Are Foot Stretchers Safe?
Often the thing that dancers wish for most is ‘good feet’ – as a subjective term it is difficult to define what constitutes good feet, however it seems to define a dancer’s wish to improve their feet more clearly. This is mostly a wish for their arches to improve in order to achieve a more pronounced point and curve from the shin bone, over the ankle and onto the top of the foot.
Some do this by using therabands and other strengthening exercises to improve their arch and consequently the strength and control of their feet, yet some dancers resort to more extreme methods of improving their feet. Some use foot stretchers, in which the foot is strapped into place along an idealised line and quite literally forced to bend and change. This does not appear to be a long-term solution however many dancers advocate their success in the foot department to foot stretchers.
There is some debate as to whether foot stretchers are safe for dancers to use. There are several versions on the market, all promising to improve flexibility by holding the top of the foot in an extreme point. It is perhaps best to use them cautiously, especially if you have feet with flatter arches. Too much pressure could overstretch and weaken this foot type, increasing the tendency to roll in – additionally, if you have a history of foot and ankle injuries, use a foot stretcher only in the presence of a health professional to ensure that you are not causing additional damage.
It is also important not to expect dramatic improvement. You can only do so much with the structure of the foot, as the biggest determining factor of a point comes from joint mobility which is much harder to change. Foot stretchers will only be effective until your foot and ankle reach skeletal maturity, which happens in your late teens.
There are plenty of tutorial videos available online but your teacher will be happy to advise you of excercises which will be beneficial for the development of your feet and keep them ‘happy feet!’