Best Shoes to Wear as a Yogi

In yoga, we learn how to focus on each part of the body when entering a pose as well as when making a transition to the next pose. It cannot be overstated how important a strong and stable foundation is in yoga and in life. Being able to have flexibility in the feet and toes, the foundation of our bodies, supports all standing, balancing, and transition poses, as well as walking and maintaining good balance as we age. In other words, taking care of your feet is one great way to become a stronger yogi on and off the mat. 

When we are young, we tend to think more of the style and price of a shoe more than its function. But for anyone in a job that requires long hours on their feet, it is well known that without great shoes, the body is not going to feel too good after a long shift. Unfortunately, when we don’t consider the importance of our feet as we age, we can begin to experience posture issues, joint pain, and even headaches - all of which can be improved by starting at our foundation and taking better care of our feet. Wearing the proper shoes can help to treat your feet well so they can offer you long lasting support right back. 

Shoe makers and customers alike are beginning to recognize that the typical narrow toe box in shoes does not take into account the natural splay of the toes. Cramping the toes into narrow shoes or wearing shoes without adequate arch support can play a large role in the shape of the feet and flexibility of the toes over time, which can have a significant impact on balance. In yoga, it is no secret that balance and flexibility play huge roles in the ability to access, and stay in, a given pose in a manner that is both comfortable and stable. 

Wearing shoes that honor the natural arch and splay of the feet and toes is a great way to ensure a strong foundation, minimize pain or discomfort, and improve balance. Consider pigeon pose, where the front foot rests on its side at the top of the mat. If you have worn narrow or hard shoes for many years, you may experience calluses or even bunions on the side of the foot, which can make this position extremely uncomfortable to hold and in turn, reduce the impact of the pose since you may not be able to stay in it long enough to impact the fascia. Other poses that rely on healthy foot flexibility are balancing poses, such as Tree pose or Warrior III. In balance poses, our toes need to spread out and grip more surface area of the mat to support any swaying that our body may engage in as we try and balance. Having stiff toes from being squished in too-small or narrow shoes can make it difficult to hold balance poses with as much success as having toes that have been able to flex and spread out as you walk in wide-toe box shoes. 

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Luckily, with more knowledge of proper foot care comes many more options in the shoe industry. Some popular brands to consider are Altra, Hoka, and Lems, as each of these are known for their wide toe boxes and breathable materials. If you are new to wide-toe box shoes, it can be a good idea to stop by your local shoe store and ask for a fitting by a professional who may be able to make more specific recommendations based on the shape and arch of your feet, your level and type of regular activity, and your style preferences. Another option to consider is the store’s return policy so that you have some time to wear your new purchase around the house to better assess how the shoes work for you and whether you’d like to commit to that pair or try something else. 

It is easy to forget about the importance of our feet until we experience an issue, but it doesn’t have to be that way! In order to live a healthy life on and off the mat and give your body the stable foundation it needs, investing in a wide toe box shoe can be a great way to support your long term health and wellbeing, as well as help you become the best yogi you can be.



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Emily Rose
Emily Rose is a school psychologist, yoga teacher, and writer for her mental wellness blog, She enjoys vinyasa, yin, and restorative yoga. In her home practice, she shares her yoga mat with her Aussiedoodle, Guinness, no matter how many times she tells him to “Please stay off mommy’s rectangle."

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