I blew out my flip flop,
Stepped on a pop top;
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there's booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on. - Jimmy Buffett
I continue to see more and more people with inadequate toe extension. It is complicated. I see those who do not even have the awareness of toe extension, loss of strength of toe extension, loss of endurance of toe extension, loss of global range of toe extension (dorsiflexion at the MTP joint), more failure of long toe extensor (EHL) strength and more prominence of increased short toe extensor strength (EDB) and more frightening, a lack of disassociation of toe extension (MTP dorsiflexion) and ankle dorsiflexion. Many clients when asked to life their toes, will drive into ankle mortise dorsiflexion; ask them to just purely toe dorsiflex and the mental games begin, a wrinkled brow, intense concentration. If you cannot extended the toes sitting, how are you going to find them in swing phase of gait when balance, and other things, are more important?
Stand and lift your toes. The arch should go up, you have engaged the Windlass Mechanism, that winds up the plantar fascia and raised the arch. If you do not have competent, unconsciously competent, toe extension, your arch is not all that it can, and should, be. If you cannot raise your toes, thus raise the arch, thus plantarflex the first metatarsal, then in gait, when the foot is on the ground, you cannot properly position the sesamoids, properly get safe terminal ranges of hallux dorsiflexion at toe off, properly position the foot for loading and unloading, adequately achieve ankle dorsiflexion, adequately offer the hip a chance for ample hip extension, offer the glutes optimal chance to work in all phases to help control spin of the limb during loading and unloading, and the list goes on and on. I am sure I left much out there, this was written in a few minutes and unedited, just a short rant for the weekend. But if you have not championed toe extension, both in an unloaded and loaded foot (on the ground), achieved control of both long and short extensor muscles to the toes (and paired them well with the long and short toe flexors), disassociated toe extension from ankle dorsiflexion, and then figured out how to properly, timely, engage all these processes into your gait unconsciously, you are working on less of an optimal system than you should be. So, if your feet hurt, hips hurt, or a plethora of other problems that you are trying to fix with orthotics or other toys, maybe start with, "can you lift your toes?". It is a piece of the puzzle, trust me.
Or, you can just stay in your flip flops and perpetuate your toe flexion and wait for bad things to take root After all, tis the season soon !
Yes, toe extension in flip flops (we must flex our toes to keep them on) is as rare as a good multi-tasking man.
Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys.