How to get dancers feet

The do's and don'ts — A Dancer's Life

The always helpful Pointe Magazine offers up some sound advice in this great article on improving your feet (with tips on what to do, and more importantly what not to do)!

Your Best Body: Bad Feet?

By Kathleen McGuire

It’s a ballet dancer’s eternal question: How do I make my feet better? It seems that our ankles and insteps - no matter how supple they are - are never good enough. But while we all might dream of having arches like Polina Semionova or Paloma Herrera, few of us are born with them.

Jane Rehm, now a dancer with Smuin Ballet in San Francisco, found out early on in her training that her feet were going to be a hurdle. “Pretty much every summer program that rejected me said it was because of my bad feet,” says Rehm. “It was something I knew I was going to have to get past.”

The good news is that with the right strengthening exercises, you can improve the appearance of your feet. And if you start young enough, you can even make them more flexible. But there are limits - and excessive stretching can do more damage than good.


What Are “Bad” Ballet Feet?

Dancers want their ankles to be flexible enough to create at least a straight line from their shin to the top of their foot when pointing. Anything less, and you’ll have trouble getting up on pointe. “Most ankles have about the same total range of motion, but dancers with a flatter foot have more motion toward flexing, and those with a higher arch have more toward pointing,” says Dr. Thomas Novella, a podiatrist based in New York City, who has tested the range of motion in at least 1,500 dancers. “It has to do with the way the rear part of the foot meets the ankle inside the joint.”

While he feels it is possible to improve range of motion through strengthening and moderate stretching, Novella warns that it won’t work for everyone. Dancers in their early to mid-adolescence whose growth plates have just begun to stabilize will see the best results. “Your chance of improving flexibility decreases with age,” he says. Although there isn’t hard statistical data, Novella asserts that by your mid-20s, there’s not much you can do.

How They Can Improve

Kathleen Mitchell, a teacher at Boston Ballet School, has helped students in their teens change the shape of their feet. She recommends using the classic Thera-Band exercises at a slow, controlled pace to increase strength in the ankle and metatarsals. While holding the Thera-Band taut against the ball of your foot, slowly point and flex while fully articulating through the foot. After repeating several times, keep your foot pointed against the band and slowly flex and point the toes only, leaving your ankle in the pointed position.

Stretching properly can also help. “A physiotherapist can stretch your ankle and mid-foot to give the appearance of having more pointe,” says Novella, “But it can take years and there’s no guarantee. ” Novella recommends a technique called contract-relax, in which a dancer pushes against a physical therapist’s hand, then relaxes to let the muscles stretch farther than before.

Dangerous Measures

While some perhaps painful efforts, like cramming your toes under a door, may seem like a worthwhile sacrifice, think again. “If something sounds crazy, it probably is,” says Rehm, “and in the long run, it will set you back.” Sleeping in your pointe shoes, standing on the tops of your metatarsals, having a friend sit on your feet or banging your arches to make them swell are dangerous behaviors that can cause serious damage.

“That’s not active stretching,” says Mitchell. “It would be like just slamming down into the splits.” Dr. Novella points out that dancers often cause Achilles tendonitis by overstretching. “You’re inducing mobility in joints that really should be stable,” says Novella. “If you’re going to stretch the arch and ankle, you need to make sure that the strength of the muscle groups around the joints is maintained.

And resist the temptation to cover up bad feet. “You want to know exactly what you’re dealing with so you can see your progress,” says Rehm. “Don’t constantly wear legwarmers over your feet—look at them and let people help you.”



In some cases, the issue isn’t as simple as an inflexible arch. Dancers who feel pain in the back of their ankle may have an extra bone called the os trigonum. “It’s like having a little marble between the leg bone and the ankle that blocks the foot from pointing,” says Novella. While the os trigonum can be surgically removed, Novella warns that recovery time can range between seven weeks and seven months, and still may not produce a pointe comparable to if the bone had never been there.

Tight upper thighs can also create an obstacle to getting up over your pointe shoes. “If dancers are back in their hips because their hip flexors or quads are tight,” Mitchell warns, “then the ankle joint has to do all of the work. ” Stretch out your hips and quads often and make sure to use your glutes when rising onto pointe.

Work With What You've Got

Luckily, many professional ballet dancers have found success even though they won’t be modeling pointe shoes any time soon. “What’s gotten me where I am is how I work, my focus and my ability to pick things up quickly. My feet aren’t terrible anymore, but I still have to work on them all the time,” says Rehm, who strengthens her feet through daily exercises, such as tracing the letters of the alphabet with her toes. “And you have to find your angle - sometimes things need to shift a bit to make the line better.”

Rehm finds that the type of pointe shoes she wears, as well as how she prepares her shoes, makes a huge difference. “If you don’t have a very flexible foot, you don’t need much of a shoe in terms of hardness,” says Dierdre Miles Burger, director of Orlando Ballet School. Go for a more pliable, flexible shoe. Mitchell also advises dancers to “three-quarter” the shanks of their pointe shoes, or cut the shank where their arch naturally bends.

The best thing you can do to improve the appearance of your feet is use them properly. “You have to maximize your rotation and presentation,” says Mitchell. By articulating through the floor and creating a beautiful line, the focus can be drawn away from the foot and more to the presentation of the legs. In the end, using what you have well will serve you best. “Strong, articulate feet, no matter how they’re shaped,” says Burger, “is what’s most important.”

Dance Advice, Advice + TipsEnergetiksdance advice, dancer's arch, feet, getting better instep, improving your feet, dance blog, dance tips, dance, dance feet, en pointe, pointe shoesComment


7 steps to a better arch — A Dancer's Life

Dream arches in the Energetiks Pivot 360 Tech Fit shoe

There are many things on every dancers wish-list; flexibility, musicality, a nice arabesque, fast allegro, long, elegant limbs (an insensitivity to pain maybe?!), but possibly the all-time most yearned after feature for any bun-head is a beautiful pointe.

Feet have been a crucial component to the aesthetics of dance ever since Marie Taglioni brazenly went to new heights by stepping 'en pointe' during that game-changing performance of La Sylphide in the seventeenth century. Since then dancers have aspired to elongate the line of the body as much as possible, and beautifully pointed feet with a high instep and pronounced arches isn’t just an extension of that line, it’s also a point of pride amongst dancers, and a testament to the incredible specialisation of a dancer’s body (no one is born with feet like Zakharova … not even Zakharova!). 

There is still a large part of your capacity for pointe that is determined by genetics though. Not every dancer is going to be blessed with the ability to get rubber-like bendy feet. However that's not to say that you can't significantly enhance what you're born with. Through gently stretching the ligaments and strengthening the muscles over time, you can enhance the instep, arch, pointe, strength and flexibility of your feet and give yourself the very best pointe possible!

Here are our top tips for improving your pointe:


It's all about resistance.

Whether it's the resistance you create through the floor, or artificial resistance - such as with a thera-band or by wearing pointe shoes or demi pointes during class - the more your feet have to work through the demi-pointe and articulate all the way through the intrinsic muscles of the foot the better. Note: this is very different to 'forcing it. For example, when dancers get friends to sit on their feet for extended periods of time, or wedge their toes under hard surfaces and force their knees to straighten. The logic behind this is that due to the excessive weight, this will increase your natural pointe flexibility. The truth is you can permanently damage ligaments by stretching them beyond their natural range of motion; which means rather than having better feet, you become weak and unstable on demi-pointe and pointe, and have reduced control over your feet. Always be gentle when stretching, it's much better to build up your range of movement gradually, rather than causing irreversible damage in one sitting.  Be patient, it's worth it!

Check out the first few exercises in this helpful Thera-band tutorial for some great tips on resistance stretching for your feet.

2. Don't neglect the supporting leg.

Myth number #379 in dance: 'The working leg is the most important leg.' Now, I get the logic here, one leg is stationary and planted firmly on the ground whilst your other leg is precariously trying to execute seven impossible things at the same time, it's earned some favouritism, right? Well... no. When working on our pointe, dancers tend to focus only on the working leg - however, it's often what you're doing in a 'relaxed' position that plays a crucial role.

Whilst speaking on the topic of improving arches Vicki Negus, the West Australian Ballet’s resident physiotherapist notes: “[I]f you let your arch collapse when it is weight-bearing, all the bones of the arch have rolled in and will get strong in that rolled position. If you lift your arch when you are standing on it, you are strengthening it in the correct position. ” The stronger you build these muscles and the rest of the foot's muscles, the greater control you'll have over the articulation of the foot and the shape of the extended pointe. So keep checking yourself in class and at home, even the worst foot-roller can (with enough determination) overcome their bad habits and make pulled up, engaged muscles a reflex just as natural as breathing.

3. Use your eccentric movements.

*Note: Not the same as the other kind of 'eccentric' ...although eccentric dancing can be fun too.

 Every movement is made up of two stages. There's the concentric stage, which is the 'action' part of a move; for example the extension part of a tendu, or the 'sitting up' part of a sit-up. And then there's the eccentric part, which is when the muscles involved in the movement (that just contracted to allow the action to take place) must elongate again to return the body to it's resting state (ie. the closing portion of a tendu, and the laying-back-down part of a sit-up). The misconception is that muscles that are moving eccentricly can't really be 'worked', they're just passive - like when the leg is returning from a grand battement. However the energy and power it takes to lower the leg with control and replace it in the required fifth position takes an incredible amount of work, and taking advantage of this stage of each exercise will improve every aspect of your dancing to no end. If you want to know just how much control you have of your body's eccentric movements try landing completely silently from a jump, it's eccentric control that allows you to land without a big 'thud', and it's the eccentric phase of a movement that is so crucial to building strength and control. Focusing on working the muscles of the foot through the eccentric stage of each exercise will give you much greater control and manipulation over your pointe.


Fake it.

No this isn't us advocating getting 'arch implants' or anything crazy like that (that was a joke, but let's be honest it's probably a thing somewhere...). Short of actually breaking your feet, the best way to improve your articulation and enhance the instep is to 'fake' great articulation. Just think, if you had the MOST incredibly supple, bendy, fluid feet with incredible arches, you would take advantage of every single count of music and every développé to show them off, wouldn't you? From now on, when you're in class try visualising the exact feet you would like and maintaining that perception all through class - treat every exercise like a chance to show them off. This way you'll be working through the feet as much as possible, which will have your feet getting stronger and more pliable in no time. Whilst at first this kind of concentrated focus might take a lot of effort, having the discipline to isolate your muscles like this will build muscle memory of the feel and routine of properly working and engaging your feet, and eventually proper articulation will become second nature.

5. Expand your focus.

If you want to make significant improvements to your pointe, you can't just focus on the muscles in the feet, you want to build strength and stability in all the muscles that are involved in the process of plantar flexion (ie. 'pointing').

The muscles that should be focused on are these muscles of the posterior calf:


  • Gastrocnemius

  • Soleus

  • Tibialis posterior

  • Flexor hallucis longus/brevis

  • Flexor digitorum longus/brevis

  • Peroneus longus/brevis




This stretching and strengthening exercise for feet and calves is a good way to work through these muscles in unison:

Calf raises through plié

  • With your feet in parallel, standing at the barre or near a table or chair for balance, bend into a demi plie keeping the knees directly over the toes.

  • Whilst in the plie position, gradually lift your heels off the ground, rolling up through the intrinsic muscles of the foot and extending to your highest demi-pointe.

  • Keeping the heels as lifted as possible, straighten the knees so you’re standing in a turned in first position on demi pointe.

  • Now slowly lower the heels returning to a relaxed position. Repeat several times, then perform with the feet in first and second position.

  • Finally, repeat the whole process in reverse, starting with a rise onto demi-pointe, then gradually bending the knees to a demi plie-level, and (working the feet as much as possible) slowly lowering the heels, maintaining the plie, before finally straightening.

6. Consistency.

Giving yourself the most thorough foot workout is wonderful of course, but even the best stretching session isn't going to do you any good if you don't follow through.  It's not enough to concentrate on your feet once a month, or once a week. If you really want to see improvements you've got to think about your feet each time you're in class and continue doing exercises and strengthening your feet and ankle muscles daily. The more consistent you can be with your habits the better the results you'll have.

Also - Don't forget to balance out all this extra training, you need to ensure that an increase in muscle use doesn't lead to stiff, tight calves which will end up impeding your dancing. Here's a great video with some exercises to release your calves and activate the gluteal muscles to restore some balance to your training: Calf release and glute activation for dancers.

...And finally, our last tip:

7. Balance is key.

Always, always, always aim for a balance between strength and flexibility. It's so important to understand the complementary role these two play; there's no use being able to bend your toes to the floor if you can't hold them there without wedging your feet under the couch. Just like there's no point being able to do splits if you don't have the muscles to lift and support the leg in a Penché.  Flexibility is like a key, it gives you the potential to be able to do something specific. However it's strength that gives you the ability to execute that potential. The only way to really improve your feet, is if you have enough strength to control the additional pliancy you've gained through stretching.

Slow, controlled rises through the demi pointe, first with both feet and then on a single supporting leg is a great exercise to incorporate into your warm-up. Remember to be just as conscious of your technique and control during the eccentric (lowering) part of the exercise.

So there you have it, we hope this advice has helped you not just improve your pointe, but to also understand how certain exercises benefit the body (as well as what things don't) so that you can make safe decisions with your dance training and avoid unnecessary injury. Keep practising and improving your range of movement and you can look forward to a whole new pointe.

Happy dancing!

Need some help with your turnout too? We've got that sorted too. Here's everything you need to know to improve your turnout: Turning out better.

Article by Elly Ford

Read More:

6 Simple Exercises for Improving Ankle Strength

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Pointe Shoe Care: Tips to Make Your Pointe Shoes Last

Dance Advice, Pointe info, Advice + Tips, Most PopularEnergetiksballet, dance tips, dance advice, arches, better feet, improving your feet, improving your pointe, getting better feetComment


4 steps to perfect dancer's legs

  • Dec 16, 2014
  • DANCE-mania, Blog, Video, Health, Exercise

Dancer's feet. They are not just long and thin. They are strong. They are flexible. And they do not appear easily by themselves.

This article contains four basic exercises that work your legs from top to bottom, with which you can achieve the perfect dancer's legs.

Trust the experts!

1. Glutes and Hamstrings - Marching leg raises, leaning on the ball.
Strong buttocks not only allow you to move faster and more vigorously, but also help prevent injuries to your knees and lower back.

Lie on your back face up with your knees bent and your feet on a large ball. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees (A). Raise one knee to your chest (B). Then lower back, lift the other knee. Continue the exercise by changing legs.

2. Inner thigh - squats (Standing Plié Squat).
The muscles of the inner thigh, like all other muscles of the upper leg, help stabilize the knee joint. And when it comes to turnout, many dancers try to work from the knee. Strong inner thigh muscles will help you turn your legs exactly where you want them to.

Begin the plie exercise in wide second position, hands in second position with palms up.

CREVE BODY AND THE Muscles of the Inner WIGHT, Getting and raising your hands over your head.

Return to starting position and do 3 sets of 10 reps at a fast pace.

Let's make it harder! At the end of each rep, hold the plié and do 20 small up and down pulsating movements.

For maximum effect, stay in plie and pulse forward with 20 knees.

for advanced ones: at the end of each series, rub the heel from the floor and squeeze the hip muscles, go up to the half -packages and linger in 10 accounts.

During the exercise, make sure that the muscles of the lower body are involved and that the hips are always kept directly under the shoulders.

For some, this exercise is old hat, but for us it is a classic. The toe raise strengthens both parts of the calf - the calf (the one you usually see on the back of the leg below the knee) and the soleus (which is under it). The next time you're balancing on your toes in a dance studio and trying to reach something on the top shelf, thank your strong calves.

A. Stand next to a chair with your heels together and toes apart. Place your right hand on the back of a chair, your left hand on your belt.
B. Slowly rise up on your toes. Hold at the top for a few seconds, then lower your heels. Repeat 10-15 times.

Be sure to stretch after strengthening exercises!

And finally, inspiring photos of beautiful dancing legs!


90,000 work of the legs of dancers for fighters

10 days of intensive work of the legs

CAST CAST CLEASE AND OPERATION OF THE BEAUTION WORKS FOR THE BEARS. Hold your space and throw punches with more power than ever. Move with feline agility and razor-sharp speed. Dispel the stone muscles in your legs and torso. Move faster than all your rivals!

My brother Brian (champion dancer) and I share the secrets of training dancers' footwork in this unique 10-day intensive training program. 4 hours of instructional video and 26 page work journal to improve your footwork skills.

Meet OVER 100 special footwork exercises used by dancers to develop core and leg strength, improve their sense of balance and move their feet with dazzling speed, power and precision!

  • CAT BALANCE - hold your space with superior technique and strong leg muscles!
  • FAST FOOTWORK - attack and escape with blinding speed!
  • INCREASED PUNCHING POWER - Stronger muscles and better movement technique increase your punching power!

Why should a fighter train like a dancer?

Dancers have the best balance and footwork of ALL ATHLETES in the world. They train 10 hours a day, working only on balance and footwork. Imagine the average ballet dancer who trained from the age of 4 to absolute perfection. By the time he is 18, he is floating in the air, spinning on one leg and makes us believe he does it easily . Hours of stretching, relentless exercise, intense footwork exercises and superhuman displays of speed and strength.

You may be shocked to learn that boxing greats such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson also had dance experience. Mike Silver (boxing historian and author), in his popular book The Arc of Boxing, mentioned that the ideal body for a boxer is that of a dancer, with long, smooth, toned muscles. As a fighter, you may not want to wear tights and do 10 spins in a row, but you might want to know how the dancers trained. What techniques did the dancers use to create such a beautiful balance? How did they develop such large calves? What special footwork exercises have they been doing all these years in training?

It's no secret that classical dance training can be the hardest type of physical training in the world. The dancer's body is carved to perfection from head to toe for fluid, powerful and seemingly effortless movements.

Watch some videos of my former dance teachers:

  • Ivan Terrazas is an old video of his AMAZING foot strength
  • Gabriel Miss - INCREDIBLE foot speed and accuracy
  • Brian Nguyen - watch my brother FREESTYLING on street
  • there are many more that I have not listed ...

THE PROBLEM of conventional boxing footwork exercises

The footwork exercises you see in boxing and MMA gyms today are completely ineffective. Most of them are too simple or simply not organized in a logical order. Where are the stretching exercises? Where are the balance exercises? And finally, where are the exercises to improve the physical condition of the muscles and coordination?

All you see is shadow boxing, jump rope, ladder drills, cone drills and maybe a few running hip twist drills and that's it. Today's footwork drills are too easy, too boring, and STILL don't teach fighters how to balance and how to move their bodies. There is no systematic method for developing and complicating work in order for the body to move better.

Still missing from today's footwork exercises:

  • Mindfulness exercises - how to develop a great sense of balance and control of the neutral axis.
  • Full leg workout - not just calves and agility (no inner leg work)
  • Lack of slow motion work to increase control and coordination, instead of just raw speed and power
  • Does not work effectively on the "muscles of the footwork"

What is the Dancer's Footwork for Fighters training program?

You will have access to a comprehensive 10-day training program with 4 hours of video. Every day you will be introduced to many new footwork techniques, exercises and drills to completely transform your lower body and improve your footwork! This is a proven training program used by dancers for generations.

You will get THICKER, STRONGER, FAST legs.

You will finally have fully developed leg muscles, thereby gaining increased leg strength, coordination and control throughout an extended range of motion. You will have access to an advanced training program to develop perfect balance and fast footwork skills. You will develop a stronger and MORE FUNCTIONAL torso in order to generate MORE POWER IN ALL BODY MOVEMENTS.

You will stand stronger, move faster and hit harder!

Access to Champion Dance Knowledge

You will have access to one of the greatest resources for footwork training through my brother, Brian Nguyen, US TANGO CHAMPION. He has trained with the best in the world and has won numerous dance competitions due to his skills and footwork abilities. He is a highly respected tango dancer all over the world. He charges over $100/hour for private lessons and always has bookings in every city he visits.

And Brian Nguyen will share his secret exercises and training methods in this specialized course. You will learn…NOT 10…NOT 20…but MORE THAN 100 FOOTWORK EXERCISES. Brian and I will begin to pull you in slowly, starting with fundamental techniques and basic exercises (Days 1, 2, 3). Then we will gradually move on to more intense exercises (Days 4, 5, 6, 7). And at the end, we will end with impossible exercises (Days 7, 8, 9, 10). You will receive technical demonstrations and theoretical explanations every day.

*** Check out my brother Brian Nguyen's performances - VIDEO 1 - VIDEO 2 ***

These specialized footwork workouts are HARD.

Working off and exercises are incredibly difficult and painful. This course is not intended for non-serious fighters. If you don't even like jumping rope, this course is not for you! I only recommend these workouts to serious athletes or people with crazy curiosity.

The average person won't even make it past DAY 5. If you're looking for a challenge and really want to take your footwork to the next level, this course will give you the best footwork in the gym!

100+ footwork exercises ranging from easy to difficult to difficult to painful to impossible. Many of you who are reading this now will NEVER be able to do them all. However, your footwork speed, accuracy and agility will improve enormously if you work on it.

If you can survive these workouts,
footwork in combat will be easy.

"Dancer's Footwork for Fighters"