Brandt R Gibson, DPM
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Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute

For all you lovers of high-heels out there, take note of a trend coming out of New York: yoga instructor Yamuna Zake has begun teaching practices that reportedly beat the foot pain associated with wearing stilettos.  In addition to yoga, certain stretches can help relieve the pain of wearing high heels

Apparently this is the way it works: to take part in Zake’s ‘foot yoga’ classes, you bring in your most extreme pair of high heels and work with the group to develop a less damaging walk.

The classes last about an hour and during that time, students use special small balls, developed by Zake, that help massage your feet and teach you how to evenly distribute your weight when standing or walking in heels (this is great because it prevents you from putting too much pressure on any one area of the foot, which can lead to injury).

Right now, New York is the only place you can take one of Zake’s classes, although she plans to take her show on the road in the future. For those of you who are intrigued by the idea, however, you can try her home ‘foot fitness kit’ that costs $65 and includes ball tools and a DVD.

Other Yoga Options for High Heel Relief

Of course, you don’t have to pay for an expensive yoga video to help relieve some of the foot pain associated with wearing high heels! There are plenty of yoga poses that can help your feet feel better, and doing them won’t cost you a penny!

Here are eight yoga poses, adapted from Shape magazine, that can help you get rid of temporary foot pain:

Down Dog Foot Pedal

  • Begin on all fours. Tuck toes and lift hips high, reaching sitz bones toward the ceiling.
  • Reach heels back toward the mat. Drop head so your neck is long.
  • Make sure wrist creases stay parallel to the front edge of the mat.
  • Press into the knuckles of forefingers and thumbs to alleviate pressure from wrists.
  • Pedal feet out one at a time, alternately bending knees in down dog, lengthening out Achilles tendons. Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Revolved Single-Leg Forward Fold Variation

  • Begin in a wide-leg forward fold. Crawl hands to the right, pivoting on feet.
  • Keep crawling hands to the right until right leg crosses over left and you're on the outer edges of feet.
  • Reach the big toe side of foot to the ground so that the entire foot is on the ground. Relax head and neck.
  • If you are steady, use the palm of left hand to massage the top of right foot. Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths, unwind, then repeat on the other side.

Bound Angle Pose with Foot Massage

  • Begin seated. Bend knees wide out to the sides, and take the soles of your feet together, about 1 to 2 feet in front of you.
  • Take a hold of ankles with hands. Take a big inhale to lengthen the spine, and then hinge torso forward as far as the movement feels comfortable.
  • Drop head, relax your shoulders, and take hands to feet like you are opening a book, with thumbs on the arches of feet.
  • Gently massage the bottoms of feet as you breathe deeply for 5 to 10 breaths.

Supported Bridge Variation

  • Begin lying on your back. Bend knees, placing feet on the ground hip-width apart.
  • Lift hips and place a block underneath you at whatever setting feels best for your back, then lower sacrum onto the block.
  • Once you feel steady, using your right hand for assistance, place the top of right foot on the ground next to the block. Keep reaching knees toward your midline.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths and then switch sides.

Reclined Hero's Pose

  • Begin in a kneeling position. Separate feet so that sitz bones can come to the ground between heels.
  • Keeping knees relatively close together, not touching, but not widening, slowly crawl hands back until forearms are on the ground.
  • Walk your elbows down until you are lying down on the mat. Tuck tailbone underneath you to mitigate the arch in back.
  • Reach arms over head and grab opposite elbows. Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Reclined Cow Face Pose

  • Lie on back and cross right knee over left, winding feet out to the sides slightly.
  • Take hold of the right foot with left hand and left foot with the right hand.
  • Keeping knees stacked, direct feet with hands, moving in the direction of getting shins into one long line. Bend the elbows and flex feet.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 breaths, taking thumbs into arches and firmly massage from the heel to the ball. Repeat on the other side.

Heron Pose

  • Begin seated in with legs long in front of you.
  • Bend left knee and place top of left foot on ground just outside left side of butt.
  • Bend right knee and take a hold of outer edges of right foot with either hand.
  • Gently press heel away and up, lengthening the right leg. Draw shoulders down and together on back and lift chest, leaning back slightly.
  • Use your finger pads to massage the edges of your foot. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Legs Up the Wall

  • Sit sideways next to a wall and then lie down on one side, facing away from the wall with butt touching it.
  • Using arms, lift legs up the wall as you roll over onto back. Allow arms to fall on either side of you. (Palms can face up for openness or face down for an extra level of grounding.)
  • Stay here for at least 5 breaths or, if you feel good, as long as you like.

Of course, practicing yoga doesn’t give you free reign to wear high heels all the time. But, as Zake says, it’s OK to slip on a pair every so often, "just as long as you are smart and have a healthy foot practice regimen."

As most of you know, no matter how often you practice foot yoga, wearing high heels too often can aggravate bunions or lead to painful conditions like neuromas. Foot yoga may help your feet feel more comfortable when you walk in heels, but you’d still be wise to avoid wearing towering shoes most days. If you don’t, I’ll likely be seeing you at Mountain West Foot and Ankle for your foot pain more frequently than you’d expect.


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