4 Ever Fit Tips – The Great Big Toe
The big toe is also known as the great toe, which is what we all should want our big toe to be. If it isn’t great, it may lead to problems. The great toe joint, also known as the first MTP joint, may be the most important joint in your body that you never think about until it hurts. It may never hurt, but it may be broken. I don’t mean broken as in cracked, but rather broken as in dysfunctional.
Your foot is composed of 26 bones and 33 joints and serves three primary functions: transmitting weight to the ground, balancing posture, and assisting ambulation. These all work simultaneously to provide our upright posture and mobility. The design of the foot is amazing because of its spring-like capability, adaptability, and its skill in compensating for decreased mobility.
Proper foot and toe mechanics not only make movements more efficient, but they also provide greater stability and prevent injuries to other joints in the body. Take a look at the picture below. Notice how the big toe on the left leans toward the second toe to the right. The picture on the right has a straighter big toe with space between it and its neighbor. The foot on the right is more stable and can produce better forward-moving forces, while the foot on the left is likely to have to compensate by over rotating elsewhere in the body. The need to prevent rotation elsewhere can put stress on the arch, knee, or hips. This stress is often the cause of some common runner injuries such as IT band inflammation, plantar fasciitis, and piriformis syndrome. This dysfunction may also put an athlete at greater risk for an ACL tear.
Fig. 1: Hallux valgus versus the correct position.1
We want our big toe to be as mobile and aligned as possible. The condition of our feet varies in multiple ways, but if your feet don’t look the way they used to, don’t worry, you can still improve or maintain your toe stability and mobility. Joint stiffness often results from compensating for weak muscles in and around joints such as the toe joint. Improving our muscle function and muscle strength are vital to improving joint mobility.
The links below will lead you to two videos showing techniques and exercises you can do to strengthen and stimulate the muscles in your foot , helping you to regain and maintain proper great toe mechanics. Wakers video and spikey ball video
Our next few blogs will be about specific muscles or joints and how you can improve body function through simple exercises and techniques. Functional improvements lead to better movement patterns, better performance, and typically less pain and fewer injuries.
Here are some fun foot facts:
The human foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons.
25% of all the bones in the human body are in your feet. When these bones are out of alignment, so is the rest of your body.
75% of Americans will experience foot problems at one time or another in their lives.
A 2½-inch high heel can increase the load on the forefoot by 75%.
Humans have nearly 8,000 nerves in our feet.
The average adult takes 4,000-6,000 steps a day.
Feet are at their largest at the end of the day.
In a pair of feet, there are 250,000 sweat glands.
Feet are spreading to support extra weight as our populations pack on the pounds. According to a 2014 study by the College of Podiatry in the UK, the average foot has increased two sizes since the 1970s.
Women experience foot problems four times more often than men.
The average woman walks three miles more per day than the average male.
9 out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small for their feet.
Plantar fasciitis affects about 10% of the U.S. population.
During the first year of a child’s life, their feet grow rapidly, reaching almost half their adult size. By 12, a child’s foot is about 90% of his or her adult length.
Walking is the best exercise for your feet. It contributes to your general health by improving circulation and weight control.
The pressure on the feet when running can be as much as four times the runner’s body weight.
The average person will walk about 115,000 miles in a lifetime — that’s more than four times around the Earth!
Shu, Yang, Qichang Mei, Justin Fernandez, Zhiyong Li, Neng Feng, and Yaodong Gu. ” Foot morphological difference between habitually shod and unshod runners.” PloS One 10, no. 7 (2015): e0131385.