As a dancer, your feet are one of your most valuable assets. They strive for you in every class, practice and performance. Following a regular foot care routine can vastly reduce injuries and can help to improve balance, strength and stability in your body from the ground up. This brief series of five-foot activities will serve to increase flow in your feet, enhance the proprioception of your feet and mobilise the joints to allow more accurate articulation of your feet. You can use these exercises as an outstanding foot warm-up before class, but they also serve as a fabulous relaxer at the end of a long day of dancing. They are especially useful to use as a warm-up before standing on a cold floor in wintertime!
1. The single toe twist and pull
Using your pointer finger and thumb, lightly twist and pull each toe, one at a time, starting with the pinky toe and then going your way along to the big toe. Begin at the bottom of each toe, and work your way ahead to the tip of the toe. Apply force between the thumb and finger so that you are rubbing the toes as you twist each toe back and forth.
2. The single toe-double twist
Place the index finger and thumb of one hand toward the bottom of the toe. And the finger and thumb of the other hand close to the tip of the toe.
Twist the toe in different directions with each hand, gently mobilising the distal phalangeal joints.
Twist back and forth 2-3 times, starting at the pinky toe and working your way along to the big toe.
3. The buddy toe criss-cross
Place the index finger and thumb of one hand on the pinky toe, and the index finger and thumb of the other hand on the fourth toe.
Using a criss-cross motion, bend the pinky toe over the fourth toe and cross the fourth toe under the pinky toe. Then switch to cross the pinky toe under and the fourth toe over.
Crisscross 5-6 times, starting at the pinky toe and working your way along to the big toe.
4. The metatarsal mobiliser
Place thumb and fingers of one hand on either side of the fifth metatarsal (the bone connecting to the pinky toe). Place the other hand on either side of the fourth metatarsal.
Gently move the fifth metatarsal downward as you move the fourth metatarsal upward, then reverse, moving in opposing directions, 2-3 times.
Repeat with the fourth and third metatarsal.
Move along to the second and third metatarsal. The second metatarsal must be held stable as the third is moved up and down, and subsequently, the second metatarsal must be held stable as the first metatarsal is moved up and down. The second metatarsal must not be moved up and down.
5. The toe and finger handshake
Interlace the fingers of your hand in between the toes of your opposite foot with the thumb on top of the big toe.
Using your arm and shoulder, circle the foot around at the ankle in one direction 5-6 times. Then reverse the circles and repeat 5-6 times.
Repeat the whole sequence with the thumb underneath between the big toe and second toe.
Repeat each exercise on the other foot, and then come up to standing. How do your feet feel? They should feel a little more energetic, a little lighter, wider and longer.
These five-foot exercises work perfectly as a series, but you can also use each exercise individually as you see fit. Enjoy taking care of your feet. They will thank you.