The Big Toe. The Big Boss

Do you know who is the Boss?

Yes, it is the big toe.

The big toe is much more important to your posture, to your balance and to your performance than you thought! It can take twice as much load and can produce twice as much force as all of the rest of your toes combined.

How many people have distorted toes and feet, big toe crossover from tight and narrow shoes? Over pronated actions on the forefoot due to foot and ankle weakness and poor muscle control within the more than 20 muscles of the foot? A lot.

Altogether we have 34 muscles that control foot and ankle action. 14 of them are in the lower legs that are directly tying into the foot. Impressive numbers of stabilizers and prime movers that can actually help propel us faster and help us develop more speed, performance, and control.

When the big toe or hallux is firmly planted on the ground it controls the amount of foot rolling or pronation and when strong allows us to push off the ground with a claw like action, lifting and pulling all at the same time. Without the big toe fully engaged, we will be slower and lose stability, balance, and agility. The hallux or big toe has the ability to draw the bodyweight forward by pressing into the ground and lifting us. The stronger the flexion of the big toe the more force generated in push off. And when it is misaligned, we see over pronation, which shifts the bodyweight in a transverse plane and causes a shearing force that travels up to the knees and can cause huge compression forces in the meniscus and ligament structures of the knee.

The big toe is our lower body balance receptor that must be positioned in a straight line that runs up the shin though the apex of the kneecap and into the ASIS in the upper ilium of the pelvis.

To strengthen the foot and toes it is good to run and train barefoot as they can give us that high-octane performance that we may be missing out on.

Let’s look at shoes and what they do to our toes and muscles. Shoes are like coffins for the foot. Your feet can be casted into the shoes with no ability to adjust to the surface that you are moving upon. Shoes cut us off from the rest of the world.

My thinking is that if the foot and toes lack balance and co-ordination, you must train them. If they are weak strengthen them. The body’s 6th sense is totally neurologically driven and acts like a 3D map that you live within. The joints monitor the position that you are in in relation to all the other joints stacked up above and below. By wearing shoes we cut off that neural connection with the ground we stand upon.

I like clients to do weight bearing exercises in bare feet so that the fascia, ligaments, and soft tissue structures of the foot get a chance to really work hard and get stronger against the hard surfaces. When we see flat feet, do we need to put an orthotic or a cushion in the shoes? Does this not make the foot weaker? Can’t we simply get the clients to realize that the arch is driven by muscle activation and that it can be trained to get strong just like any other muscle we work on in the gym?

When walking, the toes are in contact with the ground some 75% of the time. The toes help the feet bear the weight when walking, especially our big toe. And then when the big toe raises or extends, it creates tension in the plantar fascia on the base of the foot that acts like a huge spring ligament. The energy recoil is released when you push your toes into the ground. Without the toes you cannot use the plantar fascia force to push off and we would walk like a peg leg or tin man instead. If you hurt the big toe or have Arthritis or swelling in the joint and try to use the other toes to push off it doesn’t work! You develop a faulty gait pattern.

My advice is to get the toes moving, strong, and aligned. And see how that affects the rest of your posture and kinetic chain.

You are only as strong as your weakest link!!

We at Motion Dynamics, are specialized in posture corrective exercises, we can help you.

Chris Watts


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