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Ballet Talk for Dancers
ViolaDancer

Arch Cramp

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ViolaDancer

I am sure many of you have experienced cramps in your arches. What have you done to alleviate the recurrence?

Although I feel the cramps en releve (slippers or pointe shoes), I also experience them during tendus or dégagés.

I'd like to hear what has helped others.

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Redbookish

If you get cramps in muscles regularly, you might have a look at your nutrition and hydration.

If it's specific, then it may be a technique issue. I know if I'm tired, or have had a long working day, my feet will feel a bit achy in the early part of the first (slow) tendu exercise, but if that happens, I heed teachers' advice to work each part of my foot in the tendu, and also to think about elongating my muscles, rather than achieving effects via tension.

I don't have very good "ballet feet" - they are strong but I don't have that pretty arch and instep, so I have to really focus on working my feet along the floor in tends and steps such as pas de cheval, or the little developpès set as part of tendu and fondu exercises, and also in picking up the foot to go up to retirè. My current teacher gives us the image of the foot licking the floor, and quite specific instructions/corrections about the use of the foot in leading the retirè.

I think if I get cramp, it's because I'm clenching the foot rather than stretching it.

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AncientDancer

I find that doing foot warm-up before class helps reduce cramping. Once we get past the jete portion of barre, the cramps appear to go away, so I make sure to warm up before barre to speed up that process.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

One can try using a tennis ball to roll out the bottom of the feet - it helps with fascial restrictions and muscle tightness. Using the barre or something like it for support, just place your foot on the tennis ball and stand on it, or roll your foot around feeling for any tight or sore areas. One can also place the ball under the heel to help stretch out the lower calf muscles.

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dansair

Learn self-myofascial release techniques.

I used to suffer from cramps (especially calves) quite often when I started ballet, especially demipointe work caused problems. But have had no cramps since I started to utilze SMR techniques. It can be painful but it is worth every del!

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ViolaDancer

I have done dome SMR, but usually after class to relieve soreness. I'll need to experiment with using it before class.

I bet it's also a hydration issue. I've noticed my cramps again lately and other hydration symptoms, so they're probably related.

 

Thank you all!

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Garyecht

I frequently get a cramp in the arch of my right foot when I do a stretch like a cobra pose. I know it's structural (excitement of the sciatic nerve)and there is nothing I can do about it, so I just end the pose when it hurts too much. Many years ago I would occasionally get a cramp in the same right foot arch as we began doing tendus. I didn't do anything special for it as I recall. It was just a phase of development and stopped on its own.

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ViolaDancer

Despite my efforts, I am still fighting the cramps. I am well hydrated and well nourished. I roll out my arches before class.

 

Redbookish - I might be clenching the floor, as you indicated. How can I be more aware of how tight/relaxed my feet are? I need to to some experimenting.

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Aurora's3rd

How do you know if your feet are tight? If the tendon at the front of your ankle is very prominent when you are standing with both feet turned out in any position, you are likely clenching somewhere. Your toes should feel long and fully stretched at all times, in all positions, and your arch should always feel lifted. Always try to center your weight through the middle of the foot, in line with the 2nd toe. Ensure you always stretch out/massage the feet after class, and concentrate on the area under the big toe.

 

When I first started ballet, I used to experience cramps in my feet, calves, and hamstrings on a regular basis, usually attributable to certain types of new movements at the time. A lot of rond de jambes en lair or developpes would always affect my inner hamstrings, too much on demi pointe or pointe would cause my calves to cramp, and my feet- they just acted up with anything I did for the first few weeks. After a few months they occurred much less frequently, and now I rarely get them at all. I am not sure how long you have been dancing for, but perhaps as your technique becomes stronger and your feet more accustomed to working in the ways that they need to for ballet, the same will happen for you.

 

 

Some things that you could try are:

 

Do some prances and forced arches before class, along with a few ankle circles. Try to fins your center at the barre en releve prior to the start of class so that you don't end up wobbling and clenching (which may contribute to cramping) during class.

 

Make sure your feet are warm, not just warmed up. By this I mean, if you are prone to cramping, apply external heat packs to the area before class. If you are coming from home, try a very warm foot soak and light massage then do your foot and ankle warmups just before you head out. Wear warm socks before class (I wear fuzzy knee high socks before class even in summer.

 

Along with staying well hydrated and well nourished, as others have mentioned, make sure you are replacing lost electrolytes after class. Bananas and orange juice may be helpful in this respect.

 

You might also trying a magnesium supplement or multivitamin.

 

If this persists and is a problem that you experience outside of ballet as well, talk to your doctor as something more may be going on, electrolyte wise or structurally.

 

I hope that helps a bit.

Edited by Aurora's3rd

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Also, I would suggest making sure you can completely spread out your toes in your ballet shoes. If shoes are too tight and/or too short, this can cause much tension, and that can lead to cramps. Some dancewear stores will try to have you buy shoes that are not really long enough or wide enough. I suggest you don't let them do this.

 

If you feel more comfortable in just socks, or tights, or barefoot, that is a good indication that your shoes are not fitting you correctly.

 

I regularly ask my dancers to do a few barre exercises in their tights, or in socks, no shoes, to make sure they are able to use their feet correctly in their shoes.

 

I am not shy about suggesting dancers get a different pair of shoes, if I feel their current shoes don't fit correctly.

 

Good luck to you.

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ViolaDancer

I have definitely noticed more in my left foot - which I believe is a result of compensating for a rolled ankle (still healing a year later). I am taking a supplement and eating plenty of magnesium/calcium/potassium/electrolyte rich foods so I am currently led to believe it is due to the way I am carrying my weight. I will focus more on centering my weight and using my core (which is dealing with pregnancy).

 

Thank you all for the guidance. I will check back.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Pregnancy - That 's a major cause of cramps in the extremities. Hormonal changes, changes in the volume of blood in the body, to support the growing uterus, changes in gait, changes in center of balance, to name a few factors.

 

In my case, that would have been "source of problem identified" Congratulations on the pregnancy, BTW ! :)

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ViolaDancer

Thanks! I'm sure it's a contributing factor, but sadly I deal with it when I'm not pregnant. I'm just a lucky one I guess.

 

I'll have to remind myself that pregnancy does all sorts of things to my body and not get too frustrated by it though. Thanks for the reminder.

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tangerinetwist

I, too, had foot cramps, especially in my toes, during pregnancy. Congrats on the baby:) And I also find that if I am in the least bit dehydrated that I get cramps in my feet. I drink coconut water during class now to balance the electrolytes.

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ViolaDancer

I haven't even heard of coconut water. I might need to look into that.

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