Toe yoga for supple, flexible feet

mobility running injuries Oct 04, 2021
People with their toes in the sand

Have you heard of toe yoga? The term was coined by my good friend Jay Dicharry, and it basically involves a specific exercise to help you gain mobility and flexibility in your feet and toes.

The role your feet play in walking and running

The foot is the “root” between the body and the earth. During gait, movement of the foot is synonymous with movement of all the bones of the lower extremity (from the hips to the toes). The human foot cushions the body and adapts to uneven surfaces. It provides traction for movement, awareness of joint and body position for balance, and acts as leverage for propulsion, according to Mayo Clinic Proceedings

The bottom line is, we need intelligence and articulation in our feet, as they don’t work in isolation. They’re full of muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerve endings and are intricately connected to the rest of your body.

And, as the Michigan Foot & Ankle Center highlights, your feet carry your entire body and can easily become over exerted causing cramps and strain. However, the more toe and foot control you have, the less chance you’ll have of developing injuries upstream from there, such in your ankles, lower legs, hips, back etc.

You need to have a certain level of control in your feet and toes to walk or run well. Yet, when I ask people to rate their foot flexibility from 0-10 (0 being as solid and rigid as a plank of wood and 10 being so flexible that you could paint, type or text with them), most agree that they’re at a 2.

This toe yoga move is a great exercise to gain control of your toes and feet. While it can be frustrating when you first try it, it’s well worth the effort and perseverance. In fact, it takes about two weeks to have mobility in your toes and the ability to control those movements.

WATCH how I perform toe yoga:

How to perform toe yoga:  

  1. Start by standing up straight with your feet relaxed on the ground
  2. Drive your big toe through the floor (it still needs to be relaxed) while you lift your other four toes off the ground
  3. Then keep your four toes on the ground and lift your big toe
  4. Keep alternating like this: big toe up, four toes down, then big toe down, four toes up.
  5. You want your big toe to be straight. If it deviates towards your other toes, stop throughout the movement, straighten it and practice again.
  6. When you perform this move, make sure your arch doesn’t collapse

TIP: An advanced step is to place your finger an inch away from your big toe and try to get your big toe to align enough to touch it.

ALSO SEE: My blog on how to best manage lower limb injuries

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