3 Types of Ballet Feet and How To Use Them

Feet are a big deal in ballet. Students and professionals alike obsess over how their feet look, feel, and function. Who can forget the cliche image of delicate pink pointe shoes tip-toeing across the floor? Beautiful ballet feet have a reputation, but the reality is not all dancers’ feet are the same. Instead of focusing on toe formations, in this article we will consider the three types of arches and how to use them.

1. Flat


No one wants flat feet, in the studio or out. Flat arches can contribute to plantar fasciitis and improper alignment of the legs. In ballet terms, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing since the art form prides itself on stunningly curved arches. However, there are exercises you can do to strengthen your feet and improve your arch. Try the classic Towel Scrunch: Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor in front of you. Lay a hand towel down on the floor at the tip of your toes, and grab the towel with your toes, inching the fabric closer and closer to you, until the entire towel gathers underneath your arch. This will not dramatically increase your arch, but it will strengthen the muscles in your arch. To reduce cramping and increase flexibility, place a golf ball or tennis ball underneath your arch and roll. Also, consider investing in a Theraband. These elastic tools aid you in stretching and strengthening your feet.

2. Straight


Straight feet are usually characterized by decent arches, but lower insteps. For example, try sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, and point your toes. The bottoms of your feet, your arches, may be notably curved. However, are your toes easily touching the floor? If not, if the tops of your feet do not curve like a banana, you may not have a high instep. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed. In fact, straight feet are very common and often underestimated. They tend to be stronger since the dancer has to strengthen their ankles to support the alignment. However, some challenges to straight feet include trouble getting over your box in pointe shoes, and maintaining a clean line. To improve your instep, stand facing the barre, your feet touching in parallel. Cross one leg over the other, and let your back kneecap touch the back of your front knee. With the top of your front foot against the floor, pulse, or bend, both knees, pressing your arch against the floor.

3. High


High arches are every dancer’s dream. They look gorgeous in pointe shoes, and create a streamline look. Unfortunately, even this type of arch can cause problems. Because the arch and instep are so equally high, the dancer has a tendency to rely on their inherent flexibility which results in weak ankles. They can develop inflammation in their achilles tendon, and even go too far over their box in pointe shoes that they risk injury. To strengthen their muscles and tendons surrounding their ankles, dancers with high arches can practice multiple reps of relevé, or calf raises, being sure to rest their calves and achilles tendons with mild plies in between. As you rise to the balls of your feet, let go of the barre. If you cannot balance, work on strengthening your core. A strong core will contribute to overall stability. Remember, flexibility is only useful when combined with strength.

No matter what type of feet you have, there’s always room for improvement. Make the most of your abilities and you will find greater joy in dancing.

image credit: Ballet For Adults

image credit: Shakakahnevan
Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

image credit: Mimi
Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

image credit: Carlos Ferriera
Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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