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6 Yoga Poses for Achy Feet
Whether it’s a night on the town in high heels, a trail run in new running shoes or an afternoon walking the flea market in flip-flops, our feet take quite the pounding every day.
A study done by Z-Tech Shoe Company and published in The Physics Fact Book found that a force up to three-and-a-half times our body weight could be placed on the foot while running. A person who weighs 150 pounds would experience a force of up to 525 pounds with each step.
Common Foot Pains and How Yoga Can Help
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are the two most common types of foot pain that lead people to see a podiatrist.
The heel bone is the largest bone in the foot and absorbs the largest amount of shock and pressure. A heel spur develops as an abnormal growth of the heel bone and causes extreme pain in the rear of the foot. The pain is usually worse while standing or walking.
Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation and tearing of the fascia, a ligament on the bottom of the foot. It is the most common cause of heel pain and is often the result of abnormal foot mechanics, low quality shoes and overuse.
Treatment for foot pain, including bone spurs and plantar fasciitis, is usually a combination of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), night splints to stretch the calf and foot arch while you sleep and even steroid shots.
While night splints are more of an uncomfortable inconvenience, the Mayo Clinic warns steroid shots carry the risk of nerve damage, thinning of soft tissue and even weakening or rupture of the tendon.
Due to their risks, steroid shots are only prescribed no more than three times per year.
The standing poses of yoga can help build a solid and stable foundation in the feet, while the yoga stretches can relieve tightened muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Yoga Sequence to Relieve Foot Pain
Try this yoga series to take a little extra care of your tired feet.
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward-Facing Dog is the ultimate back of the body stretch. This includes the hamstrings, gastrocnemius (calf muscle) and Achilles tendon in the legs. To make Downward-Facing Dog even sweeter for the feet, add in alternating gentle heal raises by bending one knee as you push the opposite heel to the ground. If your heels don’t touch the ground, place a rolled up blanket or yoga mat under the heels for support.
Runner’s Stretch – Come into a low lunge with your right foot forward. Keeping your back toes tucked under, drop your left knee to the mat and shift the hips back towards the heel. Flex your right foot and hinge the upper body over the front knee. Hands on blocks will provide extra support here and allow for a deeper hip hinge.
Virasana – Hero’s Pose. From a kneeling position, press the tops of your feet into the mat as you bring yourself down between your legs. Knees should be pointing forward for proper alignment. If your hips can’t comfortably reach the floor without straining the knees, place a bolster or blanket between your legs to raise the height of your seat. If this stretch is too intense for the feet, a rolled blanket under the ankles can provide some relief.
Vrksasana - Tree Pose with a block. Standing on a block in tree pose will destabilize the standing foot and help to strengthen both the primary and assister muscles. Standing on the block will also better enable you to evenly distribute the weight among all four corners of the standing foot. Be sure you don’t grip your toes around the block or allow the standing hip to sink down. Although a cork block will provide more stability here, a foam block is better to help feel proper weight distribution. (You may want to practice by the wall at first)
Baddha Konasana - Bound Angle Pose. With your feet placed together, you’ll really be able to see if you have flat feet or high arches. Placing a tennis ball between your feet to gently roll back and forth will help stretch fascia.
Viparita Karani - Legs Up the Wall with a V stretch. Taking the legs wide into a V shape provides a gentle stretch for the abductor muscles. Tight inner thigh muscles can overload the foot arch causing pain or an imbalance in the feet during walking. Legs Up the Wall also relieves edema of the lower extremities as well as providing for the force placed upon the feet during the day.
Foot Massage for Tired Feet
For a bonus treat for your feet, practice self-foot massage regularly. Add a few drops of essential oils to any oil or lotion you use for a foot massage for added luxuriousness. Chamomile, lavender and eucalyptus each have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Find a comfortable place to sit and rest your foot on the opposite knee
Using both hands, walk your thumbs up the center line of your foot. Use firm but gentle pressure, spending a little extra time on any tender pressure points you find.
Rub the bottom of each toe, and then gently pull the toe upward.
Using the heel of your opposite hand, firmly rub the arch of the foot in a circular motion. Do the same on the ball of the foot and the heel.
Again using the opposite hand, rotate your ankle in a circular motion, alternating directions. Flex and point the foot a few times and then use gentle light strokes along the top of the foot.
Finally, weave the fingers of your opposite hand through the toes of your foot to separate them. Spread the toes wide, but don’t exert too much pressure between them.
Switch and repeat on the other foot.
To give your feet a deep tune-up, try this ballwork technique from our online Yoga Practice Channel with YogaUOnline teacher Ellen Saltonstall.
Jennifer Williams-Fields E-RYT 200 is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way. Her first book "Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom" is now available on Amazon. She has had her essays featured on Yahoo! and Dr. Oz The Good Life. She is a regular writer for Elephant Journal Magazine, YourTango and YogaUOnline. See more from Jennifer at jenniferwilliamsfields.com