Should Yoga Be Done Barefoot? The truth about barefoot yoga.

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When it comes to yoga there are a lot of questions and concerns newbies have. The most basic question I get is whether doing yoga barefoot is a requirement. 

This might seem like an irrelevant question at first, but it matters because it plays a huge role in the quality and safety of your yoga practice. 

Therefore, this article tackles the necessity of doing yoga barefoot as well as the alternatives that are available to you if you don’t want to do yoga on your bare feet. 

Doing Yoga With Bare Feet – Photo Credit –

Do You Have To Do Yoga Barefoot? 

You do not have to do yoga barefoot. However, yoga is usually done barefoot because doing so improves balance and stability when practicing various yoga poses as the small muscles in the feet are more engaged thus making for a more seamless and stumble-free practice. 

It is understandable why some yoga beginners find practicing yoga barefoot a bit odd or even embarrassing at first. Don’t worry though, there is no hard rule against wearing shoes or socks during yoga sessions.

What you wear when doing yoga is entirely up to you. If you feel more comfortable wearing shoes at first then you can keep them on. 

One of the ideas incorporated in doing Yoga is freedom. Not being encumbered by shoes is a liberating feeling. For most of our hours, we cover our toes and our feet in socks, slippers, sneakers, sandals, or high-heels. Going barefoot outside of our homes is often frowned upon. 

On the other hand, yoga is one of the few activities where going barefoot is completely encouraged. It’s like going to the swimming pool where no one notices that you’re barefoot, but you can wear water shoes if you want to.

Likewise, a yoga studio is one of the places where nearly everyone is barefoot (just like the pool) but where you can wear yoga socks if you prefer.

There is something liberating about letting your toes free and not being judged for it. 

All that said, you need to know that wearing shoes during yoga might be hinder you from achieving your best balance and stability, making it harder to transition from one pose to another.

If you’re not comfortable going barefoot when practicing yoga, we suggest trying non-slip yoga socks. { Click here to see examples on Amazon. >>> }

The Advantages Of Barefoot Yoga

1. Improves Balance

A lot of yoga poses involve balance. Sure, you need to develop a strong core to be able to hold the poses or Asanas but doing yoga barefoot goes a long way towards achieving the necessary balance. 

A barefoot practice makes you more grounded literally as your feet are touching the floor. A lot of Asanas would need the strength of your legs to maintain. 

Asana – Prononced asa·​na. Commonly used in conversation to refer to any yoga pose or posture.

2. Improves Traction & Reduces Friction

Your options while doing yoga are barefoot, socks, or shoes.

Barefoot yoga allows you to grip your yoga mat better than wearing regular socks and it lets you slide from pose to pose much easier than wearing shoes.

3. Increases Foot Muscles Strength

If you’re new to yoga, you probably haven’t considered foot exercise. After all, we don’t hear terms such as “feet day” in normal exercise routines. That is a mistake!

Our feet are the foundation of not only our yoga practice but of our daily lives.

Therefore, improving our feet muscles means we also have improved every motion that relies upon our feet as the foundation.

Your feet and ankles contain 29 muscles that are activated during Yoga in ways that they are not activated in daily activity or while wearing shoes. Most Asanas require these tiny foot muscles to support the body when holding a pose or transitioning into another. 

All of this helps strengthen our feet muscles and enables us to go about our daily work better.

Our feet may not be made up of big muscles that are more noticeable but remember, sometimes the changes in the small things (in this case, our feet muscles) make a huge difference in the quality of life we live. 

4. Improves Foot Flexiblity 

Aside from strengthening feet muscles, bare feet Yoga also helps you give your feet a much-needed stretch. Most people, including athletes, neglect to stretch their feet. And as we all know, a failure to stretch can lead to injury.

Doing Yoga barefoot gives your feet a much-needed stretch. It helps to relieve any tightness you might be feeling and can even help alleviate some foot pain as well as help you prevent foot or ankle injuries.

5. Helps Foot Pain 

Plantar Fascitis is an all too common condition that is often characterized by pain in the foot arch or heel. Doing yoga barefoot not only engages the small muscles of the feet but stretches “… a band of tissue (fascia) that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes.”[Source] which can help this pain.

6. Detoxification

Detoxification is probably a surprising advantage that comes with doing yoga barefooted. After all, we are often offered cleansing supplements to help detoxify our bodies. But yoga can help you detoxify your body without the need for these expensive supplements if you practice yoga in contact with the earth instead of on a yoga mat.

The secret to detoxification and doing yoga barefoot is the earthly connection. When we do yoga barefoot, we are in direct contact with the earth. This allows your body to soak up all the nutrients from the earth that bind themselves to free radicals in your body. 

These then are expelled whenever we sweat during the session. Amazing right? So let those toes free and detoxify! 

7. Less Dirt In The Yoga Studio 

Although there are no hard rules about wearing shoes or socks when doing yoga, some studios require their clients to practice yoga barefoot or wearing yoga socks. This rule is usually in place to keep the yoga studio sanitary. 

Shoes, after all, track mud and dirt. Therefore, having them removed when you enter the yoga studio would keep the studio clean and avoid the grit and dirt that would poke those who are barefoot and hinder peaceful practice. 

8. Increases Self Confidence 

I asked my community of friends and yoga enthusiasts and found out that 90% of yoga beginners are very hesitant to remove their shoes and do yoga barefoot. So don’t feel embarrassed about being self-conscious of your feet, you are not alone. 

However, as one person in the yoga group said  “I’ve realized that most people are focused on themselves – so don’t worry about what you’re wearing / not wearing!” 

Really, no one in the yoga class is there to judge you. Just do your thing and let your toes free. If you feel shy, you can always wear yoga socks.

9. Nurture A More Holistic Health View

Doing yoga barefoot is so much more than just good balance and stability. The fact that it keeps one grounded, close to the earth, which we believe helps in the process of mindfulness and being present. 

When one does yoga, they are encouraged to be more aware of their bodies, and doing yoga barefoot allows you to be more aware of that part of your body that you often ignore, hidden away in work shoes, school sneakers, and house slippers. 

Being barefoot (or naked) helps you become more present in your body, more accepting of its beauty and its imperfections. More than anything, this holistic view of health not only heals you physically but also goes towards emotional, mental, and even spiritual healing. 

Pros and Cons Of BareFoot Yoga – Photo Credit – Charmed Yoga

Disadvantages Of Doing Yoga Barefoot

There are some potential disadvantages to doing yoga barefoot including the risk of foot muscle injury or skin infections.

Dr. Jackie Sutera PDM of Vionic Innovation Labs and the American Podiatric Medical Association spokesperson, advises that going barefoot for yoga newbies might increase the risk of injury and may expose you to potential skin viruses. 

According to the Doctor, those who are new to yoga are susceptible to spraining their feet or experiencing muscle inflammation when first starting barefoot yoga. This is because asanas that require a person to balance on one foot cause all muscles of a single foot to contract.  

If your body is not used to this, the muscles may cramp which could lead to further injuries such as sprains or torn ligaments. Doing Yoga barefoot can also increase the chances of getting skin infections especially if the practice is not done in a sanitized studio.

However, we believe the same is true for every muscle in your body. When you begin an exercise or activity that you are not used to, you risk muscle injuries if you go too hard too soon.

Ease into yoga, whether you’re doing it barefoot or not.

Doing barefoot yoga in the backyard on the grass, for example, exposes your feet to the elements. You might get some fungi and bacteria and insect bites that can be extremely itchy and can even become infected. 

What Are The Alternatives to Barefoot Yoga? 

There are two alternatives to barefoot yoga: Yoga Socks or Shoes. Yoga socks are the best alternative to doing yoga barefoot because they allow you to engage all of your foot muscles which provides you with a stronger foundation.

Barefoot Yoga Vs Yoga Socks 

Barefoot YogaYoga Socks
Brings you closer to the ground lending you more stability Socks create a barrier between body and ground preventing skin infections
Enhances body and earth connections Can be more constricting than doing yoga barefoot 
Helps stretch feet muscles Needs to have grip otherwise, might let the person slip and be injured 
Inexpensive Adds to the cost of doing yoga 
Pros And Cons Of Barefoot Yoga Vs Yoga Socks

Barefoot Yoga Vs Shoes 

Barefoot YogaYoga With Shoes
Brings you closer to the ground lending you more stability Shoes are inflexible 
Enhances body and earth connections Shoes are a barrier between feet and ground. 
Helps stretch feet muscles Can cause injuries as it constricts the feet while doing Asanas 
Inexpensive Sports shoes tend to be expensive. Yoga shoes are more expensive than socks. 
Pros And Cons Of Barefoot Yoga Vs Shoes

Have Thoughts About Barefoot Yoga?

We also like to hear the opinions of all the yogis (beginners and pros) out there. In your years of practice, what camp do you belong to? Are you Camp Free The Toes? Or are you for Team Socks? Let me know in the comments below!

Charmed Yoga Team

The Charmed Yoga Team is made up of an eclectic group of yoga enthusiasts with a wide range of experience, age, sex, and even how seriously they take their yoga practice. For each article, one team member takes the lead then the team reworks the article to make sure that the information included is on point for all kinds of yogis. ~Namaste

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