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Why Your Big Toe matters: A guide to unlocking your athletic potential

A common phrase that revolves around the rehab and sports performance world is “Once the feet hit the ground EVERYTHING changes.”

It’s true.

Being the ultimate compensators, humans strive for the path of least resistance with our movement expression.

There are very few places if any in the human body where we see this illustrated better than with the big toe.

The big toe needs to move A LOT in order to avoid compensation through the kinetic chain. Typically a normal arch of motion is upwards of 115 degrees, with 70 degrees of extension and 45 degrees of flexion.

Here is where things get interesting. One of the most common compensatory mechanisms we see through our kinetic chain is this chronic lateral weight bearing pattern which avoids full weight bearing through our big toe.

Why does this matter? Over time we lose this mobility in our toe, change the structural integrity, and, in turn, actually LOSE the ability to create full force through our kinetic chain!

Don’t believe me? It is impossible to fully engage our biggest engine (glutes) without getting through our big toe! Go ahead try it!

Drive through your lateral foot without using your big toe and try to flex your glutes. Having trouble? Now drive through your big toe. You now have full capacity through your kinetic chain - or in other words you can GENERATE MORE FORCE.

Any type of lower body injury or chronic stress will push our bodies to compensate. We see this, first and foremost, in how we bear weight through the feet.

One of the easiest ways to RETRAIN our nervous system is to focus bearing weight through our big toe with something as simple as walking! As we get more comfortable and in tune with our weight distribution, adding in drills that optimize range of motion through our big toe complex, and using this newly acquired range to transfer force through our kinetic chain becomes the goal!

It doesn’t matter if you are someone who has had a long history of chronic ankle instability, returning to your sport after a new injury, or just find yourself in restricted footwear at all times (a topic for a post at a later time!).

This topic and these drills are for you!

Try these 4 drills that we LOVE to unlock your big toe and improve your performance! LAX into 1st interrossei, Great toe extension at wall, Great toe skaters, and Triple extension holds.

If you’re tired of being in perpetual pain and you’re ready to put the few minutes of work in each day so that you feel primed to perform, join our Team at Physio Project HQ where you’ll get coaching (from me), a community made up of desk monkeys to elite athletes, and a mobility or Prehab session each day to make sure that you’re primed to perform for less than 50 cents a day.


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