Today we bring you the first in a series of articles for 4dancers by Dr. Sinkoe, a podiatrist from Georgia who works with the Atlanta Ballet. He was kind enough to share some thoughts on the best ways to help strengthen and improve your arch. Look for additional information from Dr. Sinkoe this month and next month on subjects such as warts and bruised toenails...
Dancers are always looking for ways to obtain that “perfect arch”. Every foot is genetically designed differently and not everybody will be able to achieve that “perfect arch”. Stretching and flexibility exercises are always helpful. However, I caution those that are attempting to achieve this position with the use of spring-loaded devices or placing their foot under the couch or other furniture to try to stretch the ligaments at the top of the foot. The midfoot joints are supported by strong ligaments and will allow the bones of the midfoot to only glide up and down. Attempting to make the midfoot joints act as hinge joints will injure the ligaments. If the ligaments are overstressed they can become weakened which can result in a sprained ligament or a subluxed joint.
The most effective method to strengthen the arch is to strengthen the foot muscles which stabilize the toes. These muscles are located on the bottom of the foot. Exercises to contract these muscles will flex the arch, giving you a dome appearance, thus the name “doming exercises”. Strong foot muscles will also reduce the incidence of tendonitis and metatarsal stress fractures. Experienced dancers will learn to use these muscles to stabilize themselves on pointe rather than depending on the pointe shoe to do the work.
Exercises for foot strength:
- Toe push-ups: While seated, place your foot in a demi-pointe position. Push to a pointe position by pressing your toes into the ground and contracting your arch muscles. The toe joints need to be held straight while performing this exercise. Exercises which curl the toes are using the long flexors, which may cause tendon strain. Perform 10 repetitions 2-3 times daily.
- Tendu using a theraband: Perform a tendu with resistance of the theraband under the toes. Keep the toes straight at the toe joints but flexed at the metatarsal-phalangeal joints. Perform 10 repetitions 2-3 times daily.
- Wearing the pointe shoe, roll from pointe to half demi-pointe and back up again. Repeat 10 repetitions.
BIO: Frank Sinkoe, DPM is a native of Atlanta, Georgia who has been practicing podiatry in Atlanta for 23 years. He has a general practice in podiatry and a subspeciality in dance medicine. Dr. Sinkoe serves as the podiatrist for the Atlanta Ballet and is a member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). He is married with two children. Reach him at 404-329-5050 or by e-mail at doctorfrank (at) bellsouth.net