Yes, you are looking INSIDE this toe. That IS a screw and metal plate in that toe. 

What kind of stuff finds its way into your office ? I get all kinds of things it seems, at least once a day something comes in that makes me scratch my head. 

This client just wanted my opinion and thoughts on their toe and their gait once they are ambulating again. They have had multiple surgeries to this poor foot. You can see multiple scars over multiple digits and metatarsals.  This is the 3rd surgery to the big toe, the last 2 have been attempts at correcting failed prior surgeries. This is obviously the last straw surgery, total fusion of the metatarsophalangeal joint.  What is interesting in this case is that this plate was taken out about 4 weeks ago, and the skin was stretched back over and the wound closed up (forgot to take update photo for you). I saw it yesterday, and I was amazed at how healed up the area was. They are months post op now, and they can load the toe heavily now, that is always amazing to me. The body’s healing ability is a miracle. Of course, if you have been with us here long enough you will know that my “concern button” immediately got pushed but the client was proactive and asked the question before my oral diarrhea of concerns started.

So, they wanted to know about their gait and what to watch out for.  Off the top of your head, without thinking, you should be able to rattle off the following:

  • impaired toe off
  • premature heel rise
  • watchful eye on achilles issues
  • impaired hip extension and gluteal function
  • impaired terminal ankle plantar flexion (because they cannot access the synergists FHL and FHB)
  • impaired terminal ankle dorsi flexion (because they cannot access the synergists EHL and EHB)
  • lateral toe off which will promote ankle and foot inversion, which will challenge the peronei
  • frontal plane hip-pelvis drift because of the lateral toe off and lack of glute function
  • possible low back pain/tightness because of the  frontal plane pelvis drift and from altered hip extension motor patterning (and glute impairment)
  • possible knee pain from tracking challenges because they cannot complete medial tripod loading and thus sufficient pronation to internally spin the limb to get the knee to sagittal loading
  • impaired arm swing, more notable contralaterally

There is more, but that is enough for now. You need to know total body mechanics, movement patterns, normal gait cycle events (you have to know normal to know abnormal) and more. You have to know what normal is to understand when you are looking at abnormal.

* So, dial this back to something more simple, a “stubbed toe”, a painful sesamoid, painful pronation or a turf toe or hallux limitus.  They will all have the same list of complications that need to be evaluated, considered and addressed. This list should convey the importance that if your client has low back pain, examining the big toe motion is critical. Also, if you are just looking at the foot and toe in these cases, pack your bags … .  you don’t belong here. If you are just adjusting feet and toes and playing with orthotics while the list above does not constantly file back and forth through your brain, again, pack all your bags, grab your cat and leave town (just kidding, try reading more and get to some seminars).

If you know the complicated things, then the simple things become … … . . simple.

Your local treadmill gait analysis guru should know all of this if they are going to recommend shoes and exercises. Shame on them if there is no physical exam however. The data roadmap from the gait analysis software print out is not going to get you even out of the driveway let alone down the street. The data is going to tell you what you are doing to compensate, not tell you what is wrong. You must know anatomy, biomechanics, neurology, orthopedics and how to apply them to get the recipe right, not just which shoe in a store will unload the medial tripod of the foot or which exercise will lengthen your stride on the left. 

… .  sorry for the rant, too much coffee this morning, obviously.

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Part 2: How relaxed, or shall we say “sloppy” is your gait ? The Cross over gait /Frontal plane drift gait.

In this photo (*credit below) the blurred right swing leg tells you this client has been photographed during gait/running motion. Can you see it ? Have we educating you well ?

Human gait is cyclical. A problem on one side will corrupt the other and the cycle begins, and usually continues until the cycle is broken. 

We wish to remind you of our time hammered principle that when the foot is on the ground the glutes are heavily in charge, and when the foot is in the air, the abdominals are heavily in charge.  For us to move cleanly and efficiently one would assume that the best way to do that would be to ensure that the lower 2 limbs are capable of doing the exact same things, with the same timing, same skill, same endurance and same strength. This goes for the upper 2 limbs as well, and then of course the synchronizing of the four in a cohesive antiphasic effort. This would be perfect and clean gait, a gait that would unlikely ever suffer pain or problems. Symmetrical durability wins every time. 

This photo demonstrates the cross over gait and we are beating it to a pulp here, again.  In this running gait photo, this momentary snapshot of global movement, it shows this client is engaging movement into the left frontal plane excessively, they have drifted to the left far outside the vertical plumb line from the foot. The question is, it is excessively enough to present as painful pathology or is it a painless problem at this time? We call what you see here a frontal plane drift, but more so, the cross over gait. You can even see suggestion of the left frontal drift as evidenced by the concavity of the lumbar spine curve to the left.  It should be clear that the right pendulum leg will scrape the left calf on its way through its oblique pendulum swing (instead of a pure forward sagittal swing) to a foot strike somewhere near to the line they are closely running on (a theoretical line). This is the cross over gait.  After this left frontal plane drift and right cross over, there will likely be a corresponding right frontal plane drift and left cross over to compensate on the very next step. Thus, the cycle begins, each on feeding and compensating off the other. To prevent it, it means you have to have an extra bit more of lateral line strength in the gluteus medius and lateral abdominal sling to fend off pathology. You have to  have the stability from S.E.S (skill, endurance, strength) to stack the hip, knee and foot over top of each other.  You have to have enough ankle stability and a host of other clean and strong and skilled layers to fend it off to be precise. One must be able to find functional stability in the stacked posture, and this can take some training and time.  Make no mistake, this is a faulty movement pattern, even if there is not pain (yet), this is not efficient motor patterning and something will have to give. Whether that is lateral foot pain from more supination strategizing, more tone in the ITB perhaps causing lateral knee or hip pain, posterior ischeofemoral impingment syndrome, a compensation in arms swing or thoracic spine rotation or head tilt etc … .  something has to give, something has to compensate.

To complicate the cyclical scenario, the time usually used to move sagittally will be partially used to move into, and back out of, the frontal plane. This will necessitate some abbreviations in the left stance phase timely mechanical events. Some biomechanical events will have to be abbreviated or sped through and then the right limb will have to adapt to those changes. These are simple gait problems we have talked about over and over again here on the gait guys blog. (Search “arm swing” on our blog and you will find 50+ articles around this topic.) These compensation patterns will include expressed weaknesses in various parts of the human frame as part of the pattern

Are you able to find the problem in the never ending loop of compensations of your clients and find a way to unwrinkle their system one logical piece at a time, or will you just chose to strengthen the wrinkled system and hope that the new strength on top of the compensations is adequate for you or your client ? One should not be forever sentenced to daily or weekly rehabilitative sessions or homework to negate and alleviate symptoms, this is a far more durable machine than that. Fix the problem.  Merely addressing things locally can be a crime.  If you are seeing an arm swing change, you would be foolish not to look at the opposite lower limb and foot at the very least, and of course assess spinal rotation, lateral flexion and hinging as well as core mobility and stability. 

For you neuro nerds, remember what Dr. Ivo says, that the receptors from the central spine and core fire into the midline vermis of the cerebellum (one of the oldest parts of our brain, called the paleo cerebellum); and these pathways, along with other cerebellar efferents, fire our axial extensor muscles that keep us upright in the gravitational plane and provide balance or homeostasis through stability.  It is why they assessed and addressed.  

Or, if this is too much thinking for you, … you can just train harder and get stronger . .  . in all your compensation patterns, after all, it is easier than figuring out why and how a right ankle for example started the whole mess, if in fact that is even the first piece of the puzzle.  No one said this would be easy. 

So, how sloppy is your gait ?

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

________________________

References and Credits

Note: photo linked to this article. Photo credit/property: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (Copyright Reuters 2016).  

Article: Workouts focused on motor skills may help ease lower back pain

 http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/01/14/workouts-focused-on-motor-skills-may-help-ease-lower-back-pain.html

Falling hard; Using supination to stop the drop.

“One thing, affects all things. One change necessitates global change. The more you know, the more you will see (and understand).  The more you know, see and understand, the more responsible you will and should feel to get it right and the more global your approach should become. If your head does not spin at times with all the issues that need to be juggled, you are likely not seeing all the issues you should be seeing.” -Dr. Allen (from an upcoming CME course)

This is a case that has been looked at before but today with new video. This is a client with a known anatomic short leg on the right (sock-less foot) from a diseased right hip joint.  

In this video, it is clear to see the subconscious brain attempting to lengthen the right leg by right foot strike laterally (in supination) in an attempt to keep the arch and talus as high as possible.  Supination should raise the arch and thus the resting height of the talus, which will functionally lengthen the leg.  This is great for the early stance phase of gait and help to normalize pelvis symmetry, however, it will certainly result in (as seen in this video) a sudden late stance phase pronation event as they move over to the medial foot for toe off. Pronation will occur abruptly and excessively, which can have its own set of biomechanical compensations all the way up the chain, from metatarsal stress responses and plantar fasciitis to hip rotational pathologies.  It will also result in a sudden plummet downwards back into the anatomic short leg as the functional lengthening strategy is aborted out of necessity to move forward.  

This is a case where use of a full length sole lift is imperative at all times. The closer you get to normalizing the functional length, the less you need to worry about controlling pronation with a controlling orthotic (controlling rate and extent of arch drop in many cases). Do not use a heel lift only in these cases, you can see this client is already rushing quickly into forefoot loading from the issues at hand, the last thing you should be doing is plantarflexing the foot-ankle and helping them get to the forefoot even faster !  This will cause toe hammering and gripping and set the client up for further risk to fat pat displacement, abnormal metatarsal loading, challenges to the lumbricals as well as imbalances in the harmony of the long and short flexors and extensors (ie. hammer toes). 

How much do you lift ?  Be patient, go little by little. Give time for adaptation. Gauge the amount on improved function, not trying to match the right and the left precisely, after all the two hips are not the same to begin with. So go with cleaner function over choosing matching equal leg lengths.  Give time for compensatory adaptation, it is going to take time.  

Finally, do not forget that these types of clients will always need therapy and retraining of normal ankle rocker and hip extension mechanics as well as lumbopelvic stability (because they will be most likely be dumping into anterior pelvic tilt and knee flexion during the sudden forefoot loading in the late midstance phase of gait). So ramp up those lower abdominals (especially on the right) !  

Oh, and do not forget that left arm swing will be all distorted since it pairs with this right limp challenge. Leave those therapeutic issues to the end, they will not change until they see more equal functional leg lengths. This is why we say never (ok, almost never) retrain arm swing until you know you have two closely symmetrical lower limbs. Otherwise you will be teaching them to compensate on an already faulty motor compensation. Remember, to get proper anti-phasic gait, or better put, to slow the tendency towards spinal protective phasic gait, you need the pelvic and shoulder “girdles” to cooperate. When you get it right, opposite arm and leg will swing together in same pendulum direction, and this will be matched and set up by an antiphasic gait.

One last thing, rushing to the right forefoot will force an early departure off that right limb during gait, which will have to be caught by the left quad to dampen the premature load on the left. They will also likely have a left frontal plane pelvis drift which will also have to be addressed at some point or concurrently. This could set up a cross over gait in some folks, so watch for that as well.

“One thing, affects all things. One change necessitates global change. The more you know, the more you will see (and understand).  The more you know, see and understand, the more responsible you will and should feel to get it right and the more global your approach should become. If your head does not spin at times with all the issues that need to be juggled, you are likely not seeing all the issues you should be seeing.” -Dr. Allen (from an upcoming CME course)

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys.

The “Dodgy Foot”, a UK runner’s dilemma.

We get “help me” emails from all over the world on a regular basis. Recently we received this photo from a runner in Oxford, UK,  The runner was frustrated, explaining a “dodgy foot”.  We like the word. 

dodg·y    däjē/

-dishonest or unreliable; potentially dangerous; of low quality.

We can guarantee you that the solution here to this runner’s form issue is not wholly at the foot which appears “in toed” and slanted and appears ready to kick the back of the right heel, not to mention the knees that are about to brush together.  Thus, merely working on their foot strike would be so remedial and corrupt that it would a crime. 

Ivo and I do not take on cases via the internet because we cannot give all the information because we cannot examine the client, many do offer such services but people are not being given the whole story and we pledged long ago not to be part of the problem.  Anyone who recommends exercises from things they see on a video gait analysis are basically doing the same disservice in our opinion. But sometimes, as in this case, their inquiry is simple, there is a photo or video and it allows us to highlight an important component of an individuals gait which can lead them on a road to appropriate discovery. This is one of those cases.  I will not be presenting a solution, because I do not have the examination information I need, but I will propose a solid thought process that further investigation may afford progress towards resolution.

This is a non-pathologic cross over gait in my mind until proven otherwise, there may be other sources, causes and components, but when it quacks like a duck you’d be silly not to check for webbed feet. This runner even confirmed upon questioning that the left foot scuffs the inside of the right ankle/shin often, both sides scuff in fact but more left shoe on right shin. No Einsteinian epiphany there. 

  • This means a narrow swing through  (adducting) left limb. 
  • This means stance and swing phase gluteus medius communication problems. 
  • This means swing leg foot targeting problems. 
  • This often suggests right, but sometimes both right and left, frontal plane pelvis sway problems which means pelvis control is challenged which means core lumbar stability control is challenged. 
  • This means adaptive arm swing changes from the clean norm.  
  • This does NOT mean this runner has pain, or pain yet, or maybe never will have pain but there are many determinants of that which I will discuss below. 

But, make no mistake, this is flawed gait mechanics. The left swing leg is clearly targeting a more medial placement, meaning limb adduction (active or passive or both is to be determined) and this is a product of the cross over gait (unfamiliar with the cross over gait ? SEARCH our blog for the term, you will need a few hours of free time to get through it all).  Some would call the cross over gait a lazy gait, but I would rather term it an efficient gait taken too far that it has now become a liability, a liability in which they can no longer stabilize frontal plane sway/drift. A wider gait on the other hand, as in most sprinters, is less efficient but may procure more power and the wider base is more stable affording less frontal plane drift. Just go walk around your home and move from a very narrow line walking gait to a wide gait and you will feel a more powerful engagement of the glutes. Mind you, this is not a fix for cross over gaits, gosh, if it was only that simple !

This runner must investigate whether there is right frontal plane drift, and if it is in fact occurring, find the source of the drift.  It can come from many places on either limb. (This client says they are scuffing both inside ankles, which is not atypical and so we likely have drift on both right and left). We have discussed many of them here in various places on the blog over the years. Now as for “Why” the foot looks in toed, well that can also come from many places. Quite simply the adducted limb once it leaves toe off can look like this. But, perhaps it is also a product of insufficient external rotation maintenance occurred during that left stance phase, affording more internal rotation which is being unchecked and observed here during early swing.  Remember though, if this is in fact a cross over gait result, in this gait the limb approaches the ground unstacked (foot is too far inside a left hip joint plumb line) the foot will greet the ground at a far lateral strike and in supination.  Pronation will thus be magnified and accelerated, if there is enough time before toe off. However, and you can try this on your own by walking around your home, put yourself in terminal stance at toe off. Make sure you have the foot inverted so you are toeing off the lateral toes (low gear toe off). Does this foot not look like the one in the photo ? Yes it does, now just lift the foot off the ground and you have reproduced this photo. And when combined with a right pelvis drift, the foot will sneak further medially appearing postured behind the right foot. 

Keep this in mind as well, final pronation and efficient hallux (big toe) toe off does often not occur in someone who strikes the ground on a far lateral foot. I am sure this runner will now be aware of how poorly they toe off of the big toe, the hallux.  They will tend to progress towards low gear toe off, off the lesser toes. This leaves the foot inverted and this is what you are seeing in her the photo above. That is a foot that is inverted and supinated and it carried through all the way through toe off and into early swing. It is a frequently component of the cross over gait, look for it, you will find it, often. 

Final thoughts, certainly this can be an isolated left swing phase gluteus medius weakness enabling an adducted swing limb thus procuring a faulty medial foot placement, but it is still part of the cross over phenomenon.  Most things when it comes to a linked human frame do not work in isolation.  But i will leave you with a complicating factor and hopefully you will realize that gait analysis truly does require a physical exam, and without it you could be missing the big picture problem.  What if she has a notable fixed anatomic internal tibia torsion on that left side. Yup, it could all be that simple, and that is not something you can fix, you learn to manage that one as a runner.  

* Side bar rant: Look at any google search of runners photos and you will see this type of swing limb foot posturing often, far too often.  And yes, you can take the stance that “I do it as well and i have no injuries or problems so what is the big deal?”.  Our response is often “you do have an issue, it may be anatomic or functional, but you do have an asymmetrical gait and you think it is not a problem, YET”. And maybe you will run till you are 6 feet under and not have a problem because you have accomodated over many years and you are a great compensator, yes, some people get lucky. Some people also do not run enough miles that these issues express themselves clinically so lets be fair. But some of these people are reality deniers and spend their life buying the newest brace or gadget, trying a different shoe insert, orthotic or new shoe of the month and shop over and over again for another video gait analysis expert who can actually fix their pain or problem. And then there are those who have a 45 minute home exercise program that they need to do to keep their problems at bay, managing, not fixing anything.  Or, they spend an hour a week on the web reading article after article on what are the top 4 exercises for iliotibial band syndrome for example. They shop for the newest Graston practitioner, the newest kinesio taping pattern, Voodoo bands, breathing patterns, compression socks etc.  And sometimes they are the ones that say they still dont have a problem.You get the drift.  Gosh darn it, find someone who knows what the hell they are doing and can help you fix the issues that are causing the problem.  And yes, some of the above accoutrements may be assistive in that journey. 

I have dealt with this unique toe off issue way too many times not to roll my eyes at it any longer. It is to the point that it is an automated evaluation and solution program that begins to run in my head. Once you see something enough times, you learn all of the variations and subtle nuiances that a problem can take on. But, trying to fit everyone into a similar solution model is where the novice coach, trainer or clinician will get into trouble. Trust us, it all starts with an examination, a true clinical physical examination.  If one leaves the investigatory process to a series of screens or functional movement patterns, “activation” attempts, digital gait analysis or strength tests one is juggling chainsaws and the outcome you want is often not likely to occur. There is nothing wrong with making these components part of the investigation process, but on their own, they are not enough to get the honest answer many times.  Of course, Ivo and i were not able to jump the pond and examine this runner with our own eyes and hands so today’s dialogue was merely to offer this runner some food for thought to open their mind to our thought process, in the hopes that they can find someone to help them solve the underlying problem and not merely make the gait look cleaner. Making someone’s walking or running gait look cleaner is not hard, but making it subconsciously competent and clean (without thought or effort) requires a fix to the underlying problem. We can ALMOST guarantee you that the solution here to this runner’s form issue is not wholly at the foot that looks in toed and slanted. Merely working on their foot strike would be so remedial and corrupt that it would a crime.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

More proof for the Cross Over Gait for the non-believers and debaters.

For those of you who have been with us for a few years, you are no stranger to our articles and videos on the web for piecing together many aspects of the CROSS OVER GAIT in a manner more comprehensive and more clear.  If you are not familiar with our work on this, please click here.

Today we add a little more “proof to our pudding”.

“Changing step width alters lower extremity biomechanics during running.” Brindle et al.
http://www.gaitposture.com/article/S0966-6362(13)00291-9/abstract

  • Step width influences frontal plane biomechanics of all body parts
  • Changes in step width affects arm swing symmetry and often creates arm abduction
  • Hip and knee biomechanics change from their normal predicted path and mechanics
  • Hip adduction, rearfoot eversion and internal tibial spin decrease as step width increases
  • Knee adduction/valgus stress decreases as step width increased.
  • Increased step width improves cephalad stacking of all lower extremity joints
  • The swing limb is a hinging pendulum. Striving for a level pelvis and normal step width promotes a normal sagittal pendulum path and improves the likelihood of a recurring sagittal pendulum swing for the opposite leg. 

As Brinkle et al. say in their paper, “step width is a spatiotemporal parameter that may influence lower extremity biomechanics at the hip and knee joint.”  We would argue that it is even more far reaching than the hip and knee. You have likely learned here at the Gait Guys that arm swing is heavily predicated on the dynamics of contralateral leg function and positioning.

The above video shows a classic cross over gait. The limbs can be seen crossing over the midline thus guaranteeing that the pendulum is moving through an arc and not along a straighter progression. This adduction of the limb virtually guarantees that the foot is striking greater on the lateral heel and forefoot than it should, that the rear foot is going to move through eversion with greater speed and force and internal tibial spin and arch control will need to be controlled better.  And if they are not controlled better, pathology may eventually occur.  Do you want any of this to occur at an accelerated rate as occurs in running ? One doesn’t need to just heel strike to suffer these problems, midfoot strike will still see them if the cross over occurs.

Shawn and Ivo, the Cross Over Guys.