Flip through any dance-wear catalog, and you'll see a spectacular array of beautifully arched feet. Dancers might obsess over the look of their arches, but they're also concerned about how their feet perform under extreme pressure. You can't change the bony structure of your feet, so you have limited control over how your feet look. What you can do is strengthen and stretch the muscles that support your arches. If you want stronger, more flexible feet, are flatfooted or tend to roll the foot toward the inner arch, which is what experts refer to as overpronation, do what dancers do. Incorporate resistance band exercises into your overall conditioning program.
Start with a warm-up to increase blood flow to your lower body and prepare your feet and ankles for a workout. While barefoot, walk, jog, or prance around the room for five to seven minutes. When you break a light sweat, hold onto a wall or chair for light support and raise your right foot slightly off the floor. Imagine your big toe is a large crayon and slowly write every letter of the alphabet in the air. Work through your full range of motion to fire up all the muscles of your feet and ankles. Repeat with your left foot.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Loop the middle of the band around the ball of your right foot, flex the foot and pull back on the ends of the band to remove slack. Slowly extend your ankle and toes, pressing against the band's resistance. Hold the position briefly and then slowly flex the foot. Repeat eight to 12 times. For the second phase of the exercise, keep your ankle fully extended. Flex and extend only the toes eight to 12 times. Switch to your left foot and repeat the moves.
Remain on the floor and loop the band around your right big toe. Keep the right ankle slightly flexed and pull back on the ends of the band to remove slack. Bend the big toe forward, pressing it into the band. Hold the position briefly and then relax the toe. Repeat eight to 12 times before switching to your left foot.
Sit in a chair with both feet on the floor in front of you. Flex your right foot and loop the band under the forefoot. Pull the ends of the band firmly to the right and press lightly on the band with your left foot to stabilize it. Move the toes of the right foot to the left, pressing against the band. Hold briefly and then relax the foot. Repeat eight to 12 times. Extend your ankle and toes away from your shin and complete another set of eight to 12 reps. Switch to your left foot and repeat the moves.
Remain seated in the chair with your feet together on the floor in front of you. Wrap the band tightly but comfortably around both forefeet and knot the band securely. Keeping your heels on the floor, flex both feet, drawing your toes toward your shins. Move your forefeet outward against the band. Hold briefly and then relax the feet. Complete eight to 12 reps. Extend your ankles and toes away from your shins and complete an additional eight to 12 reps.
- Pointe Magazine: Your Best Body -- Bad Feet?
- The Perfecte Pointe Book: Flat Feet and Pointe Shoes
- Dance Anatomy; Jacqui Greene Haas
- Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas: Six Simple Exercises For Stronger Strides
- Russian Pointe: Essential Exercises for the Feet
- Journal of Sport Rehabilitation: Correlations Between Hip Strength and Static Foot and Knee Posture
- Supplement your band work with other foot exercises, including the classic towel scrunch and marble grab, both of which involve arching the foot and gripping with your toes. Even walking barefoot in the sand gives the small muscles of the feet a workout that can benefit your arches.
- For safety purposes, check your band carefully for nicks and thin spots before every use. Promptly replace the band when it shows signs of wear.
- If you've injured your foot in the past, speak to your doctor or physical therapist about the advisability of specific exercises.
Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.