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Advice to improve your movement, fitness, and overall health from the world's #1 in orthopedics.

Home Exercises for Dancers with Sore Feet

Dr. Quirolgico, Foot and Ankle Specialist, describes techniques to alleviate pain and improve endurance for dancers’ feet.

Advice to improve your movement, fitness, and overall health from the world's #1 in orthopedics.

As performing artists, especially dancers, you rely on your feet for turning, leaping, and providing support as you perform. It is important to make sure to take care of your feet like any instrument. The following are some home exercises and stretches you can do to alleviate pain as well as improve endurance of your intrinsic foot muscles. 

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Plantar Fascia Stretching and Massage

Frequency: several times a day
Duration: 30 seconds

  • Sit in a chair and cross the affected leg in front of you.                                                           
  • Gently pull back your toes until you feel a slight stretch in your arch. 
  • You could also gently massage your arch with your other hand while doing the stretch.

Intrinsic Foot Muscle Exercises

Frequency: several times a day

  • Take a ball or cold water bottle and place it on the floor in front of you.
  • While sitting, place your affected foot on the ball or water bottle and gently roll it so that you massage the bottom of your foot. TIP: If using a frozen water bottle, make sure you place a cloth on top of it so that you do not irritate the skin.  If you use a ball make sure it is not too hard as this could cause more irritation.


Frequency: 1-2 times a day
Repetitions: 30

  • Stand or sit with both feet flat on the floor about hip width apart.
  • Activate/lift your inside arch so it feels like you are making a dome shape, but keep your toes flat on the ground without curling them. It should feel like your toes are sliding slightly on the ground because you are lifting your arch.
  • TIP: The movement is very subtle and you may not see your arch move when you are looking down at your feet. Think about pressing your big toe flat on the floor as you are doing this.

Marble Pickup

Equipment: 20 marbles or pens or other small objects
Frequency: daily
Repetitions: 20 

  • Sit with both feet flat and place the marbles or pens in front of you on the floor.
  • Use your toes to pick up one item at a time and move them to a container or area of the floor 1 foot away. Repeat until you have moved all items. 
  • TIP: Do not place items too far to the front or to the sides to begin. 

Towel Curls

Equipment: hand towel
Frequency: daily
Repetitions: 5-10

  • Sit with both feet flat on the floor and place the small towel on the floor in front of you. 
  • Grab the center of the towel with your toes and curl it towards you.
  • TIP: You can challenge yourself once this becomes easy by putting a weight on the edge of the towel.

Toe Salute

Frequency: 1-2 times a day
Repetitions: 10-20

  • Sit in a chair with your feet relaxed on the ground under your knees.
  • Raise the big toe of your foot off the ground and hold it there for five seconds while keeping the other toes on the ground. 
  • Return your big toe to the ground. 
  • Then lift your other four toes off the ground while keeping your big toe on the ground and hold them there for five seconds. 
  • Finally, return them to the ground. 

Toe Squeezing

Frequency: 1-2 times a day
Repetitions: 20-30

  • Place foam or flexible plastic separators between your toes (you can find these online sold as pedicure toe separators). 
  • Squeeze your toes together for 10 seconds, then relax

Toe Splay

Frequency: 1-2 times a day
Repetitions: 20-30

  • Sit in a straight-back chair with your feet resting on the floor.
  • Spread your toes out as wide as you can and hold for five seconds. (You can do this with one foot at a time or with both feet.) 
  • If that’s too easy, you can loop a hair tie or rubber band around your toes before you spread them out to add some resistance.

Great Toe Stretch

Frequency: 1-2 times a day

  • Stabilize your foot by holding it just proximal to (nearer to the center of) the area where the toes meet the foot. 
  • Using your other hand, hold your big toe and gently pull it forward and flex it down toward the sole or up away from the sole until you feel a gentle stretch. Don't crank it to the maximum range of motion as this might cause more pain. Hold the position of the toe where you feel a gentle stretch for 30 seconds before letting go. 
  • Optional: Gently massage the arch of your foot with the other hand during the stretch

Hopefully these home exercises will help keep your feet happy and alleviate any pain you might be experiencing. If you notice persistent pain that lasts for longer than 1 week, please make an appointment to be evaluated by one of our performing arts medicine clinicians.