As the daughter of a podiatrist (a foot doctor) and someone born with collapsed arches and over-pronating feet (very flat feet with no arches) I am no stranger to foot pain and bunion prevention.
My entire life I’ve tried to prevent/delay the formation of bunions and relieve some of my foot pain by wearing orthotics, or inserts, in my shoes daily.
This is a bunion = NOT FUN
These insoles create an artificial arch in my feet. They help tremendously. If you have foot pain and flat feet, please see a podiatrist and get some custom orthotics made. Also…keep reading…
It wasn’t until I started a strong and serious yoga practice however, that I learned how to stand barefoot, without orthotics, yet STILL maintain an arch in my foot. The muscles in my feet and ankles are now so strong as a result of yoga standing poses, that even the orthopedic surgeon that I saw a couple years ago was blown away by my ability to stand and hold up the arches in my feet.
When practicing standing poses in yoga, your feet are truly put to the test!. If you have flat feet, you will likely collapse into your inner arches, which over time, will cause knee or hip pain. My favorite Iyengar Yoga cue for correcting collapsed arches in those with flat feet is “draw your inner ankles to your outer ankles.” My teacher Gabriel cues this all of the time, because as any yogi knows, the structure and position of your feet affect your knees, which in turn affects your hips, which then can affect your back. As I practice poses such as Warrior 1, 2, and 3, I constantly remind myself to do this.
Essentially, over all, to reduce pain in your body, you should always start with an evaluation of your feet by a foot doctor. Chances are you either have flat feet, high arches, or you are walking in a way which mis-aligns your knees and hips. Additionally, please take a look at this wonderful article that was just published in Yoga International:
Finally, read below for the foot cues that I give to my students in tadasana.
This is me in Tadasana, or mountain pose. This is the best standing pose to begin to practice your foot positioning.
To my students in this pose, I will often cue:
“Lift your toes and shift your weight back into your heels. Feel grounded. Then, lower your toes and root down through the four corners of the feet.”
OR, I’ll say:
“Spread your toes, but don’t grip them. From the center of the foot to the heel stretch back, and from the center of the foot to the toes lengthen forward. Maximize the length and width of your feet for a firm, grounded stance. Finally, if you have flat feet, draw your inner ankles to the outer ankles to keep a healthy arch in the feet.”
Now, if all else fails, find one of those asian foot massage places (we have a bunch in Chicago) that charge $30 for an hour foot massage. They are AMAZING.
There are just so many paths to happy feet. I hope you find yours!