There isn’t a single ballet student who does not dream of having “banana feet.” Many flat footed dancers feel a twinge of despair, however, when they see a pro like Svetlana Zakharova who was born with arches that seem to rise inches off the ground and look so strong they could break the hardest pointe shoe shank in half. Although it is difficult to completely recreate your God-given foot structure, there are ways to go about strengthening and stretching your ankles and arches in order to maximize your full potential. Here are a few exercises to try.
Half foot stetch
Position ther band so that it is partially covering your toes and half of the sole of your foot. Keeping your foot arched as if you are standing on demi pointe, then slowly flex your foot. Then return your foot to the arched position, keeping your toes pulled back, resisting the ther band with the sole of your foot. Repeat. Important: make sure that when you are in the flexed foot position, you are not allowing your foot to become unaligned with your ankle; keep it straight up and down with your toes pointing at the ceiling, not to one side at the wall.
Full roll through, working through demi pointe
Position the ther band the same way as in the first exercise. Begin with a flexed foot. Slowly work your foot through to the demi pointe position, stretching the arch, and then pointe the foot completely, bending the toes downward. Work the feet back through demi pointe and back to the flexed position. Repeat as many times as you can…the more you do it the stronger your feet will get!
Side to side shaping exercise
Wrap the ther band around the side of your foot on the inside so that it crosses the outside of your ankle, holding it between your legs and pull it under your knee so that there is resistance against the outside of your foot. Push your foot outward against the ther band’s resistance. Do as many times as you can.
Side to side sickled foot exercise
Now don’t freak out about this one. Yes, you are sickling your foot. But it is important to strengthen your ankles in every direction. As in the last exercise, wrap the ther band around your foot, this time so that the resistance is on your big toe’s side. Pull band under knee again for resistance and hold on the outside of your thigh. Resist the band’s pull by sickling in and then shaping out repeatedly. Once again, do it as much as you can!
Foot stretch using the couch or another piece of furniture
There are a lot of “foot stretchers” out there that can be purchased for a lot of money. But you can find yourself a couch or other piece of furniture that will accomplish the same goals as an expensive tool. Find a couch or chair that has a spot just tall enough for you to fit your toes and part of your arch under. With bent knees, slide your feet under and then slowly straighten your knees until you can feel it stretching your arches. Important: do not do this until it is excruciating. This is a stretch and though it is somewhat painful, do not force it. Stretch—don’t break!