What’s better? High arch, or Low arch?

3:25 PM

A ballerina standing en pointe is debatably one of the most beautiful sights in the world. In my mind, it doesn’t matter whether you have a high, medium, or low arch.  This is really kind of a silly question, like asking “what’s better, flexibility or strength?” There isn’t an answer.

ballet, pointe, feet, high arches, low arches

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(Margot Fonteyn: look at her feet! She had a low arch! There’s nothing wrong with that!)

Many dancers or teachers though prefer dancers with a higher arch. Their feet naturally look amazing and their lines look more graceful than those with a lower or flat foot. However as both a dancer and a teacher, I believe that neither is better or worse. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Dancers with a naturally high and flexible foot tend to get all the way up—or too far over—their shoes. Many will stand up on the whole platform of the pointe on their first try. They have an easier time finding their balance and don’t have a problem getting up on pointe. They do, however, tend to have more trouble controlling the process of going down. I see a lot of new pointe students with high arches go up no problem, but then clop down on their heels, or shake when they’re up there.

>>>>>You might like: Everything you need to know about Pointe. 

Dancers with a lower arch, however, have the opposite problem. Many of us (yes, I’m one of them!) have to work very hard to get all the way up on our shoes, and we tend to dance behind pointe, on the ridge of the shoe rather than the platform. It requires a lot of strength to get all the way up (and sometimes some shoe alterations. More on that later). However, because the dancer has had to gain the strength to get up, they don’t have as much trouble rolling down with control as a high-footed dancer.

Another interesting thing is an action called “breaking at the ankle.” This is where you go up onto pointe and bend your knees, but instead of pushing over on the box, you hold your ankle where it is. Dancers with flatter feet have no problem with this movement, and toe hops and promenades and most partnering come very naturally to them. However, dancers with a higher arch find breaking at the ankle nearly impossible because their feet are already curved so far over.

>>>>>You might like: Pointe Readiness

Both high and low arches look beautiful in pointe shoes. Neither is better than the other. However, know that dancers with high arches can learn to do difficult things like toe hops, and dancers with lower arches can improve their arch.

There are a few really awesome ways to improve your arch:
  1. Do some snakes in demi-pointe, pushing your feet over on demi-relevé instead of a full relevé. (see video)
  2. Releves in coups de pied, getting high up on your foot and lowering the heel slowly
  3. tendu to the side, roll the toes down onto the ground but keep the ankle pointed, press the arch and bend the working leg, straighten again, and close your tendu articulating through your feet
  4. Roll your foot on a tennis ball or golf ball (gently massaging the tendons) to slowly loosen the muscles.
  5. Watch this video
  6. And this one.

  1. Use a foot stretcher
  2. Ask someone to sit on your feet
  3. Force your arch against a wall or a stair
  4. Any other myriad of dangerous stretches.
These dangerous yet tempting stretches can potentially hurt your feet rather seriously, and do anything from rub out cartilage, bruise or break bones, stretch and tear ligaments\tendons, or dislocate things. Remember, flexibility is gained slowly, not through forcing.

Good luck, happy dancing, and don't use a foot stretcher!

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  1. Great post! I was blessed with medium arches, which are the best of both worlds:)

  2. Great one :)) Haha, I am very happy I was born with high arch even though I don't do ballet that much!

    ♥Visit My Blog One Less Lonely Dancer♥

  3. I love this post I have medium arches and LOVE this post


    It is a part of immortal history that Margot Fonteyn was not only a Prima Ballerina, but was named “Prima Ballerina Absolutta” by the British Empire as well as given the rank of Dame. History looks at her as one of the finest there ever was in the sport despite her notorious “bad feet.”

    Yes, that she had “bad ballet feet” is also a part of history–but this is only known to die-hard fanatical balletomanes. You know, people actually in the professional dance industry.

    What this refers to is the fact that her feet had low arches, like “sticks of butter” and her legs were quite short for a ballerina. On a ballerina, long legs and arms are a must. Absolutely necessary as being able to stand up and walk. And Fonteyn’s were considerable short, and yes–-flat feet.

    Look, I myself have been praised by ballet pros for my very own feet–made for ballet, which I’ve been taking for nine whole years. Take it from someone who’s done the craft and played the sport himself for almost a decade:

    You don’t just have to be born with it.

    If you want the glorified curve in your foot, for it to stand tall and prominent, you’ll just have to work at it. Doing Pointe exercise with an elastic band until those arches come up. Mold your feet into the proper shape like they’re made of clay.

    Look, I’ve been praise by ballet pros for my own feet–made for ballet, which I’ve been taking for nine whole years. You don’t just have to be born with it.

    If you want the glorified curve in your foot, for it to stand tall and prominent, you’ll just have to work at it. Doing pointe exercise with an elastic band until those arches come up. Mold your feet into the proper shape like they’re made of clay.

    Look, kids: Technique is one thing. But Margot had a way of onstage, a charisma and persona that isn’t really taught. Makarova’s technique was flawless. She was born for technique. But technique can be taught. Margot had a way that transcended mere skill or exact body type.

    Fonteyn was an icon in her field, regardless of how goddammed “proper” her feet (or her short legs) might have been. There is more to the ballet than mere physical dance. She was a ballerina.

    So take this to heart, dear friends and readers, scholars of the ballet: the exact body type, feet, etc. is not written in stone or law. While the conventional way increase the odds of you getting classical roles and employment sooner–perhaps–remember, the ones that break the mold are the ones people remember. The ones who are granted Damehood. "Absolute Prime Ballerina."

    Remember, dance is an art form. A form of self-expression. And when you are not true to yourself or don’t have the faith, there’s just nothing there at all. No art. No dance. No beauty. No truth.


    And also, to my fellow kindred spirit of ballet known as Haleyknitz... thanks for doing your best to get the good word out. People really need to know what ballet really is about...

    --For EVERYONE Who Dares To Practice The Witchcraft That Is Ballet, Dane Youssef

    1. I really needed to read something like this. Thanks :)

    2. me too! Thank you for these encouraging words and for praising Margot Fonteyn

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