Should you wear socks during yoga (especially in cold studios)?

As the nights draw in and temperatures plummet, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to have ice-cold feet in the yoga studio, but is it advisable to wear socks during class? 

I practise yoga in my bedroom every morning, and during the winter, I often start the class wearing my fluffy bed socks. They’re completely impractical and downright dangerous. They’re thick, have zero grip and are constantly falling down – a recipe for disaster on the mat. And yet, they’re almost impossible to remove when it’s cold.

While you can buy specialist yoga socks, there are pros and cons to wearing any kind of sock while practising yoga.

Socks interfere with grounding

Traditional yoga practitioners would frown upon wearing socks during yoga, as they interfere with the spiritual ‘grounding’ element of the practice.

“Classically, yoga is always practised barefoot,” explains yoga teacher Rakhee, founder of Superari Life.

“This is because yoga is primarily about energy. Our feet draw energy from the earth below and we can become far more grounded and connected through the energy from ourselves, moving downwards. 

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“According to yoga philosophy, we have chakras (or energy centres) that represent different qualities and characteristics within us. When we practise barefoot, one of the primary chakras called the muladhara, or root chakra, which sits at the base of the spine, gets activated.

“This energy centre helps give us a sense of belonging and inner reassurance. It also represents the base of a tree, with our legs being the roots. So, our balance, connection to ourselves and grounding of our emotions runs in many ways through our feet (energetically speaking).”

Research also shows that wearing socks during movement can decrease sensory input –  and that’s because there are over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot.

“I rediscovered my feet the first time I did baddha konasana (butterfly pose), where you join the soles of the feet together,” explains Elodie Gythiel, advanced Iyengar yoga student and co-founder of Live Yoga Teachers.

“The skin of the foot is so sensitive, it would be a shame not to use it.”

If you’ve ever given yourself a mini foot massage during butterfly pose, you’ll know what we mean…  

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Compromised grip and balance

On a more practical note, wearing socks can cause issues with grip, as yoga mats are designed for bare feet and feet can slide around inside the sock fabric.

“Socks create instability – the combination of socks on some mats means people often slip,” explains Rakhee. “This can impact postures, especially during downward dog, where we really need to feel balanced through our feet.”

Balancing postures such as half moon, standing splits and tree pose can also become trickier while wearing socks.

“Socks affect balance, as fabric is a soft surface, so it makes the floor a little more unstable,” advises Gythiel.  

Can you wear socks during yoga? Most teachers recommend you take them off at the start of your flow – and with good reason.

“Practising some postures on thicker sticky mats is already challenging, so if you add a layer of fabric, the ground becomes too soft for the balance to be held. 

“Socks also make it harder for a practitioner to spread their toes, as often instructed in yoga classes – you would never spread your toes as much wearing socks, as your feet are restricted.

“Making your feet as wide as possible is a good tip to getting better balance.”

Wearing regular socks also prevents your teacher from being able to see if you’re spreading your toes correctly, which can prevent important corrections. 

What about specialist yoga socks?

There are a number of yoga toe socks on the market that feature non-slip soles and allow your toes to move individually. Check out this pair from Kimjaly, available for £8.99 from Decathlon. If you prefer socks that cover your feet but expose your toes, try this Toesox pair, available at Sock Shop for £10.99.

“Yoga socks don’t slide as much as there’s a dotted layer of grip on the soles,” explains Gythiel.

“However, nothing stops your feet from sliding inside the sock – it’s a little less risky to jump, but the socks must come off when you need to hold a pose for a long time, like a downward dog.” 

When are socks advised in yoga?

If you’re practising more static forms of yoga, you’ll be pleased to know that socks have the green light for these classes. Your body doesn’t create as much heat in these practices, so your feet may welcome that toasty extra layer.

“Socks are tolerated in slower types of yoga like yin or somatic yoga,” explains Gythiel. “In those classes, the pace is slower so you could feel cold – being warm is essential to be able to relax.

“Even Iyengar yoga teachers recommend wearing socks when it’s cold for legs up the wall or savasana, where you lay down at the end of the practice.”

If you want to wear socks because you’re worried about having your bare feet on a shared yoga mat, there’s a solution. 

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“It’s understandable if you don’t want the soles of your feet touching a studio mat that’s been used by other people,” says Libby Stevenson, yoga teacher and head of yoga at Yoga for Harley Street at Home.

“In that case, I would recommend spraying the mat with an antiseptic spray (most yoga studios have them these days or bring your own) and cleaning the mat prior to use.”

Of course, some people may have issues with the way their feet look, and feel more comfortable covering them in a public class. So, if not wearing socks will prevent you from practising yoga, then we say, “Wear the damn socks!”

It’s your practice, after all – just wear them with caution. 

Images: Getty

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