Big Toe Tips
by Alison McGinnis, PT, DPT, FAFS
The 1st toe plays a vital role in the biomechanics of walking and running. A minimum of 60-65 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!)
Check out the video above to see an effective and functional way to mobilize the big toe joint. Place a yoga block or thick book against a wall so that it won’t slide. Place all of your toes on top of the block then slide your foot down until the ball of your foot is on the ground and the toes are up in the air. *This should feel like a good stretch and not cause joint pain*
Then drive your knee as far over your toes as you can. This should create a stretch through the big toe, arch, and achilles/lower calf. Perform 5-10x or until it starts to loosen up.
Next, add triplanar motion by driving the knee forward then slowly rotating the knee in and out (think windshield wipers). The goal is to feel the arch of the foot roll up and down a bit, creating pronation and supination through the midfoot where many of us lack mobility. Make sure the ball of your big toe, little toe, and heel all stay on the ground.
After you increase mobility at the joint, you always want to introduce muscle activation to integrate the new range you’re gained. Drive your knee forward and stay at end range. Without letting your knee come back towards you:
1️⃣ Try to lift up the big toe off of the block and pull it towards your shin (nothing will move since you’re at the end range of toe extension, but you will feel the extensor hallucis muscle engage). Hold for 3-5 seconds.
2️⃣ Push the big toe down into the block to engage the flexor hallucis and hold 3-5 seconds.
–Alternate lifting up and pushing down 5x
Go for a walk and report back on how you feel!
And if this is painful or restricted, reach out to us here and we can discuss how PT can help!