Practicing yoga barefoot makes your feet stronger and more mobile, but this is only part of the answer. Awareness and alignment are often the overlooked answers as to why yogis practice with naked feet.
Yoga requires you to bring awareness to your feet in practically every pose. The foundation of many asanas (yoga poses) start with the feet so a barefoot practice will make it easier to notice how the soles of the feet feel, from heels to toes, as they spread into the mat. For instance, in Tadasana notice if you spread your weight evenly into your feet or do you put more weight on the inner vs. outer edges. In balancing poses, notice how rooting all corners of the feet into the mat gives you more stability and greater connection to the ground below. With shoes and socks on, awareness of the feet is almost non-existent. Additionally, confined feet make it very challenging to flow smoothly from one pose to the next.
Healthy alignment is key to a healthy pose. Practicing barefoot you’ll become not only more aware of your feet but a better judge of your alignment in asanas. You’ll have a better feel and view of your feet in relation to your knees, hips, etc. Remember, everything starts with the feet. If you’ve ever visited an orthopaedist for knee pain, the first thing he does is take a look at your shoes. The feet can tell a story…how a person moves, stands, etc. Healthy feet are central to healthy alignment.
Think of yoga as a vacation for your feet. Let them be free. Your body will thank you.