Yoga as a practice has been around for centuries, but toe yoga is a form of yoga that focuses on the feet and toes. It involves stretching, strengthening, and toning exercises that help to improve the flexibility, balance, and range of motion of the feet.
An increasing number of studies conclude that increased foot health is responsible for reducing several lower leg injuries including plantar fasciitis, ankle instability, shin splints, and patella pain.
We likely take our feet for granted. We put them in ill-fitting shoes, stand on them all day, and repeat.
Never really paying them any attention.
But we are looking at this all wrong.
We overlook their importance related to how the rest of our body moves*.
Let’s start with the kinetic chain and how it is impacted by the feet.
Simply put, the kinetic chain is the idea that your muscles, joints, and segments are all interconnected forming a chain throughout the body working together to create movement. Using one joint or muscle creates a chain reaction elsewhere.
If most everything we do begins with our feet, it goes to reason that limited range of motion or lack of stability and strength in the toes and feet will manifest itself up the chain into other issues.
Increased foot health has been shown to decrease several lower leg injuries including:
If you are experiencing any of these lower leg injuries, look to include toe yoga into your rehabilitation routine giving your feet the attention they deserve may help prevent future injury.
Plantar fasciitis is a common overuse injury experienced by runners.
Stability of the foot is necessary during running as running consists of cyclical periods of single leg stance.
Runners with plantar fasciitis have reduced stability in the foot leading to an increased risk of injury due to decreased ability of the runner to adapt to external perturbations.
Frequent ankle sprains often lead to chronic ankle instability. There is growing evidence that training the intrinsic foot muscles improves balance and is an effective therapy for prevention.
Results from five randomized controlled trials totaling 150 people showed that training the intrinsic foot muscles in patients with ankle instability showed a significant positive effect of instability, balance, and function. The most effective forms of training seem to be short-foot exercises and toe training i.e. toe yoga.
A University of Michigan study found that shin splints impact more muscles than previously thought, including small, often overlooked muscles in the calves and feet, and these findings support the idea that simple, at-home toe yoga exercises targeting foot muscles could really help speed healing.
Forty adult individuals (28 women, 12 men) diagnosed with patellofemoral pain were randomized to knee targeted exercises or knee targeted exercises combined with foot targeted exercise and orthoses.
After 12 weeks, those individuals randomized to knee targeted exercises combined with foot targeted exercises and foot orthoses had 8.9 points larger improvement in Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score pain.
This demonstrates the addition of foot targeted exercises including toe yoga and foot orthoses was more effective than knee targeted exercises alone in individuals with patellofemoral pain.
Where to begin with toe yoga?
This practice is suitable for all levels of experience, from beginners to more advanced practitioners. By performing these exercises regularly, you can improve your overall foot health while also helping to reduce stress on your body as a whole. Because these exercises are low impact you can do them everyday or at least several times a week.
This exercise is an easy place to start because it requires no equipment, but this exercise is harder than it looks. Controlling the muscles in our foot can be quite difficult. You may totally lack control over the little muscle that pulls your big toe upward or the muscle that depresses the big toe into the floor.
One of our favorite pieces of equipment to work our toe yoga exercises is the Blackboard Training board.
The foot board and the heel board are the central parts of this tool, and the black bars are used to adjust them. Placing the bars under each board in different ways triggers the foot to go through different tilting and torsional movements.
The ToeBands by BlackBoard are the first tensile strength bands specially developed for the foot. Their design was chosen in such a way that they allow isolated training of the feet and toes. Mobilization of the joints, strengthening of the muscles and the strengthening of neural pathways.
Beams are a fantastic tool to train and reclaim your hip stability, ankle and foot mobility, and help to increase body awareness for injury prevention.
The benefits of toe yoga include improved balance and coordination, increased flexibility in the feet and ankles, reduced risk of injury due to overuse or strain on the lower legs, improved posture and alignment throughout the body, better circulation in the feet and legs, and reduced pain from existing injuries.
Additionally, toe yoga can help to improve coordination and agility. All these benefits make toe yoga an excellent addition to any fitness routine.
*We understand that some populations may have limitations that don’t let them participate in these activities. Our goal is to provide information for all of those looking for education and growth.
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