Yoga for feet health
Our feet can tell us so much about the rest of our body, so before we get started, if you do have feet problems – it could well be originating elsewhere in the body, which is why a whole body yoga practice is so beneficial – and is why I promote yoga for runners so strongly. However, it’s also useful to occasionally focus in on one particular area and break it down (literally!).
All of these steps are going to help prevent Plantar Fasciitus, however if you’re currently suffering with Plantar Fasciitis, then you’ll need to take things a bit easier and listen to the medical advice you’ve been given. Rest is always beneficial but try some of these, starting gently and progressing if there’s no further or enhanced pain and irritation. Shoe support is also usually recommended when suffering with this, so again go easy and don’t start walking or running heaps barefoot but perhaps try the Tree pose barefoot and the other techniques softly.
Be barefoot as much as you can – I’m fortunate to have a job in which no shoes is expected, the reality for many of you will be that you have to wear shoes all day, which can lead to compression and weakening of the foot muscles. This is where your yoga practice becomes even more beneficial! Being barefoot strengthens the feet, as all the small and intricate muscles are recruited to do their job properly. All the standing and balancing poses help even further with this muscular recruitment and strengthening. TRY: Tree Pose – spread the toes to help lift the arch and ground down through the rest of the foot. Also great for reducing bunions!
Apply pressure to release tension in the soles – The plantar fascia is a thick band of fascia running along the sole of the foot, that can get really tight and difficult to stretch. For this reason it’s often more effective to use myofascial release (MFR) techniques to release accumulated tension. TRY: MFR balls – using a tennis ball or lacrosse ball, roll it up and down the sole of the foot for 3-5 minutes each day. Start gently and if you find a ‘good’ spot, stay with it.
Test and stretch the plantar fascia – once you’ve done the above MFR, you could try a gentle stretch for the soles. To test the flexibility of your plantar fascia: sit on a chair with your feet flat; reach down and lift your big toe only. It should easily lift about 30 degrees, with the ball of the foot still grounded. If not, the plantar fascia is too tight. Mobility here is key for runners, as efficient range here allows you to roll straight through the ball of the foot and push off. With inefficient mobility the push-off is cut short. TRY: Toe Breaker Pose – I tend not to call it that, but that is what it’s been nicknamed! Sit on your heels, lean forwards to tuck your toes under; gradually bring your weight back over the heels, possibly coming to sit tall and allowing the weight on the upper body and pelvis to drop into the soles of the feet and toes for 2-3 minutes. You can lean forwards to take some of the weight out.
Test your big toe strength – the big toe should provide the majority of stability in the foot, so should have a good amount of strength to it! TRY: Big Toe Isolation – Stay sitting in a chair with the feet flat, lifting the big toe only. This time though, as you lift the toe, resist! Try to keep the toe straight and hold this resistance for a couple of minutes to test and build strength.
Do regular Toe Yoga – Being at our furthest extremity and usually encased in shoes, the toes can get neglected 🙁 Give them some love and attention and focus on them a few minutes each day, either during your yoga practice, or additionally. TRY: Toe Yoga – sit on the floor with your back resting against a wall or sofa, have your legs out in front but bend your knees. With the heels down and toes up see if you can spread the toes enough to see a gap in between each one. Then stand up tall and focus on lifting each toe individually – it will get easier and is great for coordination!
See my video tutorial discussing these points by joining the Yoga Flow Runners Facebook group here.
Let me know your thoughts and progress below!