Foot Envy and Falsies for the Feet – Um, Ew!

Have you ever looked with awe and envy at the highly arched banana feet of famous dancers like Paloma Herrera and Svetlana Zakharova? Have you been tempted to sport one of those gelatinous contraptions called “arch enhancers” to increase the look of your own foot? The CBT is here to tell you: Don’t waste your money.

Why? Let’s break this down, shall we –

  1. Numero uno – You are beautiful the way you are. You can disagree if you like, but facts are facts. The next time you feel like comparing your arches (or extension or turns …) to another dancer – especially to a professional – STOP. Remember that a) you are still a developing student b) you have many wonderful qualities that you have worked hard to achieve and that others might not have. Despite what glossy ballet photographs might make you think, no single dancer “has it all”.
  2. Do professional dancers use arch enhancers? Sadly, yes. And you’ve probably even oohed and aahed over one of them before. But all that this achieves is perpetuation of the idea among students that you all must have an exagerrated arch in order to succeed in ballet – which is not true; a low arched dancer can certainly become a professional if she maximizes her ankle range and her intrinsic articulation. (What are those? I’ll address them in an another post.) Also, high arches are more prone to injury, partly because low arches are better shock absorbers.
  3. There is so much more to a beautiful classical line than a highly-arched foot. I’d much rather see a strong average foot than a weak banana-style. Quality of movement makes a huge difference in ballet as well, and can easily make a low-arched dancer vastly more appealing than a high-arched dancer.
  4. Arch enhances do not enhance your arch; they only change the look of your instep. The arch and instep are two different aspects of the foot, and these contraptions deal exclusively with the latter. There isn’t a single add-on out there that can do a darn thing about your arch – but proper battements can!
  5. Arch enhancers usually look cartoonish. Sorry, but teachers like me can usually spot them pretty easily due to the awkward, hump-backed look that they can give to the foot. (Do you see it in the pic above?) And they can look extraordinarily strange when the foot is flat or in soft shoes! Watch this video for an example. The closest any company has come to a natural look is an Australian company called Dance Arches, but even their product is pretty easy to spot. The only time you might get away with it is during performances when your viewers are far away. But Lord knows what you’ll do when you have to dance with no tights or no shoes!
  6. Arch enhancers can cause discomfort and be annoying. They can crumple up on the arch, cause unwanted bulk in the shoe and irritate the skin. Um, that’s not exactly great for dancers – people who need their feet to be as healthy and articulated as possible!

The bottom line is that the only way to really enhance your arch is by good quality training. High arches are a dime a dozen, but gorgeously strong, articulated and controlled feet? That’s a truly beautiful rarity!

Kiddos, what bugs me most about this as a teacher is that all this fuss over arches keeps you all from addressing issues that you do have control over – and which can be far more important than your feet. Try rechannelling your energy into advancing your musicality, your port de bras, or mastery of your balance point. Those are the things that will really have a huge positive impact on your dancing and that you won’t have to take off at the end of the day!

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