How To Strengthen the Muscles of the Foot for Ballet Technique

Feet. They bring stability to the extension of an elaborate port de bras in a variation. They spring a runner forward in the last minute across the marathon finish line.  A reaction begins in this foundation, and dysfunction from the lower leg can travel up to the quads, hip, IT band and even the lower back.  

The performance of the body begins with the foot and with a firm, grounding base there the body can perform to its utmost potential.  Is enough care placed on the two body parts that allow the body to walk, stand still and move in any manner we desire?

Foot Exercises for Ballerinas

Although there are various muscles in the foot, the intrinsic muscles of the foot are highly important in that they support the medial longitudinal arch and are used to “lift the arch” to prevent undesirable pronation. In addition, these muscles control the movement of the toes.  The primary action of the toes is to propel the body forward.  The intrinsic muscles of the foot must fine-tune the stability and support of the foot as it moves through the heel to toe weight distribution during walking. 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.

Sometimes dancers are plagued with Plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of the plantar fascia that runs along the bottom of the foot. This tissue connects the heel to the base of the toes.  The tissue is essential to everyday movement such as walking and running.  Deep fascia, when functioning properly, allows muscles to move independently of each other without impingement on surrounding nerves and blood vessels.Under normal circumstances, the plantar fascia acts as a shock-absorbing “bowstring” within the arch of the foot. If tension on this “bowstring” becomes too great, irritation or inflammation can occur, causing pain. Chronic inflammation may eventually cause a heel spur.

In addition, tightness in plantar fascia can have unwanted repercussions in the lower leg especially tightness in the achilles tendon.  Both the plantar fascia and the achilles tendon connect to the heel bone (calcaneus).  This can hinder mobility in ankle movement, specifically when attempting to point the foot to its full range of motion and can cause undesirable pain resulting in achilles tendonitis.  

Stretching the achilles tendon, calf muscle and plantar fascia and strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot can improve foot mechanics and reduce stress on the foot.

You can use your FLX Ball to strengthen the intrinsic muscles and use the FLX Massage Balls to release tension. By applying myofascial release techniques and focusing on massaging pressure points within the foot with the FLX massage balls, the connective tissue of the foot is rehydrated making it more supportive, allowing the body to release long-held tension frequently leading to chronic pain symptoms.