Here’s why you should do foot yoga

key points

  • Toe yoga focuses on stretches and exercises that can make the muscles around your toes stronger and more flexible.
  • Experts say doing yoga with your toes can help improve balance, flexibility and posture, and prevent injuries like plantar fasciitis by keeping your foot flexible.
  • While toe yoga is suitable for a wide range of people, those with injuries or a history of balance problems should first consult with their podiatrist or health care provider.

Your feet really have your back and the rest of your body. Your feet are your foundation as you walk, run, jump and maintain balance throughout your daily life.

Considering all the pressure they’re under, it’s no wonder the feet adjust. You may even notice pain and tension. If you don’t stretch and strengthen your feet regularly, you could even be more prone to injury.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your foot’s flexibility and range of motion. A popular option is toe yoga. Here’s everything you need to know about making these gentle moves for the health of your feet.

What is Toe Yoga?

Toe yoga refers to various stretches and exercises designed to strengthen, stretch, and improve the flexibility of your toes, feet, and the muscles surrounding them, Nam Tran, DPM, podiatrist and foot surgeon at Dallas Direct Podiatry in Dallas, Texas, Verywell said.

This form of yoga also consists of stretching routines that improve foot strength and circulation or blood flow to the feet. Tran said toe yoga is used to promote overall foot health and well-being through movements such as toe or just big toe lifts, toe curls or curls, and heel lifts.

Toe yoga emphasizes the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which are very small muscles that start and end in the foot, Elizabeth Reilly, DPM, a podiatrist at Stanford Medicine and clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University told Verywell from Stanford.

What are the benefits of foot yoga?

According to Tran and Reilly, performing yoga exercises and stretches with your toes can help improve foot strength, flexibility, and posture, as well as prevent common foot problems.

Some of the health benefits of foot yoga include:

  1. Improves foot balance and flexibility: By targeting the intrinsic muscles of the feet, foot yoga can improve balance, stability and overall foot strength, Reilly said. Doing toe yoga regularly can also increase toe flexibility, which can help improve range of motion and decrease stiffness.
  2. Best posture: Having strong, flexible feet can contribute to better overall posture by providing a stable foundation for the rest of the body, Reilly said.
  3. Prevention of foot problems/injuries: Toe yoga can be very effective in preventing common foot injuries like plantar fasciitis because it helps keep the foot flexible. Tran said the practice can also help prevent muscle strains, torn ligaments, torn tendons and tendinitis.
  4. Improved circulation: Yoga exercises with the toes can promote blood flow to the feet. Better circulation helps heal injuries and reduces the risk of circulation-related problems.
  5. Foot Pain Relief: For people with foot pain or discomfort, doing toe stretches and yoga exercises can provide relief, especially if they have tight muscles and tension in their feet.

How to do foot yoga

Because toe yoga involves a series of exercises and stretches, there really isn’t one right way to do it. In fact, according to Tran, toe yoga exercises can be done in many different ways, including standing or sitting in a chair. Here are just a few examples of how you can do yoga with your toes:

  • Crunching/Crunching Toes: Start with your feet flat on the floor, then try to curl your toes under your feet (as if trying to grip the floor). You can also place a towel under your toes and feet to wrinkle the towel. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat as needed.
  • Big Toe Extension: Begin by sitting or standing comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Lift only your big toe off the floor while pushing your other toes into the floor. Then place your big toe towards the floor and repeat the movement several times.
  • Toe and flexion: For this exercise, you’ll want to sit in a comfortable position on the floor with your back straight and your legs extended in front of you. Then separate all the toes (either on one foot or on both feet). Then point your feet toward your head while keeping your toes apart. Hold for a few seconds, release and repeat as needed.
  • Ankle Rocker Mobility: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly stand up on the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the floor. Then lower your foot back down and lift your toes and forefoot off the floor so you’re only standing on two heels. Repeat the exercise with a rocking motion that can help mobilize the ankle and the entire foot.

If you need more guidance or modifications to yoga toe exercises, Reilly said it’s best to talk to a qualified expert, such as a yoga teacher or physical therapist. They may prescribe variations of yoga exercises that incorporate props and equipment such as standing rollers or exercise bands.

Who should do foot yoga?

Toe yoga can help people who are prone to common foot injuries (heel pain, arch pain or shin splints), athletes at risk of overuse injuries, and very active people (like runners and dancers).

Older adults can also benefit from the practice, as strengthening the feet can help increase mobility and decrease the risk of falls, according to Reilly.

But it is not suitable for everyone. If you have a new tendon or ligament tear, you should avoid doing yoga exercises with your toes, as they could make the injury worse.

In such cases, a doctor should be consulted before starting foot yoga, Tran said.

If you have a documented injury or history of gait imbalance or neurological conditions, toe yoga may not be best for you.

I think you should seek the advice of an expert before you start, Reilly said, noting that those professionals could include a podiatrist, a physical therapist or a yoga instructor.

How to add foot yoga to your routine

If you want to try yoga exercises and stretches with your toes, here are some expert tips to get you started:

  1. Have time dedicated to the sessions. Set aside specific times during the week or day to focus on foot yoga exercises and stretches. This could be a few minutes each day or longer sessions a few times a week.
  2. Perform yoga exercises with your toes during daily activities. If you find it hard to get up and commit to dedicated time to do foot yoga, try making the exercises a part of your daily activities. For example, practice finger crunches or big toe extensions while sitting at your desk, watching TV, brushing your teeth, or even standing in line at the store.
  3. Integrate toe yoga into your existing yoga workouts or practice. If you already practice yoga or exercise regularly, consider adding some yoga exercises and stretches for your toes to your routine. They’re easy to incorporate into your regular warm-up or cool-down.

When you decide to add foot yoga to your routine, it’s important to start slowly to allow your feet to adjust to the exercises and avoid overexertion or injury.

Toe yoga can be a healthy addition to anyone’s routine. Seniors could also benefit greatly from this to build strength and stability to prevent falls, Tran said, adding that starting slow is always the best way to avoid overstretching and injury to the foot. Start with one exercise at first and add more as time goes on.

What does this mean to you?

Toe yoga can offer many health benefits, including improving food strength and flexibility, and can help prevent common foot problems/injuries. If you want to try yoga with your toes, experts recommend starting with a few simple exercises and slowly adding moves to your routine as you become more comfortable.

You should always talk to your health care provider before starting a new physical activity routine, and professionals like podiatrists, physical therapists, and yoga instructors can help if you have questions about how to do yoga exercises.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

By Alyssa Hui

Hui is a health news writer and former television news reporter. She was the 2020 recipient of the Jack Shelley Award from the Midwest Association of Broadcast Journalists.

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