Why Is Yoga Done Barefoot?

Woman's finger interlaced in big toe of her foot while in a yoga pose

Arman Zhenikeyev / Getty Images

Unless you are a professional lifeguard, freelance writer, or yoga teacher, chances are you spend most of your day wearing shoes. And shoes are great for doing lots of things: mountain climbing, city-sidewalk pounding, disco dancing. But not for yoga.

At yoga studios, it is common practice (and good etiquette) to remove your street shoes at the door. (Which brings to mind another etiquette rule concerning shoes: don't walk across the yoga room floor in your shoes before taking them off. In doing so, you're tracking in outside dirt and being disrespectful.)

Bare feet are better able to find stable, balanced contact with the floor, which is essential for standing poses. Shoes are clunky and inflexible and socks are slippery.

Doing yoga with bare feet provides a rare opportunity to stretch and strengthen all the muscles in your feet, which can help support your arches and prevent foot pain.

When to Keep Your Shoes on in Yoga

However, taking off your shoes and socks is less of a "must-do" and more of a "strongly recommended." If you have an injury or ailment that prevents you from going barefoot, you can certainly work around that by wearing flexible-soled shoes or grippy socks. There are even some scenarios (hiking yoga comes to mind) where shoes are necessary. Still, while it's possible to do yoga in shoes, it's not ideal.

If you are hesitant to go barefoot because you feel self-conscious about your feet, try to get past it. Yoga is all about accepting your body for what it can do, starting from the ground up.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.