What Is A Foot Stretcher?
Foot stretchers are a piece of equipment common in many different fields of dance, gymnastics, and athletics. They are used to stretch the arches of the feet.
With regular use, they are thought to increase the flexibility in both the arch and ankle plus the metatarsal areas.
Foot stretchers generally come in two components, the base, and the foot sleeve.
The base is usually covered with a soft material such as foam and is generally one to two feet long and made with a hard material.
The base is normally shaped in a way that provides comfort for the leg while holding its shape while the foot is in the foot sleeve.
Often there will be extra padding in the area where the heel meets the base as the heal area usually receives the most leverage and resulting pressure during a stretch.
The foot sleeve will most often be made from a piece of sturdy fabric that is attached to the front part of the base.
The foot sleeve is used to firmly hold the foot in place during the stretching process
This is the most common form of foot arch stretchers, but there are many more variants on the market that are manufactured differently and function in a completely different manner.
Which Dancers Use Foot stretchers
Foot arch stretchers are most common in ballet dancing.
Ballet dancers (ballerinas) use them to help prepare for the process of going on pointe. If you’re not versed in the world of ballet dancing, en pointe is when ballerinas dance on their toes.
A ballet foot stretcher slowly stretches the ballerina’s foot to help hold the foot in the pointed position.
Also Used By
Although most commonly used in ballet, foot arch stretchers are widely used in other genres of dance such as Jazz dance, modern dance and hip hop, etc.
Running, swimming, ice skating, martial arts, and athletics are other areas where they may be also be used.
Do They work?
It’s important to realise that there is only so much a stretcher can do to the foot’s structure, so you shouldn’t expect miracles to happen.
Dancers can gain some mobility by stretching the soft tissues in the feet, but the biggest factor of a pretty point comes from joint mobility. And joint mobility is much harder to change.
For a foot stretcher to be truly effective, it is thought that skeletal maturity is required in the foot and ankle, and this normally happens in our late teens.
How do you use a foot stretcher?
Are foot stretchers dangerous?
Many healthcare professionals have called into question the safety of foot stretchers.
One particular area that has caused concern is the idea that foot stretchers may weaken the muscles and tendons by forcing them into the pointe position for long periods of time.
The conclusion by many of the healthcare professionals is that foot arch stretchers can be a valuable addition to dance training. They recommend that the use of foot stretchers should be accompanied by strengthening exercises to build up the muscle in the parts of the foot that are being stretched.
If you have a history of foot or ankle injuries, we recommend you should only use an arch stretcher while accompanied by a health professional to avoid causing additional damage.
Are foot stretchers safe for dancers?
We believe they should be used with caution, especially if you have feet with flatter arches. This is because a foot stretcher may create more leverage through the mid-foot and arch area, and possibly create a flatter and more unstable mid-foot. In other words, this means that too much pressure could possibly overstretch and weaken this foot type, increasing the tendency to roll in.
It is by no means essential to use a foot stretcher. While gentle stretching of the ligaments may sometimes be necessary for some dancers not blessed with naturally pointed feet. It is by no means essential to have a career in the dancing industry. You should always put your health and safety first.
If you have decided that a foot arch stretcher is for you, the increase in point range should be done very slowly over a long period of time with careful thought to the anatomy of the foot and ankle.
Attempting to increase the range of motion into the pointed or flexed positions must always be accompanied by the correct strengthening exercise so you can actually use the newly achieved range of motion while dancing.
Excessive range in the ankle without good proprioception and strength has been known to cause many foot and ankle injuries.
It’s important that you build the strength at the same time as your range increases, because a sudden increase in mobility, without appropriate awareness and strength, may make you more likely to injure your foot.
It is not worth potentially injuring your feet long term and not actually being able to dance?
Important things to remember when using any kind of foot stretcher:
Only use for a couple of minutes.
Two to three minutes is enough. While you’re using a foot stretcher, you are attempting to stretch softs tissues/ligaments and these are not typically meant to be stretched. Overstretching can happen very quickly which could lead to lasting damage being done.
Never force anything.
When you start to get the feeling you can’t straighten your leg any further or last any longer, it means you probably can’t.
Don’t attempt to force your body through it. It is probably time for you to take a rest.
Use it at the end of the day
Not a warm-up activity.
If you choose to strengthen your foot before going to class, you are weakening your foot and creating instability. This means you may be more likely to injure your foot or ankle.
Always strengthen your feet in addition to stretching.
As I have said already in this post, you will want to do very targeted exercises that work your intrinsic foot muscles. This will help you develop more control throughout the midfoot. The goal is to create mobility.
We have a wide selection of foot stretchers available on our website site. To view them, please click HERE