A world of potential for movement resides in our feet, yet how much are we really using?
Let’s check in: Remove your shoes and take a quick walk around the room. While walking, notice which part of your foot lands and where you feel pressure/feedback from the ground. Your heel? Ball of the foot? How about the toes? Great, that’s 3 spots!
Now try lifting just your big toe, leaving all the little toes on the ground. This big toe extension movement you are attempting is governed by a tendon called the Extensor Hallucis Longus. Now settle that big toe down and try lifting all the little toes ruled by the extensor digitorum longus tendons. How’s that motor-control working for ya? Can you see the strappy tendons popping up underneath the skin as you attempt these movements? Given that we wear protective coverings (ahem, shoes) all our lives, we have lost a great amount of innate toe dexterity and connection with the extensor hallucis longus & extensor digitorum longus tendons. But we CAN reclaim a remarkable amount, simply read on!
Grab your grippy/pliable/and oh so useful Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls and watch the video below while we continue on with our point below… Who says multi-tasking is inefficient?
Stiletto Treatment: YTU Therapy Ball Rolling Video
While you are rolling away, consider the following: we have around 200 bones in our body and approximately 25% of all bones & muscles in our body reside BELOW the ankle. Years of “protecting” our feet have decreased their proprioceptive abilities and some biomechanists have found evidence that this protection may contribute to bone density decrease, nerve damage and even musculoskeletal diseases*
Go easy and light while rolling out your feet. You are stimulating nerve endings, skin cells, fascial tissues and muscle layers to increase your ability to feel with your feet. Re-introducing friction and slide/glide to your lovely feet is the first part in getting an awareness of your feet… and whether they are actually walking for you or your shoes are doing all the walking.
Come back later this week for part DEUX on the feet which will include VITAL stretches to lengthen calf and leg muscles. A MUST for your lower body health!
(*source: Katy Bowman’s “Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief”)
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I live with extended toes! This rolling technique and body mapping helped me understand how to activate the extensors.
Such an great reminder to simply be barefoot and wear shoes less. It is amazing how many bones we lock in a tiny foot coffin and forget to use. I notice this especially when I run on the beach primarily in soft sand. All of the intrinsic muscles of the feet feel so good after that.
I always think of shoes as little coffins for the feet. And while they may be necessary in our world they do deaden the sensation that the feet absorb from the floor and their ability to move.
I was once told that we want our feet to be as mobile and dextrous as our hands and fingers. And not just the big toe but all of the toes as well as all other areas of the foot.
Rolling the feet is a way I treat myself for all the abuse I put them through everyday. It is also a reminder that it all starts from the ground up.
This is a great tool for my dancers. I often make them work barefoot to improve their grounding and proprioception. Many of us loose our motor control to be able to untangle these movements and this is a good reminder to reawaken them!
Thank you for this article Christina. It is so important to bring more awareness to our feet. The reasons are plenty: they carry us all day long, 25% of all bones and muscle reside below the ankle and the soles of our feet are a reflection of our entire body (I am referring to feet reflexology). Therefore, it is important to be gently when rolling them out.
A quick question. I notice that there are a lot of videos and massage tips focusing on the soles of our feet. Do you have any suggestions for rolling out the sides and tops of the foot? Any areas or pressure spots that work well for releasing tension? Thanks.
I loved reading this, since I work incredible amounts of hours in construction boots, getting home to my Therapy Balls sends me right to heaven! I enjoy rolling on my feet just before going to bed, I think it’s so refreshing and just enough to feel ready to hit another amazing day when I wake up in the morning!
Thanks for offering up some info on a matter I would have otherwise not given much thought to
Thanks for sharing this wonderful foot massage it really does make a difference. We often forget about are feet and how important they really are to us.
I did not realize how little dexterity I had in my extensor hallucis longus until I took my first Yoga Tune Up class with Laurel Beversdorf. We used the YTU therapy balls to roll out our feet and incorporated toe extension into the sequence. Everything but my big toe lifted off the ground! I then realized that a lifetime of cramming my feet into pointe shoes might be to blame, ha!
Your article makes me contemplate how much more movement potential I feel when I move/improvise with my bare feet – the way I move on a rug is very different than how I move on a shiny wood floor or even a marble floor – how the proprioceptive functioning of the foot is crucial to our vitality. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
My students love rolling their feet at the beginning of class. They are amazed at how much better their practice feels. Our feet are truly our foundation! Thanks for sharing.
Great article! I’m rolling now!
I have so many clients with plantar fasciitis and for everyone that is open to some self care I always recommend the YTU balls and the strap around the ankle exercises. They work wonders and my feet always feel so alive after I roll them out.
Helpful video. I’m on my feet all day, in shoes (ugh!). I love YTU and this should be awesome for my tootsies!
OMG!! I never took the time to really roll my feet and I just tried the exercice on the video!! It was a little sensitive for sure and I can not think about how I am not conscious of my feet. They are making everything we do. All the time the are ON… So it’s a engagement with my feet: I’ll roll you boys!!!
Toe isolations and rolling have helped me steer away from bunion land! We don’t have to live in pain, possible to take the driver’s seat in our health.
The feet bears so much of the work throughout the day, yet most people don’t pay any attention it until they are in pain. The Ball is a quick and valuable tool that work wonder for the health of he feet.
Great post! I love Katy Bowman’s work as well! My students love when we get to roll out the feet in class. It’s amazing how neglected our feet our in modern-day. Our feet have become chronically numb with being robbed of vital stimuli from the ground we walk on. I’ve recently been wearing vivobarefoot shoes for everyday walking around, and I’ve noticed a huge change! I’m no longer heel-striking, and I have much more tactile control of my intrinsic foot muscles. More posts like this will help others to slowly transition to better foot health. Thank you!
Ever since I began practicing yoga I have been more in-tune with my feet and how it moves during yoga but somehow I tend to forget and just be less mindful after practice. This article just reminded me just how important these 2 little feet are and that I need to provide it with some yoga tune up care, as I often find myself doing a lot of walking. I am especially interested to see how exercising these pressure point in the feet can help other vital organs within the body as well.
Thanks for the post Christina. After years of wearing heels, I’ve been spending more time in bare feet, and definitely working more with the Therapy Balls. They help increase proprioception in an area we seem too ignore too often.
I found this fascinating. My husband has been suffering with severe foot pain for about a year. I was hopeful the balls could help and I just received proof! I especially loved learning about how many bones are in the feet and 25% of them are so low in our body!
I LOVE the foot work YTU has introduced to my practice and my teachings. I appreciate the simple approach you give to this work and the easy read!
Thank you Christina. This is a great post. I am rolling my feet already for many year, remembering my dance teacher telling us to take care of our feet and rolling is just the nicest way. But I should definitely do more Toe Yoga and the feet exercises in the YTU TT manual are great too, such as the Bit Toe/Little Toe isolations!
I started training and lifting without shoes several years back. This allowed me to ground my feet better, improved my proprioceptive feedback and reinforced natural support of my arches. Consequently, this lead to overall better posture and safer lifting. Shoes and orthotics that “support” the arches prove to be more of a crutch and can result in/ or worsen certain conditions (such as plantar fasciitis). This rolling is great! Feet hold so much tension, show them some love!
Super à faire au bureau ! surtout si on a la chance d’avoir un bureau à hauteur réglable.
It makes so much sense! ”25% of all bones & muscles in our body reside BELOW the ankle”, that’s pretty impressive! Thank you for putting our lovely feet under the spotlight today, I removed my socks and it feels great. 😀
Thank you for this post, I will definitely do more foot rolling. I realized that anytime I walk, even in supposedly good running shoes, for many hours my feet get very sore. Working on the awareness of my feet and on rolling them more regularly should hopefully be helpful!
Shoes are such a modern thing really, and not good for a natural gait. Rolling is like a modern take on the ancient practice of reflexology.
this is great, I’ve never done both balls before. I’ve been wondering about my flip-flops…. i think they are making my feet cranky 🙂 Peace…
This is a great reminder to take care of the feet and keep the mobility in all the joints. It feels amazing to roll on the soles of my feet especially after long walks and I would never travel without my yoga tune up balls! Happy feet, happy me!
I love toe yoga! I find it requires a great deal of focus to control my toes. I love rolling out my feet after a long day, it’s amazing. Thanks for the tips.
I found using the YTU balls helps me find the arches of my feet since I am flat footed. Thanks for this great reminder!
My husband and I have a general rule to always take the time to take care of eyes and feet especially – but I have to admit our idea of ‘take care of feet’ hasn’t gone much further than making sure we wear stable, comfortable shoes. I will also admit that I love my flip flops, but after the various YTU trainings I have attended this year, as well listening to various experts in the mobility world, (Kelly Starrett, Katy Bowman,) I have significantly reduced my flip flop time as I continue to try to gain some further mobility back in my feet. This was a great post to keep me on track – and I love the comment about using them in the pool…
I love rolling my feet but need to do more barefoot walking. While i am able to lift the big toe by is itself, i am still struggling to lift the little ones and keep the big one down. Any tips on how to improve on that? Back in the day i used to have plantar fasciitis but that is all gone now, thanks to the YTU balls.
Toe yoga! I don’t think I practice that enough. I do roll daily, though, and regularly recommend it to others. Thanks for the knowledge and resources.
Rolling my feet has been part of my daily routine for the past year, and it has changed my life immensely. With high arches, my feet tend to get very tired and achy after a long day of standing on them. Once I roll my feet out, I notice that the plant of the feet spread wider and I have a better grip, my shoulders relax and my posture is more aligned. What a difference it makes. Thank you for sharing and confirming why I should continue to do this.
Another great reminder that it is important to take good care of our feet. Wearing crazy shoes, standing, and walking everyday takes such a toll yet we tend to ignore our feet until they hurt. I had no idea that this could contribute to decreased bone density . Definitely going to start rolling my feet more often!
I wonder if years of constricting shoes also contributes to the curling and gnarling of toes that many people experience later in life. Ball rolling might be a good way alleviate some of the symptoms of that.
Someone once told me that one of the first thing that starts to go as we age is the ability to isolate motion in the toes. I now always like to test out my toes’ abilities. It is nice to know there are effective tools I can use to continue to keep dexterity in my toes!
This should help me with better form for running. For someone that has neuropathy, rolling on the YTU balls may help them find relief.
I’ve transitioned to minimal shoes over the last year, and have much less foot and calf discomfort since doing so – but my feet still really feel the benefit of this sequence, and I feel much more grounded after doing it.
I introduced ball rolling on the feet to my yoga students at the office where I work. The class is composed of mainly high heel wearing women. The feet are the foundation of the body. It is so important to treat them well.
Good article. It seems so simple, and yet even people who know about this need to be reminded to take care of their feet. I never used to roll my feet until they started getting really tired from all the yoga I was doing. Then after a lot of experimentation, I realized that in order to feel grounded while doing a standing pose, it’s just about impossible if your feet are look stones so that they can’t root into the ground.
Thank you for sharing this! Wow 25% below the ankle? That’s incredible. I once heard that everything in your body is related to your feet. I really appreciated that statement and so I am also a believer in reflexology. With the YTU balls, it’s like doing your own at home! And if you have an injury in your foot, it is so hard for it to heal because we walk on them everyday. Thank god we have these therapy balls.
I never use to think about my feet before being introduced to the YTU Therapy Balls. If you had asked me to even try the above movement of the big toe separate from the little toes my feet would have instantly cramped up! Thanks to the YTU therapy balls and a new appreciation for my feet (and some practice!), I can tap and lift my toes together and apart!
I always tell my clients the feet are the foundation of the body, and they wouldn’t build a house on a weak foundation. I’ve found that not only shoes, but a plethora of orthotics, form the cheap drugstore variety to the very pricey type provided by podiatrists, can contribute to this foot atrophy. Though I would never tell anyone to stop using prescribed orthotics, many of my clients have gotten the okay from their docs to stop using them after they saw the results they got from doing the “footwork”!
Yes foot care! even tho I rarely wear shoes, my feet still need lots of help. Last summer I took a barefoot workshop with Dr Emily Splichal and learned SO much about feet and how to take care of them so that they can keep holding me up for the rest of my life. I have practicing “Short Foot” religiously and trying to increase my dorsiflexion because I have lost ROM in that direction. YTU balls are a great addition to my foot care routine!
Thank you! I will try this with the baseball team that recently asked me to work in yoga and conditioning to their practices. This will help these young adults recognize the benefits of rolling!
Very helpful video on your feet! I enjoy wearing flip flops and or no shoes at all , I also have bunions so my big toe needs some of this ball rolling love here! Thank you!
The feet are so important to health of the overall body, yet in our society, we cast feet in shoes and socks beginning as an infant. Imagine if we were to cast our hands in the same way! Rolling my feet with Yoga Tuneup® therapy balls have helped so much with foot pain that I’ve had from years of wearing improper shoes and not paying attention to proper body alignment.
I went through a period of 4 years where if I was walking I was wearing shoes. Long story short I ended up having reconstructive foot surgery to realign some of the bones and repair some ligaments. That was 5 years ago and I am still regaining mobility. Now that I have found the YTU balls I have found even more mobility.
Yes, feet are so important yet so often over looked- they are the first part of your body to hit the ground in the morning when you get up and the last thing to leave the ground when going to bed at night
While I don’t suffer from foot pain or plantar fasciitis, I’ve found that as a new user of yoga therapy balls, I LOVE to roll out my feet. I had no idea that 25% of all bones & muscles in our body reside below the ankle! It’s no wonder that rolling my feet feels so good. Thank you for this video, I will be trying this out tonight.
I love this post. I used to be someone who wore stilettos all the time. I hoarded shoes like crazy and was so proud of my beautiful shoe collection- until I could no longer tolerate the pain. Now, in my first year of a steady yoga practice, I often get an intense cramping in my feet while in certain poses. I often have to stop and roll my foot around in the middle of asana. A great deal of this was learning how to correctly position my foot with arches up, which I learned in Iyengar-based training, but a great deal of this was also the fact that I wasn’t stretching my feet- I didn’t know how! I am also an avid soul cycler and was getting cramps with my spin shoes on. Yoga Tune Up has taught me how to properly take care of my feet and for that I am grateful.
If I have the time, I always roll my feet in the morning and evenings. It also makes a world of a difference in any “balance” moves in yoga class.
I roll my feet and get my students to roll theirs and it is very helpful for many aches and pains. I will add this stretch. Thanks you! I usually add rolling the Soleus as well.
My feet, after years of abuse in high heels and thin soled shoes, were too sensitive to do the this foot rolling work out as pictured in the video. And seated rolling just wasn’t enough. So, I took them to the pool.
It took a bit of adjusting to get them under my feet (they do indeed float!), but then, it was nirvana to feel the relief at just the right pressure for me.
I’m sharing in hopes someone else can benefit too!
Good video and very fine poses..