The right shoes could transform your yoga practice
It Starts With Your Feet.
During class, we work on building natural strength, flexibility and balance from head to toe. Our feet are the foundation that support all this healthy movement, yet when you cast your eye around the changing room, you’ll quickly spot many people putting on cramped, unnaturally shaped shoes that actively undermine all of that good work.
Tight ankles, rigid arches that cramp easily, poor foot strength, bunions and inflexible toe splaying are all signs that the shoes you’re wearing could be damaging the foundation of all standing movement – your feet!
If this sounds like your feet, then we’re convinced that trying a lightweight, flexible and foot-shaped shoe (or spending more time barefoot!) could help on the path to reaching your full yogi potential. Simply by letting your foot function as nature intended (ok, we’re not insisting all the time… heels in moderation!), you give your feet hours of gentle practice every day.
Here are some examples of the types of improvement we think you’ll experience….
Literally anything to do with standing on one leg!
If you want your foot to be strong, you’re going to need toes that have been allowed the freedom to splay (the big toe is a key player in helping centre balance) and arches that have had the opportunity to learn to support themselves
Cramped shoes can alter foot structure and push the big toe unnaturally inwards towards the other toes. And when it comes to arch support and orthotic inserts? Since when did anything get stronger when it was allowed to spend its life laying on a metaphorical couch! We can’t expect to whip these unnatural structures out from under our feet (literally!) and be able to master balance without them.
In the absence of their interference, the 100’s of muscles, tendons and ligaments of your foot will have a chance to do the job as nature intended. But if your feet are used to lots of cushioning and support, they’ll need to practice going it alone gradually - you wouldn’t jump into the splits without a good deal of preparation!
There it is again! The foot creating the foundation of this ancient seating position. The deep squat is one of the most invigorating stances we can take – and all healthy adults should be able to get right down there. Unfortunately, so many habits of modern life create barriers to this natural movement, especially (you’ve guessed it!) the shoes we wear.
Walking around with our ankles at funny, unnatural angles can make them stiff and inflexible. What’s more, balancing your weight distribution is far easier when you’ve got a strongly planted big toe to manoeuvre against.
Give your ankles and toes plenty of freedom to move and they’ll have the chance to readjust, making mastering this move a whole lot easier.
Deceptively simple at first glance, lots of us struggle to put this kind of pressure across the foot. The reason being, it requires a lengthening of all the muscles, tendons and ligaments across the underside of the feet – so if their used to being in rigid, inflexible shoes that place a wedge of arch support beneath them, chances are, this whole area is going to be incredibly stiff. As a result, lots of us get cramp when we drop back into this position – it’s our body’s way of saying ‘WE’RE NOT READY TO DO THIS!’.
The underside of your foot is similar to any other part of your body. If you never practice touching your toes, the flexibility that lets you reach them will deteriorate – but practicing little and often will keep things supple. Wear shoes that let the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your feet stretch, splay and recoil, and they’ll have a chance to stay strong and supple too.
remember : slow and steady wins the race
With all of these moves, regular practice will undoubtedly lead to improvements. But many of the underpinning issues that can make them difficult can be remedied simply by wearing shoes that let your feet move naturally. If you are planning on trying a barefoot shoe, remember that as with anything, too much too soon can cause soreness and injury, so always build up gradually.
We’d recommend using our new personalised Natural Movement Journey tool to see where your feet are at and what you can do to help them feel naturally happy.
NATURAL MOVEMENT JOURNEY GUIDE
Model : Sinta Soekadarova
Professional Yoga Instructor, Dancer & Model