Can Your Big Toe Knock Your Glutes Offline?
If you read my blog (AND YOU DO WEEKLY, RIGHT? Big hint there btw...) regularly, you know that I think strong glutes are the cure for most of the aches and pains we experience. I'm talking everything from a bad hair day to hang nails and all annoyances in between. While I have yet to get a grant to study this, and I really have no science to back it up, it has to be a thing given how many other things strong glutes help, correct or improve.
However, there are quite a few more chapters to the story of the glutes than just doing exercises that specifically target them. Which includes how you walk, stand, the kind of shoes you wear, are the arches of the feet doing what they are supposed to and is our big toe doing what it should?
As far as shoes go, with a BIG HINT I feel the THINNER the sole the BETTER. Think trying to fiddle with your keys while wearing boxing gloves on and you'll get the idea of how a thick sole gets in the way of how your brain "talks" to your feet. Since communication is the cornerstone of any relationship, but your shoes accordingly. Put marshmallows in your hot cocoa, not on your feet.
And ESPECIALLY DON'T put marshmallows on your feet and stand on an inverted inflated dome. Unless you've got an ankle or foot injury to rehab and you're barefoot, always stand on terra firma for your lower body exercises. Its a much more effective way to build your lower body foundation from the ground up. There's a reason I didn't have people do this when I trained them in person, and why I don't have them do it virtually or online now.
SIDENOTE TIME IN!
If all of these things are online from the ground up, your glutes most likely are too. If they aren't, you won't move your best and you may come up with aches and pains along the way. For me, my right big toe was having some mobility issues, and I'm betting dollars to donuts (mmmmmmm...donuts....) its one of the things that factored into my hip having issues with internal rotation leading to knee pain squatting. The reason I say this is because on the way down, my right heel turned in and toes went out and this was a sure fire recipe for knee ouchies.
So how do you know if all of these things are working? What can you do about it if they aren't?
When the big toe functions well and is connected to the surface you're moving on, it can help the arches stay neutral, in turn making them that much more effective connecting the hips to the ground through the feet. If you don't have proper big toe function, it can shut down and weaken your glutes (1).
"Weaken your glutes" is not something you ever want to play with when you think about how your body moves, or probably more importantly, how it might not be. Renowned podiatrist Dr Emily Splichal has an amazing explanation as to what happens when your big toe, or your Sgt Howka Toe if you will (if you get this reference, then "THAT'S THE FACT JACK!"). Click here to see her YouTube video explanation on what happens when your big toe isn't working the right way.
Your big toe helps to stabilize your foot and it initiates a whole slew of actions into the hip when you push off while walking or running. If you don't have proper big toe function, those forces will have to go somewhere else and can lead to your gait (walking) pattern getting off kilter and potential aches and pains setting in (2). Dr James Spencer wrote a great blog post for the Cressey Sports Performance blog on this, click here to read it.
Since we take an average of 5000-8000 steps a day (and ideally more), this is kind of a big deal if your feet aren't working the way they're supposed to (3). Lack of big toe function can throw off the timing of your movement lines and create dysfunctional movement patterns from the ground up. This write up from the Barefoot Strong Blog takes a pretty deep dive into it, but it is well worth reading. Click here to have a look.
Well, do you have feets of strength? Is your big toe functioning correctly? If you do and it is, bravissimo, you probably move well. If you don't, well, you won't, and you may have some work to do to take care of it!
"The Big Toe Butt Connection | Are your feet making your glutes weak?" Dr Emily Splichal
"Big Toe, Big Problems," Cressey Sports Performance Guest Blog Post by Dr. James Spencer
"Big Toe Biomechanics: Beyond Dorsiflexion," The Barefoot Strong Blog