Osteopaths DON’T just treat spines (PART 7: Big toes matter too)

We generally take our big toes for granted, unless we kick a table or chair accidentally.
But without our big toes we would have:
-> Terrible balance
-> An increased risk of Knee issues (as the knees would have to move more to compensate) (Paterson, 2013)
-> An increased risk of low back issues (as our big toes help us to absorb impact forces) (Menz, 2013)
-> Reduced stride length which decreases Forward Movement When Walking Or Running.

I Have Lost Count Of The Number Of clients Who are having to compensate in all sorts of ways because one of their big toes doesn’t move.

Why does the muscles and joints of our big toe tighten up?

#1st reason:
We put our feet into inflexible shoes/trainers which encourage us to walk flat footed.
#2nd reason:
Our daily step count is far less then our ancestors
In short feet muscles tighten up, because we don’t move our feet enough!!
#3rd reason:
An old injury that we did not rehabilitate. Stubbing our toe or straining it “turf toe”, will make us limp for awhile, and can lead to a lifelong low-level limp if…..
moving other joints more to take the strain away from our toe becomes a habit.

So how to loosen up tight big toes?
This depends on where your point A and point Z is.

Point A: how tight you currently are in your big toes.
Point Z: the maximum amount toe bones will let you move. In other words the ceiling limit to how much movement potential your bog toe joints have.

Keep tension in the foot and toe.
The big toe muscles should be strong enough to propel us forward, not floppy.


LEVEL one:
-> Big toe pull + wiggles

-> standing tall heel raises

-> Seated Big Toe Lift

LEVEL two:
-> Hand supported rocking squat on toes

-> extra upright Split squat

-> lower Body Golf Swing

LEVEL three:
-> Rocking squat on hands and knees

-> split squat with Charles angels arms

-> Toe squat (often called postural squat)

-> Wall supported rocking left to right whilst toe squatting

-> Extra Slow Toe Squat

-> Split squat and Charlie’s angels arms with Front Foot Elevated

-> Extra slow Split squat with Front Foot Elevated

(It is worth remembering that reduced mobility goes hand in hand with weakness. The muscles around the big toes may be right but they would be weak in a lengthened position. Why would they be strong at lengths they do not get put into?)


Concurrent foot pain is common in people with knee osteoarthritis and impacts health and functional status: data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, Paterson, 2013

Foot posture, foot function and low back pain: the Framingham Foot Study, Menz, 2013