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  • Writer's pictureAl Painter Jr

Seriously, Your Big Toe Can Shut Down Your Glutes Part II

Like I mentioned in the first part (click here if you haven't read it yet), my right big toe having mobility issues contributed to a nasty right hip lock down. Luckily, I know Dr Justin Brink, Sports/Performance/Movement Chiropractor from Premiere Spine and Sport here in Eagle and he put me back together. He's worked with professional athletes from the NHL, MLB, MMA and all points in between. He knows his stuff.

We originally connected because we are both Stick Mobility Coaches, originally from the Silicon Valley and things ended up with me on the floor of his facility trying to get my brain to lift my foot off the floor while sitting in a 90/90 shin box position. Which I couldn't do because my nervous system had ZERO idea what it was being asked to coordinate. Which frustrated me to no end. I'm a little better at it now, and the right knee issue from Part I is starting to sort itself out as a result.

When I started writing this, I figured who better than to further inform you people on whether or not your glutes are (big) toe-ing the company line than Dr Brink. I sent over some questions, and here's what he said.​

What is the importance of big toe function?

"The 1st toe plays a vital role in the biomechanics of walking and running. A minimum of 40-65 (depends on who you read) degrees of extension (toe up) range is needed from heel-off to toe-off to allow your body to travel over your foot before you push off. If you don’t have sufficient range at this joint in particular, it can cause pain in the toe, bunions, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and a plethora of other injuries up the chain ( hip and knee pain!)

The job of the big toe is to provide the foot with additional leverage when pushing of the ground as well as proper arching of the foot. This can be attained through sufficient big toe extension.

To explain further, during human gait, as we step, our heel strikes first, then our body weight travels from the heel to the outside of the foot. Our body weight then continues to be distributed by falling slightly inwards over the ends of the toes. This is where the ball of the foot pushes into the ground to create propulsion (push of phase). -

If you lack mobility and function in your big toe, your level of stability and gait decreases. A lack mobility here can also lead to postural dysfunctions and cause disruption to the function of the foot!"

What can happen if you lose big toe range of motion?

"Everything can be thrown out of “whack." As we move from heel strike to midstance the entire leg internally rotates, this is normal. BUT that rotation needs to eventually slow down and come to a stop in order for us to propel forward during push off.

This is where the hip plays the roll of the brake, eccentrically controlling this rotation. Then the big toe acts as the emergency break, a back up to stop the rotation once it hits the foot.

We need these two functioning properly AND communicating effectively. So, let's feel that connection.

  • Grab a band, anchor it under the big toe and whatever you do, don't let go!

  • Center your weight over your standing leg and use your opposite leg to assist in maintaining balance.

  • Push the hips back and reach for the little toe.. feel that good tension in the back side of the hip as you reach for the ground.

  • Use the hips to bring you back up."

How does the big toe affect the pelvis and or the Glutes?

"If one does not use the big toe during propulsion then there is more than likely minimal hip extension during your gait phase. There might be more hip flexion and lifting of the leg vs driving the leg back.

As the pelvis tilts forward and the low back arches:

  • The femurs turn inwards.

  • The knees extend.

  • The arches lower or pronate inwards.

  • The brain uses the inside of the big toe

So... if you're ankles tend to be collapsed inwards, and ESPECIALLY when it's on both sides then it's time to look upstairs and see what we may be missing when it comes to proximal control."

How did my right big function, or lack thereof, affect the hip issue and the knee pain?

"That was more than likely losing the stability of foot and hip. Creating external rotation is a 'safer more stable' position to squat into vs an internally rotated leg and foot. When squatting you are not per se using your big toe like ones gait cycle but the lack of stability and control from ones behaviors can lead to other events when trying to perform an exercise or movement.

Remember that its NEVER just one thing that creates the cascade of events that eventually leads to pain. There are some factors that leads to abnormal movements which then leads to pain down the road. The road has bumps of all sorts but what do we do to try smooth those bumps out. We typically just wait for the pai to subside then go about our business again until another episode happens again.

Resting your pain away has never fixed your problem. It only buys you time.

Being able to load the hips is a critical fundamental movement in most if not all activities and all other sports.

The hips are a multiplanar joint that needs to be challenged in all planes of motion and muscle fibers challenged in different positions. The big toe provides the power to create that drive. If that big toe is absent or one alters the way they move then it can create imbalances all the way up the chain.

To generate strength, power, speed and agility you have to continue to build that mobile/stable foundation."

So There You Have It...

There you go people. Proper glute function is affected from the ground up, train yourself accordingly. If you can do feets of strength, you're in business. If not, rebuild your movement platform from the ground up and you'll be helping yourself move better consistently.

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