Ballet is a dance and art form that requires a significant amount of strength, control, and flexibility in your feet, especially to achieve a good Demi Pointe and perform strong pointe work. To execute ballet movements properly, safely, and elegantly, you need strong, flexible feet with a high arch, and the ability to point your toes and articulate your feet.
Essentially, your feet need to be very agile with great dexterity, like your hands.
To achieve this level of strength, flexibility, and precision, dancers often perform a series of foot exercises designed to target the muscles in the feet and ankles. It’s very important to do these exercises, especially when you’re a beginner, as this supports your progress and performance while helping to reduce risk of strain and injury.
Here are some foot exercises for ballet that can help you improve your foot strength, flexibility, and overall performance:
Toe tapping is a simple exercise that can help to strengthen the muscles in the feet and toes. Begin by standing with both feet flat on the ground. Lift your right foot and place the ball of the foot on a platform or step, while keeping your left foot on the ground. This is your starting position.
Next, push off the ground with your left foot and switch legs mid-air, so that your left foot lands on the platform and your right foot returns to the ground. Your arms can remain at your sides or you can alternate them with your legs, similar to the motion used while running.
Continue to alternate toe taps, gradually increasing the pace as you become more comfortable with the movement and your technique improves. Make sure to tap only the edge of the platform with your toes.
Finally, step both feet back down onto the ground to complete the exercise.
Therabands are a popular tool for all kinds of training, as they come in different levels of resistance, can be used in multiple exercises (including injury rehabilitation), and are low impact so they work without over-straining your muscles. To perform a foot strengthening exercise with a theraband, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and loop a theraband around the ball of your foot. Hold onto the ends of the band with your hands and gently pull back, flexing your foot and stretching the band. Release and repeat this exercise for several sets on each foot. You can also try our amazing feet course for in depth exercises!
Foot circles are a great way to improve flexibility in the feet and ankles, as well as reducing risks of cramping. To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Point your toes and begin to make circular motions with your feet, starting with small circles and gradually increasing the size of the circles. Repeat this exercise in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions for several sets.
This helps to improve ankle flexibility, mobility as well as strength. To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Point your toes and begin to make circular motions with your feet, focussing on the ankle joint itself. Start with small circles and gradually increasing the size. Repeat this exercise in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions for several sets.
Heel raises help to strengthen the muscles in the calves and feet, which are critical for maintaining balance and executing jumps and turns, as well as making it easier to point your toes. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet together and lift your heels off the ground, rising up onto the balls of your feet. Hold this position for several seconds, then lower your heels back down to the ground. Repeat this exercise for several sets, gradually increasing the number of repetitions and then move to single leg raises to challenge yourself further. You can also try our stronger pointe course for in depth lower leg work!
Arch lifts can help to strengthen the arches of the feet, which are important for maintaining balance and executing precise movements. To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Place a towel or small ball under the arches of your feet and use your toes to lift the towel or ball off the ground. Hold this position for several seconds, then lower the towel or ball back down to the ground. Repeat this exercise for several sets, gradually increasing the duration of the hold.
Foot stretches, when done in moderation, can help to improve flexibility in the feet and ankles, which leads to improved balance and precision, as well as reduced risks of cramping. To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Point your toes and use your hands to gently pull your toes back towards your body, stretching the arches of your feet. Hold this position for several seconds, then release and repeat the stretch several times.
In addition to these foot exercises for ballet, there are several other strategies you can use to improve the strength and flexibility of your feet:
- Massage your feet regularly to improve circulation and promote relaxation.
- Wear supportive footwear that provides adequate arch support and cushioning.
- Use foot pads or orthotics to help support your arches and reduce strain on the feet when you’re not dancing.
- Practice proper alignment and technique when executing ballet movements, as poor form can lead to injury and strain on the feet.
- Stretch regularly to improve overall flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
- Be sure to ice foot bath each evening after a heavy day of training.
- And an epsom salts foot bath to is a wonderful way to effectively reduce inflammation.
Reach your fitness goals with ballet-specific training programmes
Ballet with Isabella offers specialist-led in-studio and online courses specifically designed to overcome your ballet-related challenges and help you reach your goals. Created and delivered by the first and youngest British girl to be trained at The Vaganova Ballet Academy, you’ll get everything you need to train, whether you are a beginner or advanced! Try it out for yourself with this Intrinsic Foot Strength class.