If you are familiar with this blog, you know that I believe if we want to be physically healthy and resilient, we should move the way we were designed to move. We have a wonderful design, and if honored, that design keeps us strong and able. We are simply made to move.
Movement is our elixir. The better we move, the healthier we are; in mind and body. It stands to reason then, if we have mobile, moving parts, we should use them regularly. If we don’t we soon won’t have mobile, moving parts and the whole of us won’t be as healthy and strong as it otherwise should be. To be strong, we need to move. I think we all intuitively know this. Unfortunately, our lifestyles, vocations, stressors, and ways, often lull us to sleep and we often forget our design or we even ignore it. Even those of us who are more alert to the benefits of movement often forget about many of the wonderful moving parts we have – the parts that would optimize our strength and ability.
In truth, any forgotten part of us that becomes remembered would optimize our strength potential once it is reengaged. But one part of us, in particular, is often missed or dismissed and it could be the one area we need to makes sure we move to preserve our health and strength. I’m talking about the toes.
This may be no surprise to you, but our toes are made to move much like our fingers do. In fact, toes are like smaller fingers (in some of us, in others of us it is hard to tell one from the other 😬). Toes are made to spread, flex, extend, grab, articulate, and pivot. They are also part of our contact with the ground, providing the entire body with rich information (at least they are meant to) needed for stability, balance, speed and power. They are one of our first points of contact with the ground and they ultimately determine the fluidity and efficiency of our entire gait pattern.
My point is, the toes are made to move and provide crucial information to the brain. And if the toes aren’t moving well, or if the toes don’t move, the rest of the body can’t move well either, not in a longevity sense. Healthy toes give way to healthy ankles, knees, hips, spines, shoulders and jaws. Unhealthy, nonmoving toes, give way to ankle issues, knee issues, hip issues, spine issues, neck and shoulder issues and even jaw issues. The body is a kinetic chain of events and like all chains, it is only as strong as the weakest part.
Toes are vital to our strength. But they are often forgotten about, mistreated, or sacrificed in the name of fashion. They get stuffed in narrow shoes, their sensory nerves get blunted with too many barriers between them and the ground, and they aren’t allowed to articulate and provide the brain with information about the world or the body. As a result, they act more like lifeless stubs than little fingers. As a greater result, the entire body misses out on nutrient, restorative information that would preserve and perpetuate its strength.
If you want to optimize your health, don’t forget about your toes. Move them on purpose. Yes, you can do clever things like play games like grabbing pencils or marbles with your toes, and those are great. But you also need to reintroduce your toes to the entire framework of joints so that all the of the body knows how to play and move well together as a whole. How can you do this? Go back to the original movement template and rock in bare feet.
Rocking can gently mobilize the toes and strengthen their connection with the entire body. Rocking can be done with the top of the toes on the floor or the bottom of the toes on the floor. It can be done in specific ways that target each toe individually as well. Lego Rocking, for example, is a fantastic way to help each toe remember how it is designed to move. By dropping your knee is different directions as you Lego Rock, you can place focus on the big toe (The Captain), the middle toes and the pinky toe. Lego Rocking, and any rocking done in bare feet, can be a gentle reintroduction to movement for the toes. This means that rocking can be gentle global strength and life enhancer for the entire body.
If you already rock, that’s great. All you need to do is simply place an intentional awareness on your toes as you rock to help them remember how they are designed to move. That, and be mindful of the shoes you stuff them into… The point is, be intentional and honor your design. Move your toes and restore their ability to move, which will improve your ability to move and live your life better. The toes know. If they move well, you move well. And if you move well, chances are the entire world also functions better as a result. Everything matters…