There’s no doubt that being a ballerina is amazing, but it’s not always easy… It requires strength, consistency and keeping that initial passion alive. Apart from the main essentials such as tulle skirts, dresses, leotards and tights, every ballerina also needs to own a foot arch stretcher.
What is a Foot Arch Stretcher?
Generally speaking, a foot stretcher is a device that forces the foot into the arched position the mimics going on pointe, just without the actual physical pressure. Nowadays, there are two types of ballerina foot arch stretches – those made of harder material moulded into curves and those made entirely of wood.
What’s identical about both types is that they consist of two parts, one designed to support the ankle, heel and arch, and another part that comes in the form of a flexible wrap or sock that keeps the foot in place against the hard mould. Wooden foot arch stretchers, however, have been present on the market for a lot longer and their purpose is to make ballet dancing easier and effortless.
In the past when there were no foot stretchers, ballerinas would put their feet under a sofa or a piano in order to achieve the instep shaping of their feet. Or they would simply sit on their ankles for some time. However, both of these foot stretching techniques have proven to be painful and uncomfortable and on top of that, they are known for causing lesions.
Things to Consider When Using a Foot Arch Stretcher
It’s important to choose a professional ankle stretcher in order to avoid any unwanted injuries. Professional and high-quality stretchers are smooth and convenient thus helping the foot to stretch without causing any discomfort or severe pains in the ankle and joint. The focus is mainly on pressing, pushing and pulling both the legs and the feet. The other purpose is to stretch the muscles and ligaments for of the small, middle and bid insteps.
Another important thing ballerinas can do is to exercise the ankles and insteps before using the stretcher in order to avoid unnecessary strain. Ballerinas who are to use a professional foot stretcher for the first time should use it for no more than 20 minutes, 2-3 times per day. After stretching, professionals recommend using the tension band only for strength training. The combination of these two things can certainly give better results.
What Are the Benefits of Using Foot Arch Stretches?
- If a ballerina decides to include a gentle session of stretching with a foot stretcher during her warm-up before the class, she will feel better prepared for all those movements that require a lot of flexibility.
- Except for aiding the arch of the feet, this wooden foot stretcher will make the entire leg more flexible (from the foot and knee up to the hip) as all muscles are included when using the foot stretcher.
- Except for this, a foot stretcher can also help the dancer to rise up to the pointes. In order to do this, the foot needs to be inserted into the foot stretcher with the pointe shoe on, and the ballerina should try to perform some ballet exercises. By doing this, the foot stretcher will help her mould the pointes correctly while helping her rise easier to the pointes.
- Besides its main purpose (to make the legs and feet of a ballerina more flexible), a foot stretcher can also reduce any tension or swelling in the feet. For instance, when feeling exhausted and dealing with swollen feet, washing the feet with colder water can help a lot. But besides this, putting the feet into a foot stretcher while gently stretching the feet would be very beneficial. This is because the cold water and gentle stretching improve blood circulation, while reducing any puffiness in the legs.
Arch stretchers are one of the favourite ballerinas use as they spare them from many foot injuries. If the ligaments are too tight in the wrong places of the foot, a ballerina will have a hard time getting her foot into a full arch en pointe.
By passively forcing the feet into the arch position, the ligaments can stretch out and improve the range of motions. In addition, ballerinas really love the idea of passively stretching as they can multi-task at the same time. For instance, while wearing a stretcher, they can also read a book, watch a TV, paint their nails or apply a face mask.