The case of the missing toes.

OK, a bit dramatic but as you can see in the plantar view above, all you can see is the toe pads, the rest of the digit shafts are hidden.  

This is a classic example of a foot imbalance. We have talked about this many times before but the attached video link here  ( ) shows it very well.  Read on.

There is shortness and increased resting tone in the short toe extensors (EDB, extensor digitorum brevis) and long toe flexors (FDL=flexor dig. longus) with insufficiency in the short flexors and long extensors. This pairing creates a hammer toe effect.  In the video, you can see that these toes are showing early hammering characteristics, but not yet rigid ones. The key word there is, “yet” so this is still a correctable phenomenon at this point.  You can also clearly see the distal migration of the metatarsal fat pad. The fat pad has migrated forward of the MET heads and is being pulled forward by the excess tension in the long toe flexors. As this imbalance in the toe flexors and extensors develops, the forefoot mechanics get impaired and the lumbricals (which anchor off off the FDL) become challenged. Their contributory biomechanics, amongst other things, help to keep the fat pad in place under the metatarsal heads. You can see in this video link above that by proximally migrating (towards the heel) just the fat pad back under the MET heads the resting mechanics of the toes changes, for the better.  

Remember the other functions of the lumbricals ?  their other major functions, namely: thinking from a distal to proximal orientation (a closed chain mode of thinking), they actually plantarflex the metatarsal on the fixed phalynx, assist in dorsiflexion of the ankle, and help to keep the toes from clawing from over recruitment of the flexor digitorum longus.

Here is another blog post we did on a similar presentation.

Proper balance of the toe flexors and extensors, and their harmony with lumbricals and fat pad amongst other things will give healthy long flat toes that can help the proximal biomechanics of the foot.  If you have neuromas, metatarsalgia, hammer toes, claw toes, migrating toes, bunions or hallux valgus amongst many other things, this might be a good place to start.   

There are exercises that can help this presentation, but understanding “the why” is the first step.

Shawn and Ivo

The Gait Guys