After hours of rehearsal and show preparation, how do you keep your feet strong and supple to sustain a full season and avoid injury? Because of the continual impact requested of the feet in dance, fallen arches or improper technique at this part of the body can impact the entire alignment of the body and contribute to acute or chronic injury at the ankle, knee, hip, and/or back. Strengthening the muscles of the foot is incredibly important, which can result in a greater sense of balance and stability, better alignment and more flexible feet for a desired aesthetic and greater artistic expression.
Here are three key ways to keep those feet healthy this round of performances:
1.) Full Plantar Flexion Focus:
Improper alignment of the foot in relevés and landings from jumps can lead to two of the most common dance injuries: ankle sprain and fifth metatarsal fracture (so common, in fact, that it is also referred to as the Dancers’ Fracture).
Poor alignment of the foot and arch can also weaken the ligaments that connect its many bones. A result of this can include a “fallen” arch – permanent loss of flexibility and lift in the longitudinal arches – along with a host of secondary conditions such as tendonitis, stress fractures, and integumentary (skin and nail) problems.
Your heel will leave the ground as your aim is to straighten your leg.
Remember to feel your toes, metatarsals, and now arch pressing down into the ball.
Return to your starting position by going backwards through the steps until your heel is on the ground.
2.) Relevé Walks:
To improve releve and arch aesthetics we have to improve all the surrounding muscles in order to see visible results. The foot and ankle have to be strengthened to its maximum range. Strengthening these muscles will help increase the arch resulting in a more desirable line and foot for beautiful ease of movement and flexibility.
After finding leg alignment, slowly shift your weight to the balls of the feet and without deviating out of alignment, lift the heels up.
Once the heels are up, walk the right foot forward followed by the left foot.
The intrinsic muscles of the foot are important to mastering balance, coordination and strength within all ranges of movement. Especially in dance, weakness in the intrinsic muscles can create a claw or hammer toe effect. This effect results in poor alignment when pointing the foot and attempting to stand on demi pointe or en pointe. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot will help to create a more desirable aesthetic when pointing the foot by maintaining length in the toes. Self-massage techniques can be implemented by placing a ball under your foot or calf and roll until you feel a tight spot and hold for 30 seconds. Keep repeating with different spots, from your heel to your metatarsals.
- Use the FLX small massage balls to apply myofascial massage techniques to the instep of the foot.
- Use the FLX Medium Ball & Infinity Ball to roll out the lower calf area allowing for a release in tension for more ease and flexibility.