The Big Toe
Mar 08, 2021
In a somewhat popular episode of Seinfeld, episode #25, the big toe was referred to as the captain of the toes, as well it should be. The big toe is the toe of toes. While all toes are valuable - that’s why we have them - the big toe is super valuable because it gives us stability, it helps us to absorb force, and it is the main toe that propels us forward when we walk or run.
The stronger, more mobile, and healthier our big toe, the more strength we have when we walk, run, or stand. And, the the healthier and more functional our big toe, the healthier our ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders and neck. Yes, the kinetic chain of the body is largely counting on the Captain of the toes to steer the body free from movement and pain issues.
In a huge and very similar way, the big toe is what makes the foot so awesome just as the thumb is what makes the hands so awesome. You could even make a case that the big toe and the thumb are two of the features of the human body that make humans such wonderful movement marvels among all the other creatures in the world.
Again, the big toe is simply an amazing part of an amazing whole and when it is functioning properly, when it is healthy, the whole body is likely to reap the rewards of health, strength, balance, stability, and mobility.
How do you keep big toes healthy, and how do you restore big toes when they have been neglected or compromised?
You move them. You spread them. You set them free.
1) Move them.
The joints of your big toe should be mobile. That’s why they are there, to flex and extend, to open and to close, to receive and to push.
A fantastic why to restore the mobility of the big toe and to keep it mobile is through rocking and lego rocking. You can use both of the these movements to target the mobility and restoration of the big toe.
Here is a video that can help: https://youtu.be/3C3Zi3CkLYw
2) Spread them.
The big toe should not be compressed in and squished into the other toes. It should not be pointing towards the pinky toe but rather, it should be set apart from the other toes and pointing straight ahead. It should have splay from the other toes much like the thumb has splay from the fingers.
You can practice splaying and exercising the muscles of the big toe, and all the toes, by trying to spread them. And, you can also purchase toe spreaders, like Correct Toes, to retrain your toes to splay apart from one another.
Here is a video on spreading and mobilizing the toes: https://youtu.be/yf3cx6jzsJs
3) Set them free.
Again, your big toes should not be squeezed or compressed into the other those. They should not be bound or restricted from moving through their natural range of motion. This prevents them from effectively doing their job. This also places a greater demand and strain on the entire kinetic chain of the body. Squishing toes in narrow ended or pointed shoes is the main thing that causes big toe problems. It misaligns the toes - therefore, it misaligns the body.
Get shoes with wide toe boxes and practice being barefoot when you walk around your house, or walk barefoot through your neighbor’s grass. It feels amazing! As you walk practice spreading your big toe, practice noticing and feeling your big toe. Pay attention to it.
The big toe is awesome. Take care of them so they can take care of you. Move them, spread them and set them free. It will make a difference in how you walk, run, move and feel.
Captain, my Captain!