Question From Australia on Yoga Toes for Running With Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Yoga Toes for Running

Question from JW, Perth, Australia:

I have been doing the yoga toes stretch after reading your blog on how it helps in get rid of toes numb pain during claudication exercise.   The pain normally comes after about 5km mostly on the big & 2nd toe.   I  normally do 3 sets  x 30s  of yoga toes exercises daily with little improvement.  I am currently on 4E width shoes.  Maybe i should upgrade to 6E to give the toes more room to spread out.

Do you mind sharing what sort of daily toes widening stretches that do?

Hi JW,

Firstly, I incorporate this work into my life every day. While walking, running, during kick workouts in the pool, and while water running, even as I’m lying in bed about to fall asleep. I only use Yoga Toes a few times a week, now, as I can do plenty of work without them. It’s a matter of building good habits.

That said:

The use of Yoga Toes is one small part of a multistep process described in my book, “How to Fight the Crippling Pain of Peripheral Arterial Disease.” The ebook is available for free download at this link. If you want the paperback, you’ll need to order it from Amazon, at this link (maybe a different link in Australia), as the mailing costs are beyond my budget. Yoga toes will slowly separate your metatarsal bones, reducing pressure on blood vessels that lie between them.

Yoga Toes for Running
Foot Bones, Arteries and Veins Top View; copyright purchased from ShutterStock. Note vessels running between the metatarsal bones. A little Anatomy can go a long way toward understanding PAD.

However, this is just the beginning of the process that took me seven years to develop, and in spite of all this work it’s still not easy to run with claudication, as I found out, while qualifying for World’s Half Ironman Championships, earlier this year. It took a lot of cross-training in the pool and on the bike.

Yoga Toes for Running
Here is one of my standard bike workouts as training builds. I find that PAD has no effect on my bike training, except when on steep hill climbs, when I have a little right calf tightness.

In the pool, I recommend water running and lots of kick work (on your back) to increase foot flexibility. Most importantly, when it comes to widening your feet, in addition to Yoga Toe work, it’s important to spread your toes as you run, as your foot leaves the ground, and to flex them to stroke the ground as you make impact. AS LITTLE IMPACT AS POSSIBLE. This is a really tricky process. You have to feel your way through, and tell your body to send blood to your feet (it’s listening).

Here are the issues covered in the book:

  • Spread your feet.
  • Soften them.
  • Use the best socks and shoes – JW, shoes wide enough to spread your toes, not so wide that your feet float around. That risks sprains and blisters.
  • Run with your whole body (See Jack Heggie’s great book).
  • Flex your toes to improve venous return.
  • Maintain whole body flexibility.
  • Increase strength through weight training (not weight lifting).
  • Gently pick up your pace as you progress, and remember, “The first mile is always the worst mile,” PAD or no PAD.
  • Monitor your progress, clinically and with a pulse oximeter.
  • Build a support team.

It took me seven years to work all this out, and it is still a daily challenge.

Determination is critical, my antipodean friend, which I know you have, and keep up the good work.


-kev aka FitOldDog

Yoga toes for running
MRI scans through the thighs of three guys. Grey is muscle, white is fat, clear ring around the central white spot (bone marrow) is the femoral bone. Note the loss of both muscle and bone mass in the sedentary guy.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.