Unless you’re a professional dancer, you likely don’t spend much time around others who are concerned about the height of their arches. For dancers, a high arch is a prized possession, worth as much as a naturally slim build and long legs. High arches contribute to the aesthetics of dance, creating a long, continuous line from the hip to the tips of the toes. However, strong, flexible arches don’t just benefit dancers. They can make basic movements such as walking and running more fluid and efficient.
Not all the muscles that contribute to your foot shape are actually in the foot. Two very important muscles -- the gastrocnemius and soleus -- are in your calves. These muscles are responsible for pointing your ankle. Increasing the strength of these muscles can improve the appearance and function of your arch. Sit on the floor with your legs straight, and wrap your exercise band around the balls of your left foot. Hold both ends of the band in your hands, pulling it toward you to get rid of the slack. Point your ankle and return to the starting position. Because they restrict the movement of your feet, don’t wear shoes when doing this exercise. Switch feet to strengthen your right arch.
Your foot contains many muscles that work with tendons, ligaments and bones to create your arches. You can strengthen these intrinsic muscles with your exercise band. Sit on the floor and arrange your band so that it runs under your left heel, along the bottom of your foot and over the tops of your toes. Holding both ends of the band in your hands, pull it tight to remove the slack. Point your ankle. Then, without relaxing your ankle, bring your toes back toward your body. Continue moving your toes down and up, keeping them elongated throughout the exercise. Switch the band over to your right foot and repeat.
Each brand of exercise band has a color-coded system indicating the strength of its bands. Check your brand to determine its color-coding scheme. Start off doing 15 repetitions of these exercises on each foot, using a light resistance. Gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can do 30. Once you can do 30, change the resistance of the band.
Don’t be surprised if you experience a foot cramp when doing these exercises, particularly the exercise that targets the intrinsic muscles of the foot. You can relax the cramp and stretch out these muscles by rolling your foot over a tennis ball.
- ACSM’s Primary Care Sports Medicine; Douglas B. McKeag and James L. Moeller
- Thera-Band Academy: Thera-Band Ankle Plantarflexion
- Thera-Band Academy: Thera-Band Toe Flexion
- FrameWork; Nicholas A. DiNubile and William Patrick
- The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: How Your Feet Work -- And Three Steps for Keeping them Healthy
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images