Pain on the outside of the leg? Could it be your orthotic? What you wear on your feet amplifies the effect of the orthotic.

This woman presented with right-sided pain on the outside of her leg after hiking approximately an hour. She noticed a prominence of the arch in her right orthotic. She hikes in a rigid Asolo boot ( see below). Remember that footwear amplifies the effect of an orthotic!

In the pictures below you can see the prominent arch. The orthotic has her “over corrected” so that she toes off in varus on that side. The rigid footwear makes the problem worse. The peroneus group is working hard (Especially the peroneus longus) ¬†to try and get the first Ray down to the ground.

The “fix” was to soften the arch of the orthotic and grind some material out. Look at the pictures where the pen is pointing to see how some of the midsole material was taken out. Notice how I ground it somewhat medial to further soften the arch.

She felt better much better after this change and is now a “happy hiker” ūüôā

One way to correct an dysfunctional Extensor Hallucis Brevis

The Extensor Hallicus Brevis, or EHB  (beautifully pictured above causing the  extension (dorsiflexion) of the proximal big to is an important muscle for descending the distal aspect of the 1st ray complex (1st metatarsal and medial cunieform) as well as extending the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint.

Since this muscle is frequently dysfunctional, and is one of THE muscles than can lower the head of the 1st metatarsal, along with the peroneus longus and most likely the tibialis posterior (through its attachment to the 1st or medial cunieform), needling can often assist in normalizing function and works especially well, when coupled with an appropriate rehab program. Here is one way to needle it effectively. 

Thoughts on the adductor grouping to ponder. 

I found this while prepping for the dry needling course I am teaching this weekend and thought you may enjoy it. Though the primary actions of the addcutors are well established, secondary actions (whether they are acually internal or external rotators) remains to be elucidated.

Here is a nice abstract that supports the dynamic function of them as external rotators (eccentrically) during gait.

“Anatomical texts agree on most muscle actions, with a notable exception being the action of the adductors of the hip in the transverse plane. Some texts list an action of the adductor brevis (AB), adductor longus (AL), and/or adductor magnus (AM) as internal rotation, whereas others list an action of external rotation. The purpose of this article is to present a functional model in support of the action of external rotation. Transverse plane motion of the femur at the hip during normal gait is driven by subtalar joint motion during the loading response, terminal stance, and preswing phases. During the loading response, the subtalar joint pronates, and the talus adducts. This talar adduction results in the lower leg, and subsequently the femur, internally rotating. During terminal stance and preswing, the opposite occurs; the subtalar joint supinates as the talus abducts in response to forces generated from the lower extremity and in the forefoot. Electromyographic (EMG) studies indicate varied activity in the AB, AL, and AM during the loading response, terminal stance, and preswing phases of the gait cycle. A careful analysis of EMG activity and kinematics during gait suggests that, in the transverse plane, the adductors may be eccentrically controlling internal rotation of the femur at the hip during the loading response, rather than the previously reported role as concentric internal rotators. In addition, these muscles may also concentrically produce external rotation of the femur at the hip during terminal stance and preswing. Physical therapists should consider this important function of the hip adductors during gait when evaluating a patient and designing an intervention program. Anatomical texts should consider listing the concentric action of external rotation of the femur at the hip as one action of the AB, AL, and AM, particularly when starting from the anatomic position.”

Leighton RD. A functional model to describe the action of the adductor muscles at the hip in the transverse plane.Physiother Theory Pract. 2006 Nov;22(5):251-62.Leighton RD. A functional model to describe the action of the adductor muscles at the hip in the transverse plane.Physiother Theory Pract. 2006 Nov;22(5):251-62.

Thinking on your feet. You have less than 20 minutes with this gentleman, as he has to leave to catch a plane. See how you did. 

Lateral foot pain and cowboy boots?

A 55 YO male patient presents with pain in his left foot area of the cuboid and tail of the fifth metatarsal.¬†¬†He was told that he had a ‚Äúlocked cuboid‚ÄĚ on this side by his chiropractor, who provided some treatment and temporary relief. There has been ¬†no history of trauma and Most recently, he has been wearing cowboy boots and doing “a lot of walking” particularly when he was over in Europe and feels this was a precipitating factor.

Watching him walk in his cowboy boots, the rear foot and heel plate of the cowboy boot is worn into varus. Gait evaluation reveals his left foot to remain in supination (and thus in varus) throughout the entire gait cycle. 

Examination of the foot revealed loss of long axis extension at the metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal articulations. The cuboid appeared to be moving appropriately. (to see why cuboid function is integral, see this post here. ) There was weakness in the peroneus brevis and peroneus longus musculature with reactive trigger points in the belly of each.  There is tenderness over the tail of the fifth metatarsal and the groove where the peroneal muscle travels through as well as in the peroneal tendon as it travels through here. 

So, what’s up?

This patient has peroneal tendonitis at the point around the foot as it goes around the tail of the fifth metatarsal. Discomfort is dull and achy in this area.  The cowboy boot is putting his foot in some degree of supination (plantar flexion, inversion adduction); this combined with the rear foot varus (from wear on the heel) is creating excessive load on the peroneus longus, which is trying to descend the 1st ray and create a stable medial tripod. Look at the pictures above and check out this post here. 

What did we do?

Temporarily, we created a valgus post on an insole for him.  This will push him onto his 1st metatarsal as he goes through  midstance into termiinal stance. He was asked to discontinue using the boot until we could get the heel resoled with a very slight valgus cant. We also treated with neuromuscular acupuncture over the peroneal group (GB 34, GB 35, GB 36 and a few Ashi points between GB34 and 35) circle the Dragon about the tail of fifth metatarsal, GB41 as well as the insertion of peroneus onto the base of the first metatarsal (approximately SP4).   We K-taped the peroneus longus to facilitate function of peroneus longus.  He was given peroneus longus (plantarflexion and eversion) and peroneus brevis (dorsiflexion and eversion) theraband exercises. 

How did you do? Easy peasy, right? If they were all only this straight forward….


The Gait Guys. teaching you to think on your feet and increasing your gait literacy with each and every post. 


The case of the dropped (plantarflexed) metatarsal head. Or, “How metatarsalgia can happen”.

This gentleman came in with fore foot pain (3rd metatarsal head specifically), worse in the AM upon awakening, with first weight bearing that would improve somewhat during the day, but would again get worse at the end of the day and with increased activity. The began insidiously a few months ago (like so many problems do) and is getting progressively worse.

Rest and ice offer mild respite, as does ibuprofen. You can see his foot above. please note the “dropped” 3rd metatarsal head (or as we prefer to more accurately say, “plantarflexed 3rd metatarsal head”) and puffiness and prominence in that area on the plantar surface of the foot.¬†

To fully appreciate what is going on, we need to look at the anatomy of the short flexors of the foot. 

The flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) is innervated by the medial plantar nerve and arises from the medial aspect of the calcaneal tuberosity, the plantar aponeurosis (ie: plantar fascia) and the areas bewteen the plantar muscles. It travels distally, splitting at the metatarsal phalangeal articulation (this allows the long flexors to travel forward and insert on the distal phalanges); the ends come together to divide yet another time (see detail in picture above, yes, we are aware it is the hand, but the tendon structure in the foot is remarkably similar)) and each of the 2 portions of that tendon insert onto the middle of the middle phalanyx (1) 

As a result, in conjunction with the lumbricals, the FDB is a flexor of the metatarsal phalangeal joint, and proximal interphalangeal joint (although this second action is difficult to isolate. try it and you will see what we mean). In addition, it moves the axis of rotation of the metatasal phalangeal joint dorsally, to counter act the function of the long flexors, which, when tight or overactive, have a tendency to drive this articulation anteriorly (much like the function of the extensor hallucis brevis above in the drawing from Dr Michauds book, yes, we are aware this is a picture of the 1st MTP).

Can you see the subtle extension of the metatarsal phalangeal joint and flexion of the proximal interphalangeal joint in the picture?

We know that the FDB contracts faster than the other intrinsic muscles (2), playing a tole in postural stability (3) and that the flexors temporally should contract earlier than the extensors (4), assumedly to move this joint axis posteriorly and allow proper joint centration. When this DOES NOT occur, especially if there is a concomitant loss of ankle rocker, the metatarsal heads are driven into the ground (plantarflexion), causing irritation and pain. Metatarsalgia is born….

So what is the fix? Getting the FDB back on line for one. 

  • How about the toe waving exercise?¬†
  • How about the lift spread reach exercise?¬†
  • How about retraining ankle rocker and improving hip extension?
  • How about an orthotic with a metatarsal pad in the short term?¬†
  • How about some inflammation reducing modalities, like ice and pulsed ultrasound. Maybe some herbal or enzymatic anti inflammatories?

The Gait Guys. Increasing your gait and foot literacy with each and every post. 


2. Tosovic D1, Ghebremedhin E, Glen C, Gorelick M, Mark Brown J.The architecture and contraction time of intrinsic foot muscles.J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2012 Dec;22(6):930-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2012.05.002. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

3.Okai LA1, Kohn AF. Quantifying the Contributions of a Flexor Digitorum Brevis Muscle on Postural Stability.Motor Control. 2014 Jul 15. [Epub ahead of print]

4. Zelik KE1, La Scaleia V, Ivanenko YP, Lacquaniti F.Coordination of intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles during walking.Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014 Nov 25. [Epub ahead of print]