The Big Toe is very Important for Foot Health!
When it comes to parts of the body the toes are not often discussed when working on improving performance. However, this can be an area that may be limiting a person’s ability to improve running, jumping, or cutting. Specifically your first big toe or in medical terminology can be referred to as the Hallux or the 1st Metatarsophalangeal Joint (1st MTP).
When looking at the biomechanics of the foot the big toe needs to be able to extend, or lift up, much higher than one would think. To have a normal walking pattern you need about 60 degrees of toe extension which is well beyond halfway to upright. Then when looking at running/sprinting you need up to 90 degrees! That is the toe sticking straight in the air if your foot was flat on the ground. So if there is tightness, lack of strength, or a joint mobility problem it could change the way you run and possibly cause certain areas to get over worked.
One common problem that can lead to mobility issues or dysfunction with the foot is lack of strength of the muscles that are located in your foot, or foot intrinsic muscles. (Fun fact most of the muscles that move your foot and ankle are actually located in your calf.) The strength of these muscles, especially the flexors, can help to control ground reaction forces as well as propel you forward when the foot is extended behind you and when that big toe is in a fully extended position. Having increased strength in these muscles can also help to prevent other issues like plantar fasciitis from developing.
Check out these videos on mobility & strength exercises for the Big Toe Joint:
Big Toe Extension Mobilization / Stretch
This exercise and mobility intervention are designed to improve the joint range of motion and intrinsic foot strength. We can’t eliminate injury, but staying balanced with movement as athletes can help lower the risk of injury.
The extension mobility of the 1st MTP joint is crucial for push-off during sprints, running, jogging, agility, and general lower body sports specific movements. Neglecting to investigate the big toe joint in runners with chronic foot or ankle pain represents a lack of understanding of the demands and requirements of the lower quarter in regards to sports, running, sprints, and cutting/agility movements. It plays a vital role in normal gait (walking) patterns and running gait patterns as well. Where a lack of available mobility in that joint will cause other neighboring joints to compensate, leading to a cascade of other compensational movement patterns to take place, eventually leading to pain and limitation with athletic activity.
If you have been having trouble with foot pain or foot/toe/ankle mobility give the above exercises a try and see how it helps. This article is not intended to diagnose or treat specific medical issues, just informative purposes only. If you are still having trouble with your foot and ankle joint give us a shout and we can figure where you are having specific issues and target them more directly!
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