The proper use of foot muscles begins even before you pointe your foot. Here is a quick review:
Your street shoes! Do you wear supportive shoes generally? If you alternate between pointed toe high heels and flip-flops, you may decide to make a lifestyle change to help prepare your foot muscles for dancing ballet in pointe shoes.
High heels are usually pointed, angling in the big toe. This strains the soft tissues around the toe joint, and ultimately can lead to painful bunions.
High heels will usually throw your posture out of a neutral spine position – which means, that when neutral, all your natural spinal curves are in place, with no unnecessary tension compromising your neck/shoulder/spinal/hip joints. With all those with neutral spinal position in high heels please raise their hands…you get the idea that this would be rare.
High heels throw your weight forward off the “tripod” platform of even distribution from the middle heel point, to the point at the big toe metatarsal joint and the little toe metatarsal joint, thus the tripod metaphor. This will affect your posture and muscle tension required to go about life.
Flip-flops force the muscles in the sole of the foot (the exact muscles that ultimately allow you to control your positions and movements in point shoes) to clench, just to keep the shoes on! You get used to this, but it is a contraction of the foot you would not normally need if you were wearing supportive shoes. While foot massage, proper stretching, and other foot pampering can partly compensate for flip-flop wearing, would all those who wear flip-flops who daily massage and stretch their foot muscles please raise…..
Worn out oxfords and sneakers (for you men in ballet) will also compromise the daily use of your foot muscles. Your feet have to do what the shoes cannot.
In your first ballet class you will learn how to stand in first position. Here it will most likely be mentioned that your feet should be flat on the floor, foot muscles not clenched in any way. Thus you achieve the tripod weight distribution. If your feet pronate (ankles/arches dropping inwards) or supinate (rolling outwards) hopefully your teacher will notice and address your posture – spine/hips/knees/ankles, and locate the source of the pronation. Weak muscles will strengthen, and eventually you can remedy improper foot placement on the floor.
So you see, before you do your first demi plie as a young or adult ballet beginner, you can do a lot to support your work in ballet shoes and pointe shoes.