Big Toe Woes: One way to learn to load the head of the 1st metatarsal

On Thursday morning, while sprinting up a hill on the latter part of a run, I had the fortuosity of catching my big toe on what I beleive was an exposed root and fell sudddenly. Instinctively I rolled to protect my back (as you often do if you have had any history of back injuries). After a few expletives and a bruised ego, I took inventory of my body: back was fine, an abrasion and contusion on my left elbow and a really sore big toe. I got up and decided to run home as I was less than a mile from there.

I immediately noticed that my gait would need to be altered if I was going to make it home. I had injured the distal interphalangeal joint and distal phalanyx from the best I could tell; loading them in any way brought excruciating pain, so I was forced into one of my mantra’s: “Keep your toes up”*. I did this for the rest of my run and noticed, probably more than ever, how much this simple technique shifts the weight to the head of the 1st metatarsal and sesamoids. It also made me make my gait more “circular” (rather than pendular, another thing we teach in gait retraining).

I made it home and promptly iced. After getting to the office, an X ray confirmed my suspicion of a fracture in the proximal portion of the distal phalanyx. A day later and from my distal to my 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint is sausage like and a beautiful violet color. I am grateful I did not seem to injure the MTP…Oh well, I will either have to run carefully or switch to mountain biking for the next few weeks. Some ipriflavone (to assist in calcium absorption), cucumin and essentail oils (for inflammation) and I was good to go. Yes it throbs a bit, but it is a reminder that I need to push off through the head of the 1st : )

Try “toes up”with your peeps and let us know how it goes.

TGG

* “Toes up” technique involves conciously firing the anterior compartment muscles, particularly the extensor digitorum longus. It fires more into the extensor pool and assists in firing ALL your extensors through spacial and temporal summation and also heps to shut down flexor tone through reciprocal inhibition. It will also help you to rocker through your stance phase and get more into your hip extensors.

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  ( http://youtu.be/IIyg7ejYNOg ) 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.http://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/14766494068/a-case-of-plantar-foot-pain-during-gait-this

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

Lebron James and his funky toes. We have the scoop as to what is going on.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1757693-everybody-look-at-lebron-james-toesimage

This is what happens when you get too much short extensor tone and/or strength in the digits of the foot.  Now this is his trailing foot and he has moved into toe off so he should be activating his toe extensors and the tibialis anterior (ie. the anterior compartment) to create clearance for that foot so that he doesn’t catch the toes on the swing through phase of gait.  In this case we do not see alot of ankle dorsiflexion (which we should see at this point) so we are  seeing a compensation of perhaps increased short extensor (of the toes) activity.  

We also see what appears to be a drifting of the big toe (the hallux) underneath the 2nd toe. This often happens when a bunion or hallux valgus is present.  Now we do not see a bunion present here but the viewing angle is not optimal however it does appear that there is a slight drift of the hallux big toe towards the lesser toes . We are not sure if we would qualify this as hallux valgus, and if so it is mild, but none the less we see a slight lateral drift. What is interesting is that despite the obvious activity of the lesser toes short extensor muscle (EDB) we do not see a simultaneous activity of the short extensor of the hallux (EHB, extensor hallucis brevis). Does he need to do our exercise ? See video link here ! 

And so, when the lesser toes are in extension as we see here and the big toe is not moving into extension, and when that is simultaneously combined with even a little hallux valgus tendency, the big toe will drift underneath the lesser toes as we see here, even appearing to push the 2nd toe further into extension.  

As for his little toe, well, Dr. Allen  has one just like it so perhaps he missed his calling in the NBA. Some folks just do not have as plantarward orientation of the 5th toe and so it migrates upward (dorsally) a little. This can be from birth but it can also come from trauma. But in time because the toe is not more plantar oriented, the dorsal muscles (the extensors) become more dominant and the toe just starts to take on this kind of appearance and orientation. It will reduce significantly when the foot is on the ground and the extensors are turned off, but it looks more shocking during the swing phase because of the extensor dominance in that phase.

This kind of presentation if left unchecked can lead to hammer toes, plantar fat pad migration distally exposing the metatarsal heads to more plantar forces without protection and a host of other problems.  Lebron needs to do our Shuffle Walk Exercise to get more ankle rocker (dorsiflexion) and also work to increase his long toe extensors (EDL) and lumbricals.  This will flatten his toes and improve mechanical leverage.  Remember, if you gait better foot function with increased ankle dorsiflexion you will get more hip extension and more glute function.  But does the big fella really need to jump any higher? We are sure he would accept being faster though … .  who wouldn’t ?

Fee for today’s long distance consult: …  Lebron, lets say 10,000$ and we will call it even.  Sound good ?  But a lifetime of prettier, stronger and more functional toes……priceless. Have  your people contact our people.  (Ok, we don’t have people, but we do have an email address here on our blog !).

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys.  Even helping the elite, little by little.

Lebron James and his funky toes. We have the scoop as to what is going on.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1757693-everybody-look-at-lebron-james-toesimage

This is what happens when you get too much short extensor tone and/or strength in the digits of the foot.  Now this is his trailing foot and he has moved into toe off so he should be activating his toe extensors and the tibialis anterior (ie. the anterior compartment) to create clearance for that foot so that he doesn’t catch the toes on the swing through phase of gait.  In this case we do not see alot of ankle dorsiflexion (which we should see at this point) so we are  seeing a compensation of perhaps increased short extensor (of the toes) activity.  

We also see what appears to be a drifting of the big toe (the hallux) underneath the 2nd toe. This often happens when a bunion or hallux valgus is present.  Now we do not see a bunion present here but the viewing angle is not optimal however it does appear that there is a slight drift of the hallux big toe towards the lesser toes . We are not sure if we would qualify this as hallux valgus, and if so it is mild, but none the less we see a slight lateral drift. What is interesting is that despite the obvious activity of the lesser toes short extensor muscle (EDB) we do not see a simultaneous activity of the short extensor of the hallux (EHB, extensor hallucis brevis). Does he need to do our exercise ? See video link here ! 

And so, when the lesser toes are in extension as we see here and the big toe is not moving into extension, and when that is simultaneously combined with even a little hallux valgus tendency, the big toe will drift underneath the lesser toes as we see here, even appearing to push the 2nd toe further into extension.  

As for his little toe, well, Dr. Allen  has one just like it so perhaps he missed his calling in the NBA. Some folks just do not have as plantarward orientation of the 5th toe and so it migrates upward (dorsally) a little. This can be from birth but it can also come from trauma. But in time because the toe is not more plantar oriented, the dorsal muscles (the extensors) become more dominant and the toe just starts to take on this kind of appearance and orientation. It will reduce significantly when the foot is on the ground and the extensors are turned off, but it looks more shocking during the swing phase because of the extensor dominance in that phase.

This kind of presentation if left unchecked can lead to hammer toes, plantar fat pad migration distally exposing the metatarsal heads to more plantar forces without protection and a host of other problems.  Lebron needs to do our Shuffle Walk Exercise to get more ankle rocker (dorsiflexion) and also work to increase his long toe extensors (EDL) and lumbricals.  This will flatten his toes and improve mechanical leverage.  Remember, if you gait better foot function with increased ankle dorsiflexion you will get more hip extension and more glute function.  But does the big fella really need to jump any higher? We are sure he would accept being faster though … .  who wouldn’t ?

Fee for today’s long distance consult: …  Lebron, lets say 10,000$ and we will call it even.  Sound good ?  But a lifetime of prettier, stronger and more functional toes……priceless. Have  your people contact our people.  (Ok, we don’t have people, but we do have an email address here on our blog !).

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys.  Even helping the elite, little by little.

Podcast #26: Google shoes, shoe tech & indoor track biomechanics

Pod #26: The new Google Shoes, hamstring injuries in short track running and shoe tech.

podcast link: 

http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/podcast-26-google-shoes-shoe-tech-indoor-track-biomechanics-and-injuries

iTunes link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gait-guys-podcast/id559864138

Gait Guys online /download store:

http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204

other web based Gait Guys lectures:

www.onlinece.com   type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen  Biomechanics

Today’s show notes:

Two neuroscience pieces today which parlay nicely into last weeks podcast on kurzweils singujlarity

1- Google Shoes

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/11/google-shoes_n_2853098.html

http://youtu.be/VcaSwxbRkcE

This weekend, at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Google unveiled an early prototype of motion-sensing “smart shoes,” with an embedded speaker on the tongue of the shoe that can yell motivation at you when you’re being lazy, or encourage you when you’re being active. Google —which created the talking shoes in collaboration with Adidas,

2- The First Wireless, Implantable Brain-Computer Interface

http://gizmodo.com/5988342/the-first-wireless-implantable-brain+computer-interface-will-help-us-move-things-with-our-minds-on-the-go

3- Problems with small track counterclockwise running

J Mot Behav. 2012;44(1):63-8. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2011.645912. Epub 2012 Jan 13. Asymmetrical neural adaptation in lower leg muscles as a consequence of stereotypical motor training. Ogawa T, Kawashima N, Suzuki S, Nakazawa K.

Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Oct;10(4):245-50. Asymmetrical strength changes and injuries in athletes training on a small radius curve indoor track. Beukeboom C, Birmingham TB, Forwell L, Ohrling D.

4- Puma mobium shoe
http://youtu.be/9cOPMG-TDqw

5- from a Facebook readerI just saw you’re video on hammer toe stretching on tumblr. Great article with it too.

I’ve noticed that on my left foot, my 5th toe doesn’t touch the ground at all when my foot is flat on the ground. It appears not to be doing any work and the pain under the head of my 5th met is getting worse each week now.

6- another facebook question

  • I’ve been doing your shuffle steps and moonwalk to increase my very inflexible ankles. Is there anything else I can do? I read the study and your blog post how stretching doesn’t work. My teammates have literally over twice the dorsiflexion I have and it really shows in my skating. If these two excersises are all that can be done what are the reps/sets/times per week recommendations?

7- Cushioned Heel Running Shoes May Alter Adolescent Biomechanics, Performance
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130319091420.htm

Shawn and Ivo

the gait guys

Podcast #26: Google shoes, shoe tech & indoor track biomechanics

Pod #26: The new Google Shoes, hamstring injuries in short track running and shoe tech.

podcast link: 

http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/podcast-26-google-shoes-shoe-tech-indoor-track-biomechanics-and-injuries

iTunes link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gait-guys-podcast/id559864138

Gait Guys online /download store:

http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204

other web based Gait Guys lectures:

www.onlinece.com   type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen  Biomechanics

Today’s show notes:

Two neuroscience pieces today which parlay nicely into last weeks podcast on kurzweils singujlarity

1- Google Shoes

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/11/google-shoes_n_2853098.html

http://youtu.be/VcaSwxbRkcE

This weekend, at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Google unveiled an early prototype of motion-sensing “smart shoes,” with an embedded speaker on the tongue of the shoe that can yell motivation at you when you’re being lazy, or encourage you when you’re being active. Google —which created the talking shoes in collaboration with Adidas,

2- The First Wireless, Implantable Brain-Computer Interface

http://gizmodo.com/5988342/the-first-wireless-implantable-brain+computer-interface-will-help-us-move-things-with-our-minds-on-the-go

3- Problems with small track counterclockwise running

J Mot Behav. 2012;44(1):63-8. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2011.645912. Epub 2012 Jan 13. Asymmetrical neural adaptation in lower leg muscles as a consequence of stereotypical motor training. Ogawa T, Kawashima N, Suzuki S, Nakazawa K.

Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Oct;10(4):245-50. Asymmetrical strength changes and injuries in athletes training on a small radius curve indoor track. Beukeboom C, Birmingham TB, Forwell L, Ohrling D.

4- Puma mobium shoe
http://youtu.be/9cOPMG-TDqw

5- from a Facebook readerI just saw you’re video on hammer toe stretching on tumblr. Great article with it too.

I’ve noticed that on my left foot, my 5th toe doesn’t touch the ground at all when my foot is flat on the ground. It appears not to be doing any work and the pain under the head of my 5th met is getting worse each week now.

6- another facebook question

  • I’ve been doing your shuffle steps and moonwalk to increase my very inflexible ankles. Is there anything else I can do? I read the study and your blog post how stretching doesn’t work. My teammates have literally over twice the dorsiflexion I have and it really shows in my skating. If these two excersises are all that can be done what are the reps/sets/times per week recommendations?

7- Cushioned Heel Running Shoes May Alter Adolescent Biomechanics, Performance
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130319091420.htm

Shawn and Ivo

the gait guys

Foot Arch Question: Sent in from one of our readers

How would one go about “rebuilding” their transverse arch? The latter is pretty much convex. This also accomapnied by very tight long toe extensors (as evidenced by their tendons being very prominent at the top of my foot and my toes being curled at rest) and have suffered on and off from Morton’s neuroma. The ball of my shoes (right in the middle) is where the insoles of my shoes see the most wear. It’s not a huge concern of mine, but I would like to deal with this. I’ve suffered several ankle injuries (as a basketball player) and although I’ve tried orthotics in the past (for the neuroma), I’ve relied mostly on minimalist footwear (except when playing ball of course…). I know some rehab would be in order and would likely work. I’ve “reconditoned” my big toe abductors in the past and can even cross my second to over my big toe, so am just looking for some direction.
Thanks

Our Response:

As you probably are aware, there are 3 arches in the foot: the medial longitudinal (the one most people refer to as the “arch”, the lateral longitudinal (on the outside of the foot) and transverse (across the met heads).

Your collapsed transverse arch seems like it may be compensated for by a rigid, probably high medial and lateral longitudinal arches. This creates rigidity through the midfoot (and often rear foot) and creates excessive motion to try and occur in the forefoot. Depending on how much motion is available, this may or may not occur.

You don’t seem to be able to get your 1st metatarsal head to the ground to form an adequate tripod, so you are trying, in succession, to get some of the other, more flexible ones there (thus the wear in the “ball” of the foot you noted). This results in increased pressure, metatarsal head pain, possibly a bunion and often neuromas.

From your description, you actually have very weak long toe extensors (and possibly some shortening) which is causing the prominence of the tendons, along with overactivity of the long flexors (and thus the clawing) in an attempt to create stability. I am willing to bet you have tight calves as well (especially medially, from overuse of the gastroc to control the foot) and limited hip extension with tight hip flexors.

The foot tripod exercises are a great place to start, as well as heel walking with the toes extended and walking with the toes up (emphasizing extension, which counteracts the flexors). Stay away from open back shoes and flip flops/sandals; continue to go barefoot and get some foot massages to loosen things up. Maybe use one of those golfballs to massage the bottom of the foot when you get off the course and get some golf shoes that aren’t quite so rigid.

Hey everyone. Have a Great 4th of July!

The Gait Guys