We all know stretching is important before we dance. However, we (OK, I) often neglect to stretch our feet and ankles even if we’re diligent about stretching our legs, etc. A few stretches that are good for your feet include heel lifts and squat exercises. These will strengthen your feet and supporting muscles in your legs and are easy to do at the studio before your lesson. At home, or in your hotel room after a long day at a comp, you can use a roller ball under each foot to massage muscles and fascia. There are versions available at sports stores and some shoe stores but a simple golf ball will do the trick. It may be painful at first, especially if you are already having issues, so go easy but continue doing daily and increase the pressure as you can tolerate. You should see the pain become absent once you begin to exercise. This is one I used to do as a nurse after 12 hours on the unit and it is sweet relief!
Our ankles hold us up so you could say if they are weak our frame is in danger, our foot position will be incorrect which will endanger our knees and our core will crumble! I can truly attest to this as I recently had a meniscus issue after learning a Viennese waltz and not quite turning my feet as I should have – partially because my ankles were too weak to get me around on all those beautiful turns. I didn’t realize this was part of the issue for almost a year. I went to physical therapy and did exercises to strengthen my thighs and muscles around my knees but it wasn’t until I recently began working on a pivot turn for a rumba that even I could see that as I turned, my foot was turning over to the outside, which stopped the foot from turning dead in the water, much like the rubber stop on a pair of roller skates. I really needed a full pivot so my upper body kept trying to turn, throwing me slightly off balance. Now that can’t be good for the knees, the frame or the position!
My dance teacher, Jamie Black at World Champion Productions
in Hendersonville, TN, suggested some exercises to strengthen my ankles so, I am going to try it. Here is what he suggested, in case you would like to strengthen your ankles too.
Using a stretch band wrap around the ball of both feet or make a loop and put the right foot in to stabilize the band, then rotate the left foot out and away from body at the ankle and back in, while holding the right foot still to allow tension to build on the outer side of the left ankle. Repeat 15 times. Repeat on the right foot. Start by doing three rounds every day for three weeks, then increase the rounds to four.
Here are a couple of YouTube videos that you might also find helpful:
I’ll report back and let you know how I am doing!
Happy dancing! Debi