Ballet dancers use their feet to make positions, jump, turn, and do just about every step in classical ballet. They are also a key to having great, balletic lines. No matter a dancer’s natural foot flexibility, it is important for all dancers to do exercises to increase the strength in their arch, toes and ankles.
Here are some exercises for improving your feet for ballet. Some foot exercises will focus on flexibility, mobility and shape for better lines, while others focus on strength and endurance to give you more power and stability.
Gain Flexibility with a Foot Stretcher
A good foot stretcher is a great tool for improving the flexibility in your feet. Properly using a foot stretcher can increase the motion of your ankle and entire foot in a safe way. Many foot stretchers are available online and you can even make your own if you’re crafty enough.
Most foot stretchers work by applying resistance to the top of your foot. Typically, a dancer will place one foot into the stretcher as they are sitting on the floor and slowly straighten their knee until there is a slight push on the top of the foot.
Be careful not to get overly excited about increasing the flexibility of your feet by and overstretching your feet. Overstretching can happen by either stretching for too long or too intensely. Stretching your feet with a foot stretcher should never be painful! It shouldn’t ever feel more than a small amount of pressure. Always be on the safe side by trying your foot stretcher just once a day for a couple minutes. Once you feel comfortable, add more minutes or try the stretcher more than once a day. If you begin to feel your feet get too weak, they may be starting to become overstretched. Stop for a couple days and let the strength get back to your feet to avoid a serious injury.
Tendus for Better Ballet Feet
Tendus are a great, and very safe, way to improve strength in your feet for ballet. Whether its in a ballet class or afterwards, every tendu should be thought of a strengthening exercise for you feet.
To strengthen your feet with tendus, you must think about working with the floor. Imagine your t is split into 30 pieces from your heel to your toes. Starting in first, begin to tendu to the side as you think of rolling through each of those parts one by one. Try to keep every piece that isn’t moving pushing into the floor until its turn comes up. Applying this resistance to the floor makes the small muscles in your feet work more, which in turn will strengthen your feet. Its the same idea of rolling through your back one vertebrae at a time. Once you’ve reached your full tendu, reverse the idea back in to first.
Now, don’t be frustrated if your foot doesn’t feel like its in 30 different pieces. It likely won’t look that way either, its just the idea that you’re trying to think about that your foot can be pointed section by section as it works with the floor, not just one big foot going from a flex to a point with nothing in between.
Strengthen Your Feet with a Therapy Band
Every dancer should have a therapy band! These useful, large bands made from rubber can be used for tons of strengthening exercises for ballet. Here are some great exercises for improving your feet with a therapy band:
Flex n’ Point
This is one of the most simple but also most beneficial therapy band exercises for dancers improving their feet. It’s great not just as a foot strengthening exercise but also as a foot warmup before ballet class.
Sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, wrap a therapy band around one of your feet as you hold on to the ends of the band with your hands.
With a straight leg and flexed foot, point your foot while keeping tension in the band to provide resistance. Then, go back to a flexed foot.
This exercise can vary on a few things: how fast or slow you go back and forth and how long you hold in between flexing and pointing your foot. Also, different strength therapy bands will provide more or less resistance.
To make this exercise even more beneficial, try to point your foot in segments. First, think of pointing with your ankle, relaxing your toes so they fold back. Then, keeping the ankle in the exact position, push forward with just your toes into your full point. To complete this great foot strengthening exercise, reverse into the flexed position by starting with your toes, keeping your ankle pointed, then releasing the ankle into the full flexed position. To recap: Ankle, Toes, Toes, Ankle, repeat!
As you’re doing this exercise, remember to always point correctly without sickling your feet. This exercise, as with most, must be done correctly in order to build the proper strength. Working with your feet pointing straight down and just slightly out will allow for correct motion, strengthening the correct muscles, including the calves.
Again, this is a great foot exercise that every dancer can benefit from. Stronger feet and ankles can help improve your technique, making pirouettes, jumps and balancing easier.