Yoga & Foot Pain

Walking barefooted in the sand helps strengthen your feet for yoga.
Image Credit: Joan Vicent Cantó Roig/iStock/Getty Images

Several styles of yoga are popular in the United States, including Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Anusara, Kundalini and others. Some yoga styles incorporate a vigorous sequence of linked poses called the Sun Salutation, which requires stepping or jumping back and landing on the pads of the toes. This action can create foot pain. You can reduce and eliminate foot pain by changing your style of yoga.


Transitional Movements Can Create Foot Pain

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An active sun salutation requires jumping back into a low pushup position in Four-Limbed Staff pose or Chaturanga Dandasana. From that point, you transition from the pads of the toes, rolling over your toes so only the tops of your feet touch the floor. These two transitions create the most foot pain in yoga practitioners. In addition, your shoes may constrict your feet, causing foot pain during yoga practice because your natural arches can't carry the weight of your body. Ashtanga, Vinyasa and many of the Power Yoga styles include the Sun Salutation. Iyengar and Kundalini do not.

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Heel Lifts Strengthen Muscles of Arch

To help reduce foot pain, practice exercises to bring back the elasticity in the plantar fascia muscles that form the arch bed. Stand barefoot with your feet placed hip-width distance apart. Keeping your head and chest tall with your lower abs drawn in toward the spine, lift both heels as you contract your leg muscles. Pause before lowering your heels to the floor. Do this exercise 10 to 20 times daily to strengthen the plantar fascia and give you a steadier gait.


Repair Feet After High Heels

If you regularly wear high heels, you're shortening the muscles at the back of the leg, including the Achilles' tendon, hamstrings and calf muscles. At the same time, you're forcing your arch to remain in a fixed and inflexible shape for hours. Women's shoes may also crowd the toes, forcing the big and second toes to overlap. You can exercise the smaller muscles of the toes by placing several large marbles on the floor. Sitting in a chair, use your right foot to pick up one marble at a time and move it the left. Move all the marbles, then repeat the exercise with your left foot.


Build Your Arches

Everyone has a different arch bed and natural stance. If you're flat-footed, your yoga teacher will encourage you to fan your toes to create an artificial arch and then set your toes down on the mat while trying to maintain the arch. The arch beds of your bare feet become your "shoes" in yoga. To help build a natural arch, set a small clean towel on the floor. Sit in a chair and place your bare foot at the bottom edge of the towel. Use your toes to roll up the towel. Repeat the exercise with the other foot. You will immediately feel all the muscles in your feet, toes and the plantar fascia working as you do this exercise.


Consider Iyengar, Kundalini Yoga

Foot pain can occur in yoga practice if you are flat-footed, stiff in the medial arch or unable to jump back in Chaturanga Dandasana without jamming your toes. Work individually with a yoga teacher to learn how to use your lower abs to float back lightly. In Chaturanga, simply step back until you master the "jump back."

Consider practicing Iyengar yoga, which emphasizes precise alignment to correct muscular imbalances in the body. You may use props, including blocks, straps, a rope wall and a folding chair. While Kundalini yoga is not based on Vinyasa, it may include advanced breath work, stating mantras and holding specific postures for 11 minutes or longer.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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