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Ballet Talk for Dancers

strenghthening metatarsals


onyx

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As with so many things in ballet, the best cure is more ballet! The supplementals are fine, but nothing quite replaces tendus, degagés, frappés, pas de cheval, and good old relevés! Work through the foot, not just pointing the toes.

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Guest BalletBrat

There is also a cool exercise I like to do and give to my own students. It is similar to a basic divided battement tendus, except after you extend to tendu you return to demi pointe, pointe, demi pointe, pointe and so on and so forth in all positions. You can also do battement tendu releves, where you tendu, bring the foot back just untill the heel touches the floor and then quickly releve the foot back to tendu, this is usually just done in second.

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Thanks for the replies. Should I try to push into the floor more when I tendu and start frappes? I try to do it now, but maybe it isn't enough. I take 4 classes a week- I don't know why my metarsals are so flexible on pointe. Last night I even asked my techer if I am doing something wrong in tendues, and she said no they are fine.

We do do that pressing exercise in some of my classes ( particularly with the Russioan teachers) - I will try to do them more often on my own.

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When I go up, if the shoe is too soft, my foot bends at what I think is the metarsal joint and I feel like I am dancing on my knuckles( this happened a lot with Gaynor Mindens ,even the strong shank , becasue they were prearched to break low). If the shoe is too hard like my Gamba97 hard shank-my foot often is lazy and not going over all the way unless I make a really concious effort to go over further( particularly my left foot - I don't have that much trouble with the right one). I also tend to get ingrown toenails and even if they are not ingrown at the moment, i often feel pain in the outside corner of the nail area, which probably makes me hold my weight back a little , too- I am trying to go over more, but old habits die hard. As we have been comparing feet in many posts(!) you know I have a really high arch and instep and the fitters I have seen say I have compressible metatarsals, and Phillip from Empire Dance ( yes, I took the advice from the pointe board) said that maybe I need to strenghthen this area( or just my toes from the mets to the end of the toe?), because he said you can't strenghthen your foot in hard shanks. I don't know what to do at this pointe- I am taking many classes and really trying to strenghten my feet. Most of my teachers and fitters say I need a strong 3/4 shank, but I am now afraid it is making my feet lazy. Like I said before, I asked my teachers if I am doing tendues etc. incorrectly, and they said no.

AFter discussing this with one of my teachers last night, she said I should try to feel like my heel is pulling up and into my callf when I releve- maybe I have been resting too much on the arch and instep becasue they are so pronounced so I am trying to do this more, but still don't know if this is the problem.

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Onyx, this might sound like a silly question, but are you certain you're stretching your foot (feet) as much as possible when you're up on pointe? It sounds as though we have very similar feet (high arch/instep and compressable - plus I even have the same nail problems), and I have had the same problems with the Gaynors, they almost threw me completely over! But when I'm consciously stretching my feet as much as possible, most of these "issues" go away. Also, what shoes are you using now?

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No, fianlly I am realizing I may not be stretching my feet as much as possilbe when I am on pointe- I think I have been stopping at the arch( becasue that where they bend the most) . After my teacher telling me to make my heel go up and into my calf, my foot stretches more. Is this what you do? It's just with the arch high in the spot we have it in it is difficult to think about all the time.

Also, I work with someone showe used to teach dance, and we just examined my pointed foot and she said I have a hyperextended arch-instep, it arches at the metatarsals and also at the knuckles by my toes making my toes curve down as well. So it kind of arches in 3 places. She thinks I need a strong shank, too. But is there a way to strenghten the toes so they don't bend down?

I am currently wearing Gamba 97 with the 3/4 hard shank.

I was also fitted with Russian classe Brio wide wide width, high vamp, hard flexible shank- I like the way the shank feels and acts, but I think the shoe is too tapered becasue I don't feel like I am all the way in the box. But I think they gavce them too me becasue of the taper in my toes tho my foot shape is square. I give up.

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Oh, the woes of having "good" feet. Don't give up. I like what your teacher said..about making the heel go into the calf. That seems like it's just about the right "feeling" for how to work the foot.

 

Perhaps you could just work with a theraband and practice pointing your foot from the metatarsals while keeping the ankle fully pointed. You know...just work your toes. Lots of people seem to have trouble isolating thier toes from the rest of the foot. This could help with jumping too. I don't know..my foot doesn't really bend excessively at the metatarsals. I remember my foot used to have a knuckled over appearence (and I've seen me in pictures with my foot like this), but it must have been solved over the years, and I can't honestly remember any one thing I did to fix it. I think it gradually worked itself out. I have a feeling that my foot isn't quite as highly arched as your though. My foot "breaks" more in the middle and the entire shape when pointed is an even arc..nothing really breaks the curve.

 

For most things on pointe, I try to have the feeling like my ankle (instep) is pressing forward while the entire bottom of my foot (from the toes through the arch) is lifting up and lengthening. I almost do hold my foot back just a bit even though the instep presses forward. It's so difficult to describe :thumbsup: There are some opposing forces--forward in front, but up and lifted in the back.

I think the muscle right below the heel is key, but don't really have the knowledge to say why exactly. But I know I'm using it to achieve the feeling I'm having trouble describing...

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The toe/knuckle thing is very difficult. I have short toes, and for many years, I would be pointing my feet so hard they would cramp, and still the teacher would say "POINT YOUR TOES!" Finally, after about 4 years, my feet got strong enough for the toes to actually look pointed. You need to be very careful you don't "crimp" your toes under, which is easy to do. By doing this, your feet will look more pointed (when in soft shoes) but you can get into a bad habit of doing this instead of actually stretching your foot. I found a really good exercise to stretch your feet. When you're sitting down on a chair or couch, put your feet up on a table, bench or whatever, so your legs are at a 90 degree angle, then, keeping your heels on the table, elongate your feet and then try to reach the table with your toes. Make sure you elongate your feet first, and DO NOT CRIMP YOUR TOES. As you get better at this you can add therabands or whatever you want, but this position helps me to get the feeling of really stretching my feet without crimping my toes Good luck! Take heart that when you finally get the feeling of stretching your feet in your pointe shoes, everyone with flatter arches will be very jealous of how wonderful your feet look! :thumbsup:

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Thanks for all your feedback- I will try to stretch my feet the way you explained, lampwick ( I think I know what you mean) and try that table exercise. You are right - it is so hard to stretch your feet completely without crimping your toes! I just had a horrible thought- I also swim laps as a form of exercise, and when I do, I stretch my feet and the place that gets it the most is the top of the middle of my arch. and my toes curl.....

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when you're just sitting around, do you ever try to press the middles of all your toes into the floor? It might help just to try and isolate them and get that lengthening feeling

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