Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Every dancers strives to improve their arches. Whether it is pointing your toe during a develope or going en pointe, there are a few key things you need to consider. Overall, the most important thing to do first is determine where your limitations lie so that you can focus on the area that needs the most work.
So let's look at the 3 main components to improving your arch height:
Ankle Plantar Flexion
Lacking full foot and ankle mobility can result in compensations, which can lead to all sorts of potential problems. Dancer's need approximately 90 degrees of plantar flexion (pointing the foot) to safely go on pointe and give you those pretty long lines.
Here's an easy way you can check to see if you have 90 degrees of plantar flexion:
Did you pass? Congrats- now I want you to stop stretching and move on to strengthening! A huge mistake many dancers make is focusing too much on stretching the feet, when in reality you may already have more than enough flexibility.
If you failed the test, try this exercise:
Plantar Flexion Stretch:
Sit with one leg crossed over and point your foot. Use your hand to gently press down on the top off the foot until you feel a stretch across the front of the ankle.
To increase the stretch, also gently press down on your toes so they curl.
Hold 30 seconds, 3-5x
1st Toe Extension
One other area of mobility to be mindful of is 1st toe extension. In order to get fully into releve, dancers require roughly 90 degrees of 1st toe extension.
To assess this: pull back your 1st toe as far as you can. Can you make it to a 90 degree angle? If not, Try this stretch:
1st Toe Extension Stretch:
Stand with one foot slightly behind you and prop up onto your toes. Gently lean your weight back and try to push the front of the ankle forward, allowing your 1st toe to stretch into extension.
Sets/Reps: Hold 3 x 30 seconds.
Having the mobility to go en pointe is one thing, but being strong enough is another. You cannot rely on your shoe to hold you up en pointe, you MUST have adequate strength in the foot and ankle as well.
Test out your strength:
Stand on one leg and try to perform as many calf raises as you can. Be mindful to keep proper form, so you may want a friend to watch/count for you. Proper form means: no trunk lean forward or back, maintaining a stable knee position and achieving full height of the calf raise.
If you can make it to 25, you pass the test. If not, Here's a few exercises to work on:
Eccentric Calf Raises:
Releve on 2 feet, then lift up the right foot and slowly lower (3 count) on only the left leg. Repeat 30x on each side.