When it comes to improving your feet for dance, it's important to balance hard reality with a healthy dose of optimism. On the one hand, you can't change what nature gave you. Your instep -- the bony arch on top of the foot that runs from your ankle to the base of your toes -- has a certain structure that can't be changed. At the same time, there are practical steps you can take to enhance the appearance of your insteps and, ultimately, improve your leg line.
Warm up your feet thoroughly before you dance and be conscientious of how you use your feet during class. Before class, do small prances around the dance studio, working deliberately through all parts of your feet. Feel as though you're peeling your heels, the balls of your feet and then toes off the floor. Take this awareness of your feet with you as you move away from the barre for center exercises.
Build strength in your feet and ankles with a flat resistance band. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, your feet flexed and your spine straight. Loop the middle of the band around the ball of your right foot and pull back on the ends of the band to make it taut. Slowly extend your right ankle and foot away from your shin, pressing the ball of the foot into the band. Hold briefly and then relax the foot back toward your shin. Repeat 10 to 15 times. For phase two, keep the ankle fully extended as you flex and extend just the toes. Do 10 to 15 reps, isolating the toes. Repeat the entire exercise with the left foot. Perform band exercises at least three times a week for best results.
Work your feet at the ballet barre. Face the barre -- or a kitchen countertop -- and stand in ballet second position, feet slightly more than hip-width apart and angled outward. Grip the barre lightly for support. Rise high onto the balls of your feet, or demi-pointe, with your weight centered. Press the toes of your right foot against the floor and extend them into a pointed position, shifting your weight slightly to the left. Replace the right foot to demi-pointe and repeat with the left foot. Rock back and forth rhythmically between your two feet, keeping the ankles engaged as you work your toes against the floor.
Continue facing the barre, working with your feet together in a parallel position. Bend your knees into demi-plie, raise your heels off the floor, straighten your knees and then lower your heels. Reverse the order. Rise onto your heels, bend your knees, lower your heels and straighten your knees. That's one rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times, working slowly and deliberately. When you're on the balls of your feet, keep your heels lifted as high as possible and your insteps pressed forward over your toes.
Stretch the tibialis anterior, or shin, muscles to increase flexibility at the front of your ankle. Stand facing the ballet barre, feet together and parallel. Cross your right foot over your left ankle, resting the tops of right toes on the floor. Gently press your right instep toward the floor, stretching the top of the foot and right shin. Hold for up to 30 seconds, relax briefly and repeat up to four times. Cross your left foot over your right ankle and repeat the stretch for your left instep and shin.
Invest in a pair of instep enhancers if you're still not pleased with the look of your feet. These slide on the foot like a sock and have a bulge made of gel that rests on top of the natural instep. Slip on a pair to give the illusion of higher insteps.