Wearing yoga sandals is less about practicing with them on and more about strengthening your feet and toes during other times of the day.
The Mistreated Foot
Very few of us think about the impact we put on our feet. We cram them into shoes that narrow at the toes, walk on them every day without stretching first, and probably make them carry a little more weight than is healthy.
The philosophy of reflexology is that the feet and toes represent the entire anatomy of the body. Massaging certain pressure points on the feet and toes in direct correlation to parts of the body stimulates or releases that area.
While many people may feel tight shoulders or get a headache during times of stress, it is believed that the feet are actually the first tension sensors. So if you're feeling a little tired, ask someone for a foot rub!
Toes Have Muscles, Too!
You may tone your abs, your glutes, and your triceps, but it's unlikely that you flex your toes a certain number of reps each day. But, the feet have approximately 19 muscles, and 18 of those connect to the toes.
In theory, regular yoga practice should be enough to strengthen the feet and toes. The firm foundation you establish during standing poses such as the Warrior Pose series or even Downward Facing Dog Pose relies heavily on foot placement. An instructor may advise you to "spread the toes" or "reach into the four corners of the feet" during an asana.
However, many practitioners complain of foot cramps or too much pressure on the feet during poses. These symptoms are usually an indicator of stress in the body and weak muscles in the feet and toes. Exercising the feet and toes before the body should alleviate those problems, and there are a number of ways to do this.
Wear Yoga Sandals
At first glance, these look like ordinary flip-flops. But, all of your toes actually slip between thick strings or plastic separators in order to spread the toes apart. As you step, the toes are able to be an active part of movement because they are positioned to absorb shock more efficiently.
A predominant manufacturer of yoga sandals, Beech Sandal Co., reports that you'll notice a subtle difference in the way you walk. With the toes slightly apart, the entire foot is working to support you.
Many people who wear these type of yoga sandals say that they also feel less stress on the hip and knee joints, because the entire body is more aligned. You do not wear these while performing yoga, but instead slip them on and off throughout the day.
Yoga Toes Toe Stretchers
Manufactured by Yoga Pro, you simply put on these toe stretchers while you're reading or watching TV, and they'll align and stretch the toes so that those 18 muscles are activated. They look kind of funky, but come in a variety of colors.
Other Toe Exercises
You don't have to spend money to give your toes a workout. Try these mini-routines a few minutes each day to reduce cramps, strengthen the toes, and ease the symptoms of other foot issues, such as plantar fascitis and hammer toes.
- Use a pedicure toe separator. If you like to jazz up your toes with polish and appliqués, you probably have a pair of foam toe separators in the bathroom cabinet. Slip them on to paint your toenails, but leave them on a little longer.
- Put little corks between your toes. Squeeze your toes together for five seconds for a total of 10 repetitions.
- Do toe points. Similar to a ballet move, start with the foot arched, toes curved, Then, point the toes into the floor (not while standing), and finally, curve the tops of the toes into the floor. Repeat 10 times, holding each position about five seconds.
- Roll your foot over a golf ball. Strip down to bare feet and roll them over a golf ball for a couple of minutes.
- Do the "monkey". Pick up items with your toes, such as marbles, towels, a pencil, and so on. The curling motion is a great exercise for the toes and the ball of the foot.
- Stretch a rubber band around the toes. Once it's in place, spread the toes wide against the resistance of the band, hold for five seconds for a total of 10 rounds.
Where to Find Yoga Sandals
Beech Sandal Co. is the official home of the trademarked Yoga Sandals. You might also find them referred to as Spreadems. This site will have the largest variety from which to choose. Their brand of yoga sandal, with the multiple toe separation, is really the only shoe of its kind. You'll also find deals on these shoes at Amazon.com. Prices start at around $25.