If you’re thinking of undertaking a yoga practice, it may stem from a desire for more zen in your life. Or, you may want increased flexibility and better balance… or you might just need a great low-impact activity in your workout regimen. All of these are excellent reasons to join a yoga class.
But did you know that yoga can actually help to develop your foot strength?
Why is Foot Strength Important?
Every weight-bearing activity you do, even just standing, requires strong feet. And it’s easy to take for granted that our feet, and our legs, know how to hold us up. Why do you need great foot strength? For several reasons.
Strong feet can…
- Help build strong stable legs
- Help prevent injuries, like rolled ankles, shin splints, and heel pain
- Provide better balance
- Take the pressure off other parts of your body
- Help prevent you from injuring your knees, hips, or back1
Statistics say that, in your lifetime, you’ll walk approximately 100,000 miles.2 That’s a lot of footwork! Prevention is always better than a cure, and taking good care of your hard-working feet can help prevent many issues. Just as you build a strong abdominal core to protect your back and improve your posture, you should also build a strong, healthy foot core. This means that the bones, muscles, and nerves in your foot are well-balanced in their duties.
How Can Yoga Build Foot Strength?
When you hit the gym, it can be hard to zero in on just your foot muscles; they’re often neglected. It’s usually not until you have a foot or ankle injury that you start to even stretch your feet properly.
That’s where yoga comes in. Yoga is the perfect exercise for feet. Here’s why:
1. Yoga is practiced barefoot
Going barefoot is one of the best things you can do for your feet. Feet were designed to be sensory and adjust to the ground beneath them. Wearing shoes all the time prevents proper toe spread, which interferes with your foot’s ability to function properly. When you go barefoot, you’re actually better able to climb, pivot, balance, and adjust to any sudden changes in the terrain.3
This is your body’s natural injury prevention sensor, and yet, you cover it with shoes for most of your life. But yoga is practiced barefoot, allowing your feet to help you balance and get into (and hold) various yoga poses.
2. Yoga allows you to spread your toes
Yoga teachers are constantly telling you to “spread your toes.” Why is this important? Well, spreading your toes helps to create a strong, stable base (something you can’t do in your sneakers). This not only helps you to keep your balance in a tree pose (or a similar one-legged pose) but it can also strengthen your feet, helping to prevent foot problems.4
3. Yoga gets you super acquainted with your feet
Have you ever had a yoga teacher tell you to balance on the inside, outside, or edge of your foot and thought, “What?! I have an edge on my foot?” Then, of course, you try to do as instructed… and you completely lose your balance.
Balancing this way gets you super acquainted with your feet, in a hurry. And knowing your feet well is a key to building better balance and having more resilient feet. Almost every move you make in a yoga class helps to stretch and strengthen your foot muscles.
As you build a stronger foot core, you’ll suddenly realize that you can do that eagle pose… the one you never dreamed you’d achieve!
The Best Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Feet
Here are four poses to help you start building better foot strength with yoga:
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
It may not feel like you’re doing much, but a good standing pose allows you to focus on elongating your toes. This will help stretch the sole of your foot. Stand with your big toes touching. Lift up all your toes and fan them out, then drop them back to the mat. This creates a wide, solid base. Your weight should feel evenly balanced between all sides of your feet.
2. Tree Pose ( Vrksasana)
As mentioned earlier, a tree pose can make you suddenly feel like you have zero balance. This pose forces you to better understand your feet. If your feet aren’t positioned to create a strong, stable base, you will topple over. So, spread those toes wide! Foot instability may be frustrating at first, but with practice, it will strengthen your feet and improve your balance.
3. Hero Pose (Virasana)
The hero pose is great for lengthening the arch of your foot. It also helps stretch the top of your foot.
4. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
A simple downward-facing dog pose may help to protect you from plantar fasciitis. Your teacher will often tell you to lift your arches as high as possible and then extend your heels to the floor. This is because this motion stretches the plantar fascia ligament in your feet.
Namaste, Dear Feet
The next time you’re out running, take a moment to think about the incredible abilities of your feet. If you’re in an area where you’re able, go barefoot for a little bit, and give your feet some ‘natural’ sensory time. But most of all, try adding some yoga to your current fitness routine. You’ll certainly start to notice the difference.
Now, perhaps it’s time to treat your feet to a heavenly foot massage, to say “thank you.”