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Newbie question : what is an instep?


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After googling for "instep", I can sense that it is an admirable physical characteristic amongst ballet dancers and students, and yet no one really seems to explain what it is (or at least, certainly not in laymen's terms). So, here are my questions :


1. What does it mean to have a "high instep?"

2. What are some examples of dancers that have a high instep?

3. If one doesn't have a high instep, are there any stretches or pointing exercises that can be done to improve it?

4. Are there any specific injuries associated with having a high instep?


Thanks to everyone in advance :)

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Hello soubrette fan, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! :)


I will try to answer your questions, although my first suggestion is just to look at photos of dancers on the ballet company websites. Go to abt.org or pnb.org or any professional company and scroll through the photos. You will see a lot of very beautiful feet, with high insteps, including some really exceptional ones, like Palmoma Herrera (ABT), Patricia Barker (PNB), Sylvie Guillem (RB), and many others.


1. What it means is that the top part of your foot, above the arch, rises into a high curve when you point your foot. Usually the arch is also high.

2. Examples above.

3. Everything you do in ballet involves pointing the foot, therefore, you are working on improving your arch and instep from the first tendu. There are also stretches with a theraband that can be helpful. How much improvement is possible will depend on how much potential flexibility is there to begin with, how hard one works at it, and how young one starts working on it. The potential for improvement is less in a person starting ballet late, like after the growing years.

4. Injuries can happen with all kinds of feet. An extreme foot, if it is weak, will be more susceptible to injury if it is not strengthened early on. The strength of the ankle and calf muscles are important in the strength of the foot, so a dancer with an extreme foot who has weak ankles and calves will be more prone to injury. If the ankles and calves are strong, and they are taught to use their feet correctly, there is probably no more potential for injury than a dancer with a lesser arch and instep.

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Does the instep relate to the thickness of the foot from the top of the foot to the arch, like how built up the "meat" of it is above the arch, or is it solely the shape and flexibility of it? My feet look like a ski jump. While I have an average arch that never collapses the top of my foot looks pretty flat when pointed even though I have an arch (and then my big toes look like hitchhiker thumbs that curl up - thus the ski jump metaphor). My feet, from a profile perspective look very small with respect to thickness, especially since my arches never collapse when flat-footed. I can get over my big toes in demi-pointe, but they still look pretty straight. In another 1 1/2 years I would like to consider pointe and am using this to challenge myself in ballet. If all other technical proficiencies are in place, would such a foot be suitable for pointe?

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Possibly, hart, but it's hard to know without seeing you work. Sounds like you have an arch but not a lot of height in the instep. However, if the foot and all other elements of your technique are strong, it should be possible.

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Thanks for your helpful advice, Victoria. :) Have high insteps always been a sought-after feature in ballet dancers? Or did they come into vogue with a particular ballerina? Also, are high insteps mostly associated with female dancers, or are there some male ballet dancers known for their truly exceptional feet?

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Go back to the lithographs of the Romantic Era ballerinas, soubrette, and you will see that they have always been important. With male dancers, they were less important for a long time, but seem to be much more important now, as there is just really not a good line of the legs and feet without them.

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