Dear Katie

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Dear Katie,

My technique is pretty strong, but my feet are terrible. I don’t have enough money to buy a fancy foot stretcher. What can I do to make my feet look better? —Kim

I don’t encourage people to buy foot stretchers. When used improperly, they’re dangerous—you might end up injuring yourself. Instead, start by rolling out your feet with a small rubber ball (I got mine at a pet store). Loosening up your arch and the muscles under your heel and metatarsals will help you point better.

Remember that stronger feet = prettier feet. I’d recommend doing strengthening exercises with a Thera-Band. (I have a video on my blog, ifthepointeshoefits.com, showing Thera-Band exercises for the feet and ankles.) Start slowly, with about 10 repetitions, and build up to more.

Also, make sure you have a shoe that really fits your foot—whether it’s a pointe shoe or a jazz shoe. Your feet will look worse than they really are if your shoes don’t fit properly. A while back, I was wearing pointe shoes four sizes too narrow, and they made my feet look sickled!

Dear Katie,

Recently, I’ve had two bad injuries. It’s been really frustrating, and I’m having trouble finding the motivation to continue dancing. What would you suggest? —Clay

I completely understand what you’re going through. I’ve been suffering from a thyroid condition for several years now and have had similar struggles. There were many days when I felt like throwing in the towel.

The thing that kept me going was the thought of never dancing again. I couldn’t imagine my life without ballet. My parents would ask me what else I wanted to do, and I could never come up with an answer. That’s what drives me—the knowledge that there is nothing else I would rather do.

I encourage you to ask yourself, “Why do I love to dance?” Is there a role you’ve always dreamed of dancing that you haven’t performed yet? Is there a company you’ve dreamed of joining? Once you figure out what’s really driving you, everything will fall into place. And if you discover that dance isn’t your calling, it’s OK to take a step back. You can love dance without making it your career.

Dear Katie,

As a 16-year-old who just returned to the world of dance after a few years off, is it too late for me to begin dancing on pointe? What can I do to catch up to my peers who have been on pointe for several years now? —Samantha

It’s hard to catch up in ballet, and I admire you for wanting to do so. I definitely think you can get on pointe if you’re willing to take your time.

The first step is to make sure your ballet technique is strong. If you’re not working correctly and maintaining proper alignment, pointe work is going to be very difficult—and potentially dangerous. Start by strengthening your core, your legs and especially your feet, even if you aren’t planning to put on pointe shoes just yet. Once your feet and ankles are prepared and your technique is solid, getting on pointe will be much easier.

When your teacher says you’re ready for pointe shoes, again, take things slowly. I’d suggest starting by doing relevés alone—first in first position, then in second, and finally on one foot—before building up to barre combinations. You can also ask your teacher to customize a series of exercises for you.

If you take the process one step at a time, you’ll get there. If you just slap the shoes on and go, you’ll probably end up in trouble. As a friend once said to me, it takes longer to rush!

Bonus! Click here to watch Katie break down the best way to tie your pointe shoe ribbons.

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