hard! If you find your foot contorting under the pressure, immediately let your partner know to release.
A great tool in your dance kit is the foam roller. Roll the arches of your feet back and forth over the roller to loosen tight muscles and strengthen ankles. Continue with any other sore or tight muscles such as your calves or back.
Pointe, Pointe, Pointe!
Practice makes perfect, but it’s important not to build common pointe mistakes into your muscle memory. While doing consistent repetitions of a flawed pointe may still feel like progress, you run the risk of damaging your feet long-term. Focus on elongating the foot, like a string is running down your leg and flowing smoothly out of the end of your toes. Be careful not to pinch the Achilles tendon by excessively clenching or tightening your foot. Take a moment in between reps to remember: long, lean, lines.
Remember Your Ankles
Don’t get caught up in solely stretching the foot, strong ankles will be critical in actually applying your new arch to your dancing. Strengthen your ankles in tandem to get the best results. Add exercises like:
- Calf raises. Perform in parallel, first position, and second position. Add third, fourth, and fifth if you have time.
- Ankle rolls. Do 20 rotations clockwise and counter-clockwise on each foot.
- Use a resistance band, like this from Bunheads, this one from Suffolk, or a pack from the beloved TheraBand. Place band under the arch of the foot, holding both ends, and point against the resistance of the band.
As much as we all wish it would, a perfect arch will not appear overnight. Be patient and kind to yourself, many dancers are fighting genetics in the mission to beautiful ballet feet. Put together a daily routine, and stick to it. To give yourself the best chance, formulate this routine carefully with a short list of exercises and assure it’s both efficient and achievable. If 15-30 minutes before bed is the most time you can put aside in a busy schedule, then that’s fantastic.
Check Your Shoes
There is always the possibility that your shoes may be inhibiting you, and the risk grows with pointe shoes. Too-large shoes may limit your range of motion, with an excess of fabric getting in the way of a full point. Too-small shoes will cramp your feet and leave you with sickle foot or a stunted point. If you feel your shoes may be interfering with your arch, consult a teacher and/or shoe fitter at your local dance store to assess the size and fit of your shoe and whether it can be improved. Check out our blog on Picking the Right Pointe Shoes for more information on the anatomy of the pointe shoe and how to find the perfect size and fit.
Photo by Luwadlin Bosman on Unsplash
Photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash
Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash
Leave A Comment