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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How to improve foot arch?


Guest MelissaSuzanne

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Guest MelissaSuzanne

Well, I just got home from class, and I am trying to figure out how to improve my foot arch. I watch the pointe girls in class, and when they point their toe, it just seems to bend their foot in half. Then, of course, their toe is in a line with their leg. When I point as hard as I can, there's still a definite angle between my leg and foot. I am wondering how much of this is just individual anatomy (I know some people whose feet arch like that, and they don't even do ballet), but how can I make my foot bend more? I've been doing toe points into a resist-a-band, and trying to practice releves, but these seem like they'd mostly work my calf. Is there something I can be doing to make the top of my foot stretch farther, so my foot will arch more?

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Guest MelissaSuzanne

Well, my dance teacher just showed me something called the Chinerina foot stretcher. She doesn't know if it's good (safe) or not, as she just saw it. I also found one online called the ballet foot stretcher (more expensive, however). Has anyone heard of these? Any input on whether they are pretty safe to use, etc?

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While you're waiting for a moderator to respond, I'll add my 2 cents. There's been many discussions about this topic on the teen boards, so a search may yield some useful information about both increasing flexibility and about the various foot stretching devices.

 

I'm dubious about the value of these devices (especially the ones where your foot is placed in a vice-like grip) A safer approach would to gently strtch your feet on your own with your hands (that's what I've always done), or have a friend VERY GENTLY help you stretch them. It's extrememly important for them to place a hand on the achilles tendon for support. Also, be very careful to not sickle in or out. I'm a bit apprehensive about the device's abilities to support the achilles.

 

I believe it's also common knowledge that the adult dancer isn't going to make HUGE improvements in the appearance of feet, since our bone structure is already "set". But there will be some added mobility in the ankle simply from studying ballet. Tendu is your best friend. Work on doing perfect tendu all the time and you should see some improvement. Stop thinking about pointing your "toes". When you do tendu, think about the instep pushing outward.

 

I have a friend in her mid 20s who coudn't point her foot or get all the way up onto the box of her pointe shoes a year ago. Now her feet are nice and straight. She'll never have "banana" feet, but it looks like she'll get them to an acceptable level. It takes a lot of time, but I think it is possible to improve provided there's nothing structural in the way.

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labelleballerine

I've used the chinerina foot stretcher and it gave me tendonitis in my achilles. I don't think they are a very good idea. I think the partner stretch is very helpful if you do it correctly, and also resist-a-band's are good for strength.

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:) I admit that I have bought the foot stretch, (the one made in wood with a big rubber band). Although I doubt I wil ever get banana feet from it, I do admit that I do feel a very good even and deep stretch when I use it. It is not at all comparable to someone stretching your foot because you really feel it around your ankle and the top part of your foot in a deep manner. One of my teachers has noticed it improved my instep...

I guess I could conclude that it worked for me!

Just curious to what a moderator will have to say!

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Mel Johnson

A lot of these devices seem to depend on the kind of foot that they're applied to. Some people will get some help from them, others will have no result, and a small number will actually find them detrimental.

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When I started ballet I was either told, or read, or heard that to have that nice foot arch you had to have started ballet young and that it was essentially a result of lots of work at an age when your physique is still developing. I don’t know if it is true or not, but it sounds rational to me.

 

I do know your arch and general foot articulation can improve. It’s happened with me, and believe me, my joints are relatively immobile for a dancer. As to the exercises that improve the arch and articulation of the foot, I think you can do no better than the classic exercises done in class—especially tendus, degages, pas de chevals, even things like scooping up the foot in beginning a develope. Mechanical devices and elastic bands certainly won’t hurt, but I don’t know that they help all that much either.

 

I think what matters most is the number of repetitions you do. My guess is that after you have done 200,000 (I am serious now) tendus over an eight year period, your foot will be about as beautiful as you are ever going to have it. So it’s really just more classes, more practice, and more patience.

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I am with Garyecht on this one. There will be nothing that could improve your arch more than doing ballet classes. I know I'm not the only one when I say that I am lazy sometimes in class with respect to really using my demi pointe and really using the floor. Especially with tendus and battements at the barre. That's why those exercises are there in the first place. Now whenever there is a few seconds spare in class, I am always doing slow tendus, and working on my demi pointe, even at home I do a bit.

The problem I can forsee with these arch improving devices is that possible overuse of them and not using them properly in the first place may actually do more damage than its worth. I don't see anything wrong with using therabands, as you have control over the resistance used.

As the saying goes "Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect".

 

In the end though, there will be a point (excuse the pun) where physically you can go no further with what you have, short of surgery. So you have to learn to maximise what you do have and make the best of it. if you work on turning out the leg and foot and pointing all the way through the foot and using the floor, then you will have achieved a great deal and no one will be able to fault you.

 

Mjr Johnson will tell you about how quite a few professional ballet dancers do ceertain 'tricks' to make their feet look highly arched when they are in fact not. I can't remember all the details, but I think it involved sticking some foam to the top of their feet?? I could of course be making that bit up.

Jeanette

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Mel Johnson

No joke, the things are starting to show up in American dance catalogues. Sort of a "falsie" for the instep.

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silvergreydancer

Dear Lampwick,

 

Thanks for the comment regarding pushing the instep forward. Another visual image to think of while doing tendu.

 

I just got a comment in my last class from a substitute teacher. She said "Your technique is fine but there doesn't seem to be much of an arch!" No suggestion on how to correct it! Well, I'll try to think of this visual image next class and ask the regular instructor about it.

 

The more I learn about ballet, the more I realize that alternate approaches to visulization and excution will sometime get the result you are after!

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Guest Pigeon

I've used the foot-stretcher, and I, too, believe it has helped my arch, even minimally. You really can feel the pushing of the instep forward. It is so important, though, not to over-do it; the use of the stretcher has to be a slow, gradual process. I think for me the biggest gain was in the "proprioceptive feel" of the instep being stretched. I became more aware that "pointing your toes" is NOT what it's about -- it's a matter of increasing the strength in the instep. One word of caution: it doesn't matter how many tendus you do if you do them incorrectly --and many adults do them incorrectly --with bent knees, or little stretch of the leg and foot --an incorrect tendu brings no gain, no strength, and no change in the arch.

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Mel Johnson

And a word of editorial explanation here. Proprioception or propriocentricity means the ability to feel where any given part of the body is, and what it's doing at any given time. You'd be amazed how many people have absolutely no idea....

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Guest MelissaSuzanne

Thanks for everyone's opinions! I'm not quite sure I understand, though. How does pushing your instep forward help your arch to develop? I also have difficulty going very high on releve, and I'm not sure if this is due to needing to strengthen my calves, or if it's partly due to having very little stretch in my arch. I know it will get better over time, with more work (hopefully :wink: )

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