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yoga toes

madeleine
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yoga toes
I've come across a toe-spacing apparatus called Yoga Toes, and wonder, Esther, whether you think this could be useful for foot conditions like bunions and neuromas, and also just in general as a tool for foot reshaping?
Esther Gokhale za obraz
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Though I think it is a good thing to be able to spread your toes apart (we have special muscles that do this, so it makes sense to be able to use them) I don't see why it is desirable to have all the toes spread eagled for an extended period of time. People often have their big toe angled in (in extreme cases forming a bunion) - a spacer can be useful to get this toe back in alignment. I see the other toes draping in a similar fashion to how fingers drape. We wouldn't think about walking around with our fingers spread apart from each other, but rather curved in a parallel fashion, kind of like "spooning." The only situation in which I think toes need to be separated is if they chafe against each other, and then you only need a minimal spacer / pad.

I have recently decided that my Vibram Five Finger shoes spread my toes apart too much, flattening the transverse arch of my foot too much. I've been experimenting with them and though I like the soft sole and contact with the earth, I don't like the spread toes.
PortlandRolfer
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About spreading the toes....
"Yoga toes" can be okay to use for short periods of time, but does have some risk of injuring the ligaments between the toes if you try to walk in them (not recommended). Plus, you can get the same benefit for free, just by putting your fingers between your toes, or interlacing the toes of your right foot with the toes of your left foot (soles facing each other, start with the fifth toes, and weave them together toe by toe). 

A safe option for walking, besides the 5 Finger shoes, is a product called Correct Toes by holistic podiatrist Ray McClanahan.  They provide a small amount of spacing, appropriate for wearing inside wide-toe shoes such as a Croc or a sandal, and help retrain the toes to work in a parallel position, as Esther describes, rather than being all smooshed together. They can be found at http://www.nwfootankle.com. They are made in Portland, Oregon, of flexible silcone, and cost $65 for a pair. They are excellent for treating bunions, neuromas, hammertoes, and many other foot problems.

Esther mentioned feeling that the metatarsal arch gets overspread in the 5 Finger shoes. Dr. McClanahan recommends using a metatarsal pad in the 5 Finger shoes, as well as in most other shoes.  Pedag brand pads are made of soft leather and are imported from Germany. They are available on his website or from many other sources such as some shoe stores. Placement is tricky and is best done by a professional, but they do come with a placement chart if you have to do it yourself.

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Pedag is one of the brands of insoles I have recommended over the years. Thanks for the great post, Karin!

PortlandRolfer
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Thanks Esther! 
I can only recommend the Pedag metatarsal pads.... I haven't checked their insole product line, but many insoles and orthotics are too rigid and/or have invasive arch support which undermines the foot's ability to pronate naturally. Sometimes wearing a shoe without the insole at all (including removing the one that it came with) can be a helpful way to increase sensory input and increase space for the toes.

Esther Gokhale za obraz
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I actually teach that an insole can be very helpful, if used like a tool rather than a crutch. I think of the arch support like a contour on the ground available for gripping. I also think of it as establishing a baseline so the foot does not pronate or otherwise distort beyond a certain degree (most peopl already have rather collapsed and pronated feet; I feel they shouldn't pronate any further. More about this here: http://egwellness.com/perfecting-posture-injury-prevention-0 and in my book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back (which may as well have been named 8 Steps to Pain-Free Feet!)

I do agree with you that most orthotics are too rigid, not to mention that they are designed as crutches (with a price tag that reflects the notion that they are there to stay). I intend for people to radically change the shape and structure of their feet, not by forcing them to do tasks (like barefoot running) which they may not yet be prepared for, but by encouraging the action of barefoot walking while still having the support of a soft insole. Over time, as the foot muscle tone and structure improve, I encourage barefoot walking, dancing, etc. I like people to stay "ahead of the curve" rather than "behind the curve."

PortlandRolfer
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Hi Esther,
Thanks for including the link to that article - I hadn't seen it before and enjoyed reading your view on various types of injuries.

It sounds like our ideas about arch supports are pretty compatible - not too much, not too stiff.  I do really like the way you describe the shape of a healthy foot, and find it to be similar to how John Friend, the head of Anusara yoga, teaches foot position.  I will try to locate a description of that for you.  
I agree that barefoot running, or running in 5 finger shoes, is not appropriate for everyone, and people tend to jump from one extreme to another too quickly. That's why I advocate for a "minimalistic shoe" that is flexible, lightweight, and has a completely neutral sole. Being able to feel the ground through the shoe allows the foot to adapt and gives sensory feedback that allows the motor nerves to fire the muscles more effectively. Hence, too much padding is counterproductive. I recall from your book that you like Keens. A couple of their models are flexible, but some are very stiff.  The sandals that are so popular are often more flexible, but they are still very padded.  I own a pair and use them when I want a break from my more minimalistic shoes.  

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I completely agree with both Esther and PortlandRolfer. I would like to add that strengthening the muscles of the foot also plays an inportant role in realigning bunions. 

This article on "how to prevent bunions from getting worse" should help a lot. 

Esther has an excellent video on an exercise she calls the Inchworm here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=48&v=9poCBZhaVSc

I highly suggest checking it out!

Hope this helps Madeleine!

Best,

Jason Hughes

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