Have you ever told another dancer "I'm so jealous of your arches, I wish mine looked like that" or "I wish I had Achilles tendons like yours"? Yeah, because the ideal dancer has gorgeously high yet strong arches and long Achilles tendons (deep demi plie). Personally, I've got really flat, wide feet and relatively short Achilles tendons. My foot is pretty square, so that's nice for pointe I guess, but other than that, I've got the un-ideal foot. If you're like me, you're probably bummed about that too every now and then. I hope this will help you love your feet a bit more and maybe even take a few steps (heh, foot humor) towards the foot you've wanted!
If you don't have the ideal high arch:
I started to realize a few things. I have unnaturally good balance, which I credit partially to my wide, flat feet. There's more contact with the floor, see? I'm not sure if there's anything to that theory, but it makes me feel better. With a shorter arch, you automatically have more stability - your arches may not drop as much, meaning your ankles won't roll in and cause you problems. Your feet are stronger, probably because your muscles don't have to worry about stretching so much, so it's easier to contract them and use them (long, stretched out muscles have less strength). So you didn't really get the shorter end of the stick. But I do suggest getting arch inserts for your shoes, wearing shoes with a slight heel on them, and not wearing flip flops as often so you don't encourage your feet to flatten out even more.
If you do have the ideal high arch:
Good for you! You've got beautiful, gorgeous feet! They look great when pointed and absolutely magnificent en pointe. But you've got your work cut out for you - you must be aware that high arches may look good, but they're a hassle to maintain. Your balance may be a little wobbly and you have to watch that your ankles don't roll in. Your feet probably aren't as strong and you might be prone to cramping. You were blessed to look good, but do your feet a favor and strengthen them. A theraband is a great way! You'll thank yourself later.
If you have short Achilles tendons:
Maybe you've been wondering what I'm talking about. This is the large tendon that you feel when you touch the back of your ankle, right above your heel. It stretches when you flex your foot and contracts when you point it. You can tell how long your Achilles tendon is by testing your demi plie in first position, keeping your heels firmly on the ground: if your demi plie is relatively shallow, your Achilles tendon is relatively short. To stretch your tendon, you can use a towel (like below) or a theraband to pull back on your foot:
If you have long Achilles tendons:
Good for you, I really have nothing to say other than I'm jealous. :) Your long Achilles tendons may give you a little instability if they're too bendy and not strong enough. The theraband exercises I alluded to above are great for this too, but you don't want to be bending your foot back (you've already got that part!). You'll actually need a theraband, not a towel, for this one. What you want to be doing is holding the theraband in both hands, wrap the middle of the theraband around the ball of your foot, and slowly point the foot (pushing the band away from you), like this:
Many people want their Achilles tendons to be as long as possible, but you also want it to contract well so that your foot will make a straight line from your leg when you point it (as shown below):
Sit like this, and pull up on one knee with your hand. Photo credit