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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Foot Stretcher


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Hi there!

I recently saw a post on Instagram with a girl using a foot stretcher, and I cannot for the life of me figure out if that contraption is a smart thing to invest in. I think I have pretty high arches already, but of course, I'd like to prove - so I was wondering. Will the stretcher do more damage than good? :) 



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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Sensi. I hope you find some useful information and feellow enthusiasts here.


Well, I guess it would stretch your foot while you have it strapped into the device. But there is NO substitute for the training exercises of class, particularly tendu, glissé, and pas de cheval. There are other exercises you can do in everyday life for the development of all the compacted muscles etc in your feet - things like using your toes to pick things up (such as a towel) - it's harder than it sounds!

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I follow a few dance physiotherapists and one of them, Lisa Howell, just published a whole article (with video) about foot stretchers. From my read it sounds like she thinks these are okay for passive, gentle stretching, but that any real improvement is going to come from working the feet through exercises such as Redbookish described above. I found just doing ballet for a long period of time and work I've done outside of class with doming exercises, toe exercises, pointe through demi-pointe, practicing high releves, etc. have done far more for improving the appearance of my feet than any amount of time spent jamming my foot into one of these contraptions would have.

It's slow work, but if you have high arches already you would especially want to be sure that you are focusing on strength to control the feet since the ligaments are already pretty stretchy and further passive stretching might only serve to weaken the feet if you're not also taking efforts to build intrinsic strength which kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion!

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Sensible words, arciedee.


I think what we're both saying is that while a foot stretcher might force your foot into a much higher arch etc etc while your foot is in the device, what REALLY counts is how you can use your foot flexibility in action. It's like the splits, or any kind of flexibility - it's all very well to force the splits on the floor, but what one really needs to be able to do is hold one's leg - in excellent alignment -- at waist height or above at the barre and in the centre, without any sort of device or the pressure of the floor.

So flexibility needs to be functional, and function needs strength as well as flexibility.

I've got the most unballet feet you could imagine, but because I don't have a high arch, or the bendy banana feet, I have had to learn how to really work my feet on the floor. And along the way, I've had nice comments on the way I use my feet. Very very occasionally, it must be said, but the comments are about the way I try to work my feet rather than my "beautiful" ballet feet! If you see what I mean about the difference. And as I'm ageing, I'm REALLY learning the importance of the basics - plié, tendu, glissé, pas de cheval, learning to wrap the foot in coup de pied. and so on.


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