Toes have many more important functions than we give them credit for. We hide them away all day in shoes and think of them as one unit. However, from everyday common movements to athletic endeavors our toes are incredibly important.
Their biggest functions include balance/stabilization, gait (walking and running), and shock absorption.
We discuss the toes a lot when teaching movements like the squat and deadlift. Often we cue the athlete to grip the floor with their big toe while shifting their weight towards the little toe. This creates a sense of gripping the ground. Many of those we work with, however, cannot accurately feel this because their toes have simply been neglected throughout over time.
Think you haven’t ignored your little piggies? Experiment and see how well you can move your big toe without moving any other toes. Got that? How about only moving your middle toe?
When we can’t perform these movements it simply means our brain has forgotten how to connect to those motor neurons. Simple practice will bring this back.
Everyone should be working on the control and mobility of their toes, but if you have a lack of balance or your walking pattern is shortened because you cannot bend your big toe make sure you incorporate the exercises below into your week.
These are easiest first thing in the morning before you put on shoes. At first you will likely just be making attempts and unable to do the movement completely. That’s great! Just keep doing them daily and it will come along.
- Firmly plant your feet and toes on the ground
- Lift only your big toes 3 times
- Lift only your little toes 3 times
- Lift all your toes
- Keeping the little toes in the air tap the floor 3 times with your big toe
- Keeping the big toe in the air tap the floor 3 times with your little toes
- That’s it! Easy!
Big Toe PAILS/RAILS
- Place only your big toe on an upright like a door frame
- Find a gentle stretch through the underside of the toe and passively stretch for 2:00
- Begin slowly pressing the big toe into the upright without moving the foot
- Once you build to 90% of your max effort press for :15 seconds
- Immediately try to pull your big toe towards the top of your ankle. Do not move your foot, only your big toe. Hold this for :10 seconds