Let’s have some real talk here. If you didn’t come to pole from a dance background, having “point your toes” yelled at you as if you were in boot camp is a little intimidating. Furthermore, it feels like you’re pointing your toes, right? This just doesn’t make any sense!
What does “point your toes” really mean, how do you do it properly, and what about that beautiful ballet arch?
Today you’ll learn everything you need to know for a properly pointed foot. It’s true, getting that beautiful arch doesn’t just happen in a few minutes, or even a few days, but the first step is to learn how. Like other conditioning and flexibility exercises, it takes consistent effort.
What Does It Mean to Point Your Toes?
Despite the words, your toes have very little to do with the motion of a proper point. This is where many people get confused; they engage their toes, but nothing else.
Pointing your toes should engage the whole foot, not just the toes. In fact, you should feel it throughout the lower and mid-calf as well.
When you think about pointing your toes, think about how you would move if someone asked you to elongate, stretch, and point your hand.
Would you clamp down so hard you had claws?
No, typically, you’d reach out and extend your fingers out, starting with the palm and moving through the fingers. The whole hand would be engaged. Your feet are no different.
Unfortunately, unless you’ve practiced dance your whole life, you probably haven’t given your feet much of a thought before, and the bone structure of your foot will influence the shape of your point so you might not be able to curve your foot over itself to an extreme like some professional ballet dancers. The good news is, however, is that ligaments and muscles in the lower leg and foot also plays an important role, so you can mobilize and strengthen your feet to achieve your own beautiful ballet dancer lines.
TIP: Would you be surprised to learn that not only does pointing your toes provide a stronger foundation for your body weight in general, but it also helps you grip the pole better? Sure, skin contact and various grip aids will help you stay on the pole, but your skin also grips better when the muscles underneath are actively engaged.
Below are two examples of improper technique.
Only the ankle is engaged here.
Only the toes are engaged here.
These are not proper toe points! You’ll notice in the first image that only the ankle is engaged, but not the rest of the foot. The second image is what many of us are guilty of, where just the toes are pointed – scrunched, even – but not any other part of the foot.
Below is an example of proper technique.
To achieve a properly pointed toe, start with a flexed foot. Next, engage the ankle and the ball of the foot. Imagine you are pushing through the ball of your foot, trying to reach out and away from you, extending it as long as possible. You should notice your lower calf muscles engaging with this motion.
Next, reach out with your toes. Your toes should begin to point down with the stretch, and you’ll feel your arch muscles engage.
From here, you will be actively engaging the arch and toes to push through them. “Pointing your toes” is not a passive activity, but with time it will become easier and easier to maintain a point.
Exercises to Improve Your Arch and Point
There are several conditioning exercises to improve your arch and point.
The Penny and Pen Arch Exercise
For this exercise, you’ll need two props: a coin and a pen.
Place the coin under the ball of your foot and the pen under your arch. The goal here is to keep the ball of your foot pushing down on the coin simultaneously while you lift the arch of your foot away from the pen.
This is the same sort of motion made in a “foot bridge” exercise. Be mindful of your limits; pushing your arch too far without it being warmed up can cause a foot cramp. Over time with consistent effort, you’ll notice more dexterity and control in your arch, and your point will be better shaped.
Stretch Band Point Exercise
This exercise is done in a seated position with your legs out in front of you. The goal here is to go through the motions of a proper point, adding resistance for more muscle engagement.
Calf raises are an excellent way to strengthen your feet, ankles, and calves. This is also an excellent exercise to condition your legs and ankles for heels.
Easing Your Foot Cramps
Yes, unfortunately, foot cramps are very real and can make you break routine if you point too hard, too quickly.
Keep a tennis ball or foam roller handy. If you start to feel a cramp, stand and lightly roll your foot over the tennis ball in circular motions and you’ll notice the muscles relaxing after a few seconds. Focus on the surrounding muscles as well as the muscle that is cramped.
In concept, the action of rolling out your foot is not much different than using a foam roller on your back to get knots and tightness out of the muscles. If your cramp persists, hydrate and soak your foot in warm water or stand on a heating pad.