Bunions should change how you approach shoe fit. Bet you didn't consider this aspect.

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Bunions and hallux valgus can change the toe box volume and shoe choice, so be careful, don't be fooled.
This photo shoes how a change in the forefoot width and length can be a result of a bunion or hallux valgus. Notice both feet are aligned the same, but the length of the foot is different in the hallux valgus foot.
The old Brannock device use to help us all see this more clearly. You may recall that the device measured "heel to toe" (True foot length) and ALSO "heel to ball" length (the functional length and more important one. This length measured heel to the metatarsophlanageal joint line. This concept is important to know because we want the shoe "break point" or "bend point" at the forefoot to occur where the foot bends. Not all shoes have the flex lines (the creases on the bottom of the shoe were it is most likely to bend) in the same place, there is no standard. And if your client has shorter toes, longer toes or a long or short "heel to ball" length they man needs some help from a knowledgeable person like yourself making sure that their current forefoot complaints are not from a mis-fitted shoe.
Bottom line, the "heel to ball" length of a foot is far more important than the global foot length "heel to toe". So stop judging your shoe fit by pinching the front of the shoes to "make sure you have plenty of room"! Doh ! Face palm !

Because despite what many of the "experts" online are saying, that being "shoes don't matter". The fact is "sometimes they do". Period.

WAnt to learn this stuff? Got our website and buy the National Shoe Fit program. Hours of deep shoe, anatomy and biomechanics fun with ivo and shawn, in your own home over the holidays ! Give yourself the "gift" of ivo and shawn this year ! LOL

The banana hallux. When the big toe curls upward

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Note: over-extension of the hallux and over-flexion of the 2nd toe. How can they both be so different at rest ? read on

This is common, but not commonly addressed. And, it can become a cause of symptoms.
Note how curled up into extension the hallux appears. This is just a representation of hyperextension of the distal phalange at the IP joint (interphalangeal joint).
This often occurs in hallux limitus/rigidus, where there is insufficient extension through the 1st MTP joint (metatarsophalangeal joint). In that condition, they client attempts to toe off, needing extension (dorsiflexion) at that joint, and they do not have it, so the extension can be found through arch collapse (1st metatarsal dorsiflexion) or through extension at the IP joint. Over time, form follows function and you will often see this presentation.

However, we do not need to see impaired ROM function at the 1st MTP joint, as in this case. This foot had full 1st MTP ROMs.
In this case, this toe represented massive imbalance between the long and short flexors and extensors. Specifically, increased use and strength in the EHL (extensor hallucis longus) and weakness and unawareness of how to even engage the short extensor (EHB).
Similarly, the pairing met the one we always see with this, that being weak and even difficulty of awareness to engage the FHL (flexor hallucis longus) and over-activity of the FHB (short flexor-flexor hallucis brevis).
There pairings: weak: EHB and FHL & overactive: EHL and FHB over time will result in this presentation.

In gait, you will note poor compentence and purchase of the hallux on the ground and thus a sharing of that load through overflexion hammering of the 2nd digit through increased FDL activity (note the great evidence of this with the thick obvious callus at the tip of the 2nd toe).
These clients can also often have pain at the plantar aspect of the Metatarsal head because of sesamoid imbalanced loading (sesamoiditis) as well as frank pain at the MTP joint dorsally or plantarward. One will often note a medial pinch callus on these feet medial to the metatarsal head, from a rotational spin toe off. Hallux valgus and bunion formation are also not uncommmon at all in this incompetent hallux presentation.
PS: the solution is so much more complex and involved than just towel-scrunches and marble pick up games. I mean, come on, we can do better that this team !
This requires some serious reteaching of how to use the foot, arch, tripod, windlass and foot-ground engagement skills.

Shawn and Ivo, the gait guys

#gait, #gaitproblems, #gaitcompensatins, #gaitanalysis, #bunions, #halluxvalgus, #sesamoiditis, #turftoe, #halluxlimitus, #pinchcallus, #bananatoe, #metatarsalgia, #thegaitguys, #hammertoe

Improper loading of the big toe/hallux ?

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The callus pattern indicates were friction or pressure loading is present. When the loading is too fast or aggressive, we get a blister, but when the loads a low and over time, a callus develops. It can be from rubbing up against a shoe but it can also be from loading responses through the skin.

In this case, we see the callus under the proximal hallux and slightly medially. This can indicate that the short flexor of the hallux (FHB) may be more dominant. And we see clues here, the tip of the hallux is curved up, though this is not a great photo to represent this.
When the short flexor is more dominant, the long extensor is typically more dominant, as we see here by the big toe curling up.
When these are more dominant, the long flexor and short extensor are subservient. This presents us with some tendency toward a hammer toe response, and maybe a true hammer toe over time.
Callus patterns are clues, not answers, but they are breadcrumbs as to how your client is loading, where they are loading, how aggressive the loading is and the motor patterns they could be deploying.
Look for them, and let your examination, confirm or deny your suspicions.

How hallux valgus and bunions can affect the shoe toe box space.

Bunions and hallux valgus can change the toe box volume and shoe choice, so be careful, don't be fooled.
This photo shoes how a change in the forefoot width and length can be a result of a bunion or hallux valgus. Notice both feet are aligned the same, but the length of the foot is different in the hallux valgus foot.

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The old Brannock device use to help us all see this more clearly. You may recall that the device measured "heel to toe" (True foot length) and ALSO "heel to ball" length (the functional length and more important one. This length measured heel to the metatarsophlanageal joint line. This concept is important to know because we want the shoe "break point" or "bend point" at the forefoot to occur where the foot bends. Not all shoes have the flex lines (the creases on the bottom of the shoe were it is most likely to bend) in the same place, there is no standard. And if your client has shorter toes, longer toes or a long or short "heel to ball" length they man needs some help from a knowledgeable person like yourself making sure that their current forefoot complaints are not from a mis-fitted shoe.
Bottom line, the "heel to ball" length of a foot is far more important than the global foot length "heel to toe". So stop judging your shoe fit by pinching the front of the shoes to "make sure you have plenty of room"! Doh ! Face palm !

Because despite what many of the "experts" online are saying, that being "shoes don't matter". The fact is "sometimes they do". Period.

WAnt to learn this stuff? Got our website and buy the National Shoe Fit program. Hours of deep shoe, anatomy and biomechanics fun with ivo and shawn, in your own home over the holidays ! Give yourself the "gift" of ivo and shawn this year ! LOL

And for all of you who joined us last night on onlineCE.com for the 55 minute condensed nuclear version of the 3+ hours shoe fit program, we hope you have recovered with a good nights sleep !

Unilateral heightened toe extensor tone.

Look at this foot. What do you see ? See the asymmetry ? This is a perfect case to prove our point, for those out there that love the short foot exercise, that insist on towel scrunches, marble pick-ups, or just mere foot rolling on the ball. These things are useless in some cases, arguably to us, much of the time actually. This is about having sufficient foot integrity, normal heel rocker, ankle rocker, forefoot rocker mechanics, and especially in this case, a NORMAL balance between the long and short flexors and extensors. These 4 must work together in harmony, and this is clearly not happening on the left foot. Head on over to this Archived blog post from 2014, and learn what is wrong here. One has to understand it, to fix it. And throwing a short foot regimen, or pilates foot work at it or even more flexor tone into this foot will not fix this. Exercise prescription is supposed to be specific, not a shot gun approach of "try this exercise", lets see if it helps. A 5th grader can give that advice, sadly it is more the industry norm at times. Yes, every exercise is a test, but do not be mistaken that every test is the exercise.

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Unilateral heightened toe extensor tone.

What do we have here ? Well, it is obvious. The left foot is showing increased short extensor tone (EDB: extensor digitorum brevis) and heightened long flexor tone (FDL: flexor digitorum longus). This is the classic pairing for hammer toe development.  We also know from this post (link) and from this post (link) that this presentation is closely related with lumbrical weakness and distal fat pad migration.

So, at an assessment took we like to play games. Mental games to be precise. When we see something like this we immediately begin the mental gyrations of “what could have caused this, and what could this in turn be causing”. Remember, what you see is often not the problem, rather your clients compensation around the problem.  In this case, what goes through your mind ?  Without deep thought, our knee jerk thoughts are:

  • possible loss of ankle rocker dorsiflexion (the increased EDB tone can be recruited to help drive more ankle dorsiflexion indirectly)
  • plantar intrinsic weakness ?
  • flip flops or slip on shoes where the heel is riding up and down inside the shoe/sloppy fit ?  (initiating a gripping response from the FDL)
  • weak tib anterior (recruiting EDB to help)
  • weak peroneus tertius (recruiting EDB again)
  • Ankle /foot instability (more FDL gripping will help gain ground purchase)
  • lateral ankle instablity (same thing, more gripping)
  • Weak gastrosoleus (since the FDL is a posterior compartment neighbor it can kick into high gear and help with posterior comparment function, we have a whole video case based around this issue, check this out ! )
  • premature departure off of the good side leg, and thus an abrupt loading response onto this affected side can challenge the frontal plane of the body and thus require more grip response at the foot level.
  • how about simple weakness of the lumbricals or FDB , the short flexors. The long flexors will have to make up for it and present like this.  
  • the list goes on and on … .

These are just some quick cursory thoughts, and by NO means a complete exhaustive list.  Just some quick thoughts.

But what about hip function ?  if ankle rocker is blocked in terminal stance and the FDL fire like this what will that do to hip extension ? Well, heel rise will be premature because of the limitation and thus hip extension will be abbreviated. Thus glute function will be impaired to a degree.  This can become a viscous cycle, each feeding off of each other.

This diagnostic stuff is a tricky and difficult game. If you think you can diagnose or fix a problem from just changing what you see you are mistaken, unless you like driving compensation patterns and future injuries into your clients.   There must be a hands on examination and assessment with an intact educated brain attached to the process.

Just some mental gymnastics for you today.  

Dr Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Calf strength, the medial foot tripod, and pain in the great toe

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It has become evident that this component, the proper function of the 1st ray complex, is overlooked in some of the clinical world. Hallux joint pain is a difficult one to diagnose and treat at times. The source of pain and dysfunction can seemingly come from anywhere, but the more one understands the complex mechanics of this joint and regionally associate joints, the better clinical results one will achieve.  

One thing that has become recurrently obvious upon the many outside professional referrals that come though my office is the imbalance and/or weakness or endurance impairments in the posterior mechanism in relation to a painful 1st metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP). When I say posterior mechanism I am referring to the gastrocnemius, soleus, peronei, long flexors, and tibialis posterior namely. 

And, let me be clear, putting a theraband under the 1st metatarsal, encouraging your client to drive greater downward purchase of the head of the 1st MET during simulated foot tripod loading, does not necessarily help your client if their 1st MET is slightly more dorsiflexed. Do not be fooled by the flashy rehab guru tricks out there, proper clean function is achieved, not forced. If you have not earned it, you do not own it. 

It is quite simple really. If one does not have balanced function, including skill (motor pattern), endurance or strength of plantarflexion of the ankle, one cannot properly posture the first metatarsal (1st MET) in plantarflexion to sufficiently alter the sesamoid posturing underneath the metatarsal head, to sufficiently engage the unique eccentric axis (and it's necessary shift) of the 1st MTP to enable ample clean hallux dorsiflexion. Furthermore, without all this,  one will not be able to anchor the medial foot tripod properly.  This can lead to pain, functional hallux limitus, hallux rigidus to name a few. And, let me be clear, putting a theraband under the 1st metatarsal, encouraging your client to drive greater purchase of the head of the 1st MET during foot loading, does not necessarily help your client if their 1st MET is slightly more dorsiflexed. Do not be fooled by the flashy rehab guru tricks out there gang, proper clean function is achieved, not forced. 

A simple example might be a runner who fatigues the posterior mechanism in a long run. As the calf fatigues, they lose ample heel rise, thus ample plantarflexion of the 1st MET, thus proper posturing and translation of the sesamoids, thus successful eccentric axis shift, and thus clean dorsiflexion of the 1st MTP joint.  A player in a jumping sport who has less than ample strength of the posterior mechanism can have much the same issue at the resultant toe.  These are just garden variety examples.  But, should be clear that ample skill, endurance and strength (S.E.S.), our favorite mnemonic, of the posterior mechanism is necessary for pain free, functional toe off in the gait cycle or in jumping mechanics. 

If you are not systematically testing for these S.E.S. issues in the posterior mechanism, you are likely missing a major component in the proper posturing of the ankle and foot and thus proper functioning of the first ray complex and thus enabling clean function at the 1st MTP joint.  

(Sidebar rant: My past personal problems at this great toe joint started when a fellow chiropractor pulled on my toe many moons ago, for some random reason. It was the proverbial,  axial distraction "adjustment". The cavitation was heard around the world (the saliva inducing "pop" that fools many into blissful success), and my problems began.  I had painful dysfunction for many years after that for some strange reason, something was damaged but I was too stubborn and stupid to fix my own foot. I eventually remedied the problem through diving deeper into the complex mechanics of this joint and regionally associated areas. For this very intimate reason, it is why I am not one to perform this maneuver or recommend it. If we can be smarter in our understanding, we can be wiser in our interventions. Besides, axial distraction of this joint is not normal function of this joint. If I had a soap box to stand on for this topic, I would tell people to stop doing HVLA manipulations to this joint, mobilizations are more than ample to elicit a joint range response or a neurologic mechanoreceptor response. The more you understand this profoundly complicated and interesting joint, the 1st MTP joint, the more you will understand how to help your client. But, what do I know, I am just a dumb chiropractor, right Joe Rogan :) 

- Shawn Allen, the gait guys

Looking for the subtle clues will help you. You should have hypotheses and work to prove or disprove them.      “Remember, this client is displaying these weight bearing differences side to side for a reason, this is their adaptive strategy. It is your job to prove that this is the cause of their pain, their adaptive strategy to get out of pain, or this is now a failed adaptive strategy causing pain, yet still not the root of the problem.”     We used to call this a “windswept” presentation. It is not that it is incorrect, but it is so vague.    Look at these fippy floppers. Look closely at the dark areas, where foot oils and whatnot have played their changes in the leather upper of the flops. The right f.flop displays more lateral heel loading, rear foot inversion if you will. You can even see that there is less big toe pressure on this right side and even some increased lateral forefoot loading. This client appears to be more supinated clearly. You can even see there is more lightness to the arch leather on the right, again, more supination is suggested.  The left f.flop suggests the opposite. More medial heel pressures and more over the medial forefoot and arch.   Now this clients f.flops tell a story.  So, this client is being windswept to the right we used to say, appearing to pronate more on the left and supinating more on the right.  Why are they doing this? Is the left leg functionally longer and by pronating they reduce the functional length of the leg (yet, increase internal spin of the limb and the host of naughty things that come with that). Is the right leg shorter, and by supinating they are raising the ankle mortise and arch which helps reduce the length differential ?  MAybe a bit of both, finding common ground for a more symmetrical pelvis ?  Who knows. This is where you need your physical exam, but, now you have some hypotheses to prove or disprove.      “Remember, this client is displaying these weight bearing differences side to side for a reason, this is their adaptive strategy. It is your job to prove that this is the cause of their pain, their adaptive strategy to get out of pain, or this is now a failed adaptive strategy causing pain, yet still not the root of the problem.”     Is there some right hip pain from the right frontal pelvis drift creating some aberrant loading on the greater trochanter from ITB tension ? Perhaps a painful right hallux big toe, and they are unloading it to avoid pain? Maybe some knee pain or low back pain ? Who knows? Take your history and start putting the pieces together, it is your job. Just don’t screen them and throw corrective exercises at them, you owe it to them to examine them, take their history, watch them walk, teach them about what you see, and then sit down, spread the puzzle pieces out, look for the straight edges and corner pieces, and begin to build their puzzle.   Clues, they are everywhere, if you look for them.  Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Looking for the subtle clues will help you. You should have hypotheses and work to prove or disprove them. 

“Remember, this client is displaying these weight bearing differences side to side for a reason, this is their adaptive strategy. It is your job to prove that this is the cause of their pain, their adaptive strategy to get out of pain, or this is now a failed adaptive strategy causing pain, yet still not the root of the problem.”

We used to call this a “windswept” presentation. It is not that it is incorrect, but it is so vague.  

Look at these fippy floppers. Look closely at the dark areas, where foot oils and whatnot have played their changes in the leather upper of the flops. The right f.flop displays more lateral heel loading, rear foot inversion if you will. You can even see that there is less big toe pressure on this right side and even some increased lateral forefoot loading. This client appears to be more supinated clearly. You can even see there is more lightness to the arch leather on the right, again, more supination is suggested.

The left f.flop suggests the opposite. More medial heel pressures and more over the medial forefoot and arch. 

Now this clients f.flops tell a story.  So, this client is being windswept to the right we used to say, appearing to pronate more on the left and supinating more on the right.  Why are they doing this? Is the left leg functionally longer and by pronating they reduce the functional length of the leg (yet, increase internal spin of the limb and the host of naughty things that come with that). Is the right leg shorter, and by supinating they are raising the ankle mortise and arch which helps reduce the length differential ?  MAybe a bit of both, finding common ground for a more symmetrical pelvis ?  Who knows. This is where you need your physical exam, but, now you have some hypotheses to prove or disprove. 

“Remember, this client is displaying these weight bearing differences side to side for a reason, this is their adaptive strategy. It is your job to prove that this is the cause of their pain, their adaptive strategy to get out of pain, or this is now a failed adaptive strategy causing pain, yet still not the root of the problem.”

Is there some right hip pain from the right frontal pelvis drift creating some aberrant loading on the greater trochanter from ITB tension ? Perhaps a painful right hallux big toe, and they are unloading it to avoid pain? Maybe some knee pain or low back pain ? Who knows? Take your history and start putting the pieces together, it is your job. Just don’t screen them and throw corrective exercises at them, you owe it to them to examine them, take their history, watch them walk, teach them about what you see, and then sit down, spread the puzzle pieces out, look for the straight edges and corner pieces, and begin to build their puzzle. 

Clues, they are everywhere, if you look for them.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

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Is the “Short Foot” exercise dead ? Dr. Allen thinks it is at the very least, floundering on wobbly premises.

- another blog article by Dr. Shawn Allen

Stand and raise your toes. Where does your arch go ? It should elevate, the arch should increase in height/width/volume thanks to several biomechanical principles, the Windlass mechanism to name one.

Many therapeutic approaches to foot posture correction at some point implement the “Short foot” exercise. In some respects, perhaps many, I think that model may be poorly grounded fundamentally and functionally. My protocols and approach are to restore as functional a foot as possible, during both static and dynamic stance phases of gait, and that means restoring rear and forefoot alignment on a neutral strong competent arch. To be clear, an arch does not need to be high, at whatever its’ height, it just needs to be competent. It is quite possible that I have not truly used the “short foot” exercise in over 10 years in correcting my client’s biomechanics, not in its’ traditionally taught methodology (ie, I have never taught the exercise with the toes flush on the ground, that a mistake in my opinion). I see some limitations in it, and some flaws. These are purely experiential on my part, yet grounded in my successes and failures with many hundreds of clients. This however does not mean I am always right, but i go with what works in my clients. 

When I ask a client to stand up and raise their toes (this is truly how a “short foot” is achieved), pointing out that their arch raised as the toes elevated, they often look puzzled. I often put their orthotic under their foot and again ask them to raise the toes again, thus lifting their apparently “fallen” incompetent arch off the orthotic. I then ask the question, so, are we going to continue to use this device to “Fix” your foot ? Are we going to use a hydraulic push approach restore your foot, or are we going to exercise the muscle that are already there to lift (I like to use a crane analogy) the arch and restore the rear and forefoot relationships ?  Clients always answer this question for me, and they do so quickly.  I am quick to reply that this will take time, repetition, obsession, awareness and homework.  This does not mean every case is successful. Some people have attenuated the ligamentous and tendon structures so badly that a deconstructed arch or weight bearing navicular is just too far gone. There are also those folks who have zero body awareness and that is their rate limiting step.  There are many rate limiting steps in attempting to restore function. We just cannot save everyone. 

I am sure you want answers, protocols, “the order” and “the exercises” I use. Ivo and i have outlined some of them on our blog and on our youtube videos. Somewhat purposefully, we have not prescribed an “order” for them to be done, because each person has their own unique problems and their own order and that is were clinical knowledge must come in to play. You just cannot throw exercises at people and see what sticks, too many people do this already.  I also know that many prescribe the “Short Foot” exercise as homework. That is not a problem for some, but it may have limited value if the prescriber does not realize that 

the exercise has a retrograde approach and a prograde approach. 

What I mean is, with this exercise as it is traditionally taught by many (not all), that you are weight bearing first with the toes down, then shortening the rear-forefoot interval by reacting into the ground, and this is exactly opposite from what truly happens in functional prograde weight bearing. In functional weight bearing the arch and foot need to somewhat splay to load adapt, and more importantly, this has to be a skilled eccentric endurance task. This first portion of the arch splay occurs with the toes off of the ground and so forgetting to teach this part while only teaching the “reacting off the ground, flexor muscle driven approach” is flawed. The toes when on the ground utilize the flexor muscles help to resist the latter phase of arch accommodation, but again to be clear, this does not occur in the initial weight bearing phase where eccentrics of the anterior compartment muscles rule the roost. What I am trying to say is that there is never a point in the functional stance phase of the gait cycle where the rearfoot and forefoot are approximating, other than at terminal toe off, it just does not occur.  Hopefully you can see the point of my argument, that this exercise if done improperly (as taught by many) is not functional. 

So is the short foot exercise dead ? Well, to be honest everything has its’ place in this world. Value can sometimes be obtained from the most corrupt of tasks, but there has to be a correlation and transference to the end purpose.  

None the less, this is a pretty prehistoric exercise if you ask me, it needs to be dusted off and updated and retaught correctly, and that is one of my near term missions in the coming weeks. Again, if anything, if there is one morsel of value , the eccentric phase of “letting go” of the short foot posture into a controlled splay is the part of it that has much of any functional relevance.  Teaching your client how to attain a short foot posture, and then to stand and learn to slowly eccentrically release the short foot posture is its main functional value. But, the toes are critical, and a video is key to helping drive this point home, so that is my short term commission. Again, this does not mean there is not value here, so lets not start a social media rant taking my words out of context.  

To summarize, as we are bearing weight down on the foot the arch should be in a controlled pronatory deformation to shock absorb. There is no time to be reacting off the floor into a short foot, that opportunity moment is lost at contact, actually it really never occurs once the ground is met whether one is in initial rearfoot, midfoot or forefoot strike.  The foot has to be prepared at the time of contact with its’ most competent arch, not busy reacting after the fact trying to achieve the competent structure.  The value in the short foot is earning competence in its loading ability and learning to control its adaptive eccentric lengthening, this must be possible in both toe extension and toe flexion (ground contact).  Failure to procure a competent foot will put your client at risk for all of the juicy pathologies we talk about here on The Gait Guys, things like bunions, hammer toes, pes planus, plantar fascitis, tibialis posterior insufficiency and a multitude of various tendonopathies to name just a few.

Need an exciting primer on the types of things a foot should be able to do ? Here are 2 videos. Video link. Video 2 link.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

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En Pointe, Demi Pointe, Posterior Impingement ?

When we see pictures like this most of us are triggered to look at the toe and the challenges to the 1st MTP joint.  But what about all that compression and crowding in the back of the ankle ? Posterior compression is a reality in athletes who spend time at end range plantarflexion or pack much force and load through end range plantarflexion.

This is a photo example of what is referred to as “en pointe” which means “on the tip”.  “Demi pointe” means on the ball of the foot which is much safer for many areas of the foot, but this requires adequate 1st MTP (metatarsophalangeal joint range). We discussed this briefly this week on social media regarding hallux limitus and rigidus.

En Pointe is a terrible challenge. So if you are thinking of putting your darling children in ballet…… just beware of the facts and do some logical thinking on your own when it comes to allowing the “en pointe” axially loading of the entire body over a single joint, a type of loading that this joint was never, ever, designed to withstand. This joint is a great problem for a great many in their lives, why start playing with the risk factors so early ? Let them dance, into demi pointe, but pull them once they are being forced in to En Pointe, if you want our opinion on the matter.

En pointe or classical point ballet it typically done in point shoes or slippers which have a reinforced toe box that allows a more squared off stable surface to stand in pointe position.  It does not however allow a reduction in the axial loading that you see in this picture and it certainly does not help with proper angulation of the big toe, if anything the slipper will gently corral the toes together rendering abductor hallucis muscle function nearly obsolete.   The box will also not stop the valgus loading that typically occurs at the joint. Despite what the studies say, this is one we would watch carefully.  Now, there are studies out there that do not support hallux valgus and bunion formation in dancers, we admit that.  However, we are just asking you to use common sense.  If you see a bunion forming, if the toe is getting chronically swollen, if the toe is drifting off line then one must use common sense and assume that the load is exceeding joint integrity.  Prolonged and excessive loading of any joint cartilage is likely to create a risky environment to crack, fissure, wear down or damage the cartilage or the bony surface underneath (subchondral bone).  If you screw up this joint, toe off will be impaired and thus the windlass effect at the joint will be impaired thus leading to a multitude of other dysfunctional foot issues in the years to come.

Now, back to the “en pointe” position.  Did you try it yet ? Heed our warning ! Just trust us, this is bloody hard.  Since serious foot deformities can result from starting pointe too early, pre-professional students do not usually begin dancing en pointe until after the age of 10 or so , remember, the adolescent foot has not completed its bone ossification and the bone growth plates have not closed.  Thus, damage and deformity are to be expected if done at too young an age.  If you asked our opinion on this, we would say to wait until at least the mid-teenage years……. but by that point in the dance world a prodigy would miss her or his opportunity.  Thus, we see the problems from going “en pointe” too early in many. In the dance world, there are other qualifications for dancers before En Pointe is begun. Things like holding turnout, combining center combinations, secure and stable releve, 3rd position, 4th position, 4th croise and 5th position all of which are huge torsional demands on the hips to the feet. Do you want your child undergoing these deforming forces during early osseous development ? 

Achieving en pointe is a process.  There is a progression to get to it.  Every teacher has their own methods but it is not a “just get up on your toes” kind of thing.

Are you a dancer with posterior ankle pain, impingement or disability. The Os trigonum and protruding lateral talar process are two common and well-documented morphological variations associated with posterior ankle impingement in ballet dancers. 

Think this stuff through. If you are going to be treating these things, you have to know the anatomy, loading mechanics and you have to know your sport or art. Dr. Allen was a physician for the world famous Joffrey Ballet for a few years, he knows a thing or two about these issues dancer’s endure. And he still has a few nightmares from time to time over them. 

Dr. Shawn Allen

reference:

Clin Anat. 2010 Sep;23(6):613-21. doi: 10.1002/ca.20991.Pathoanatomy of posterior ankle impingement in ballet dancers. Russell JA,Kruse DW, Koutedakis Y, McEwan IM, Wyon M

Podcast 83: Gait & Brain Injury, and Compression Wraps Theories

Plus: Rocker Shoes, Knee Replacements, and Strong Ankles

Show sponsors:

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www.lemsshoes.com

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D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:

www.onlinece.com   type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen,  ”Biomechanics”

Show notes:

Texting on the Loo

Hepatic encephalopathy: effect of liver failure on brain function.

http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v14/n12/fig_tab/nrn3587_F1.html

Podcast 71: Forefoot Varus, Big Toe Problems & Charlie Horses"

*Show sponsor: www.newbalancechicago.com

Lems Shoes.  www.lemsshoes.comMention GAIT15 at check out for a 15% discount through August 31st, 2014.

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B. iTunes link:

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C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification and more !) :

http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204

D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:

www.onlinece.com   type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen,  ”Biomechanics”

______________

Today’s Show notes:

1. American College of Cardiology. Running out your healthy heart. How much exercise is too much ?

Running for 7 minutes a day cuts risk of death by 30%, study says
http://wgntv.com/2014/07/29/running-for-7-minutes-a-day-cuts-risk-of-death-by-30-study-says/
 
2. The history of “Charlie Horses”
 
3. A runner with strange shin bruises.  
from : Joy 
Hi, I’m a great follower of your blog - fascinating stuff! I was wondering if I could ask you a quick question as nobody I’ve spoken to has been able to help:

I’ve been getting bruises that appear on my shin during running. They don’t hurt, I’m just wary of ignoring what could be a warning sign. Have you ever come across this before? (It’s mainly the spot where I had a tibial stress fracture last year, but I also get a few other apparently spontaneous bruises on my lower legs.)
4. Is that a forefoot varus or are you just happy to see me ?
Functional vs Anatomic vs. Compensated forefoot varus foot postures. A loose discussion.
5. A reader’s pet peeve about shoe store “gait analysis”.
6. Thoughts on pronation and the like.
7. Case study:  First toe fusion and implications long and short term.
“I had a patient today with an MTP fusion of his great toe after adverse complications from a bunionectomy.  Do you have any recommendations for gait training when great toe dorsiflexion is no longer an option?  He is currently compensating by externally rotating his foot and overpronating.  I’m thinking through it and  I know he has to gain the motion elsewhere to help normalize his gait as much as possible, so possibly gaining ankle dorsiflexion and hip extension.  Just wondering if you have any tips to share or articles to point me to for further ideas.  Continuing my research now.  I’m a relatively new grad and this is my first patient I’m seeing with this fusion. Many thanks

Podcast 68: Gait , Arm Swing, Neuro-developmental Windows

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C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification and more !) :

http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204

D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:

www.onlinece.com   type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen,  ”Biomechanics”

______________

Today’s Show notes:

1.Brain implant helps paralysed man move his hand
http://realitysandwich.com/220399/brain-implant-helps-paralysed-man-move-his-hand-wired-uk/?u=95820

2. Has Science Finally Confirmed the Existence of Acupuncture Points, Validating Chinese Medicine?

3.This Tiny, Whip-Tailed Robot Can Administer Meds Anywhere In the Body
4. It matters what you put on your kids feet
“Shoes affect the gait of children. With shoes, children walk faster by…
5. Normal gait development.
6. Myelination
7. Arm swing in kids.
8. Arm swing and gait speed.


Why alignment of the big toe is so critical to gait, posture, stabilization motor patterns and running.

There are two ways of thinking about the arch of the foot when it comes to competent height.  One perspective is to passively jack up the arch with a device such as an orthotic, a choice that we propose should always be your last option, or better yet to access the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles of the foot (as shown in this video) to compress the legs of the foot tripod and lift the arch dynamically.  Here today we DO NOT discuss the absolute critical second strategy of lifting the arch via the extensors as you have seen in our “tripod exercise video” (link here) but we assure you that regaining extensor skill is an absolute critical skill for normal arch integrity and function.  We like to say that there are two scenarios going on to regain a normal competent arch (and that does not necessarily mean a high arch, a low arch can also be competent….. it is about function and less about form): one scenario is to hydraulically lift the arch from below and the other scenario is to utilize a crane-like effect to lift the arch from above. When you combine the two, you restore the arch function.  In those with a flat flexible incompetent foot you can often regain normal alignment and function.  But remember, you have to get to the client before the deforming forces are significant enough and have been present long enough that the normal anatomical alignments are no longer possible. For example, a hallux valgus with a large bunion (this person will never get to the abductor hallucis sufficiently) or a progressively collapsed arch that is progressively becoming rigid or semi-rigid.

Think about these concepts today as you watch your clients walk, run or exercise.  And then consider this study below on the critical importance of the abductor hallucis muscle after watching our old video of Dr. Allen’s competent foot.  

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE:

The abductor hallucis muscle acts as a dynamic elevator of the arch. This muscle is often overlooked, poorly understood, and most certainly rarely addressed. Understanding this muscle and its mechanics may change the way we understand and treat pes planus, posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, hallux valgus, and many other issues that lead to a challenge of the arch, effective and efficient gait. Furthermore, its dysfunction and lead to many aberrant movement and stabilization strategies more proximally into the kinetic chains.

*From the article referenced below,  “Most studies of degenerative flatfoot have focused on the posterior tibial muscle, an extrinsic muscle of the foot. However, there is evidence that the intrinsic muscles, in particular the abductor hallucis (ABH), are active during late stance and toe-off phases of gait.“

We hope that this article, and the video above, will bring your focus back to the foot and to gait for when the foot and gait are aberrant most proximal dynamic stabilization patterns of the body are merely strategic compensations.

Study RESULTS:

All eight specimens showed an origin from the posteromedial calcaneus and an insertion at the tibial sesamoid. All specimens also demonstrated a fascial sling in the hindfoot, lifting the abductor hallucis muscle to give it an inverted ‘V’ shaped configuration. Simulated contraction of the abductor hallucis muscle caused flexion and supination of the first metatarsal, inversion of the calcaneus, and external rotation of the tibia, consistent with elevation of the arch.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17559771

Foot Ankle Int. 2007 May;28(5):617-20.

Influence of the abductor hallucis muscle on the medial arch of the foot: a kinematic and anatomical cadaver study.

Wong YS. Island Sports Medicine & Surgery, Island Orthopaedic Group, #02-16 Gleneagles Medical Centre, 6 Napier Road, Singapore, 258499, Singapore. 

Curse of the Bunion

Hi Dr. Allen,

My husband was able to stop using his orthotics by utilizing the exercises he learned from The Gait Guys on YouTube so I thought I would send you an email to ask your opinion about my daughter’s foot issues. She is 14 years old and a serious dancer (eight hours of class per week plus up to eight hours of rehearsal). She has developed a bunion which is starting to cause her significant pain in the joint of her big toe. We took her to an Orthopedist who gave her a Cortizone shot in her joint and suggested she will need surgery. Considering she is only 14 and surgery would take her out of dance for at least 3-4 months, we do not view it as a viable option. Is it possible to fix a bunion without surgery and is that something you have had success doing? I know she is not currently a patient of yours but I would be interested to hear your opinion on the issue.
Thanks,  PG
___________________________________
Dear PG
Wow, that is great news for your husband ! Although we do not recommend taking our information as medical advice it is always nice to hear that by simply using our stuff to self educate oneself that people are fixing what therapy was unable to achieve.
I used to treat many in the dance company at the Chicago Joffrey Ballet along side a few other brilliant doctors (who are Gait Guys followers as well !) and we always cringed when a nasty bunion would walk and and cry for help.
Bunions are developmental for the most part. They are found paired with Hallux Valgus. This journal article has a real nice verbiage that we like:
“The first ray is an inherently unstable axial array that relies on a fine balance between its static (capsule, ligaments, and plantar fascia) and dynamic stabilizers (peroneus longus and small muscles of the foot) to maintain its alignment. In some feet, there is a genetic predisposition for a nonlinear osseous alignment or a laxity of the static stabilizers that disrupts this muscle balance.  Many inherent or acquired biomechanical abnormalities are identified in feet with hallux valgus. However, these associations are incomplete and nonlinear. In any patient, a number of factors have to come together to cause the hallux valgus.”
In working with dancers we found plenty that did not have bunions or hallux valgus.  So it is not always the dancing that is the culprit. But it can be a factor if the osseous alignment is suboptimal (the joint line architecture at the metatarsophalangeal joint at the big toe is angled to allow for lateral hallux drift or the intermetatarsal angle is predisposed (wider than optimal)).  
The main problem however in dancers is multifactorial:
  • the “turn out” predisposes the foot to more pronation which can easily destabilize the medial foot tripod anchoring of the 1st metatarsal to the ground.  This will change the pull of the adductor hallucis causing the hallux to drift laterally and the 1st metatarsal to drift medially widening the gap between the 1st and 2nd metatarsals (ie. the intermetatarsal angle).
  • dancers also axially load the hallux. This is called “en pointe”.  Please read our prior blog post on “en pointe” (click here). As you can see in the video above, the angle at the big toe (the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint) immediately begins to drift into hallux valgus.  Continuing to do this will render this poor gal a nasty bunion in time we highly suspect.  These are the challenges that dancers put into the foot. Once the hallux drifts laterally the first metatarsal loses more anchoring capacity at the medial foot tripod and the viscous cycle continues. 
  • Remember, a bunion is a soft tissue adventitious mal-development.  It is often erroneously confused as a bony proliferation at the medial joint, the knuckle area.  This is not the case.  Hallux valgus drives the metatarsal head medially and exposes the head of the bone medially giving the appearance of a bump (the “bunion”). In fact, the bunion is an inflamed or adventitious bursal sac combined with the prominence of the MET head and angry inflammed skin, ligaments, joint capsule etc
To “fix the bunion” is a loaded issue.  Once these begin to develop they frequently progress in degree and pain.  They are very hard to correct conservatively but you have to give it a chance, surgery has to be the last road. Unfortunately if this is going to happen it must be determined if dance is a provoking factor, which is very likely.  Being in En Pointe will make this a quick trip into a nasty bunion we fear.  Use caution and logic on this one PG.  Your daughter has to live with these feet for many decades at the very least, and there is nothing like walking on painful incompetent feet for the rest of your life.  Further correction possibilities may come from determining if she can adequately form a good foot tripod and achieve competent strength in the muscles that stabilize the joint (FHL, FHB, EHL, EHB, ABD H., ADD H., tib posterior and anterior …… to name most of them).  A strong competent foot with excellent medial tripod anchoring ability will rarely develop into a bunion or hallux valgus. But you have to catch the incompetencies early and correct them before things get out of  hand. 
Good luck to you and  your daughter PG.  Find someone good at these things.  Find your local “Gait Guy or Gait Gal” and you will be in good hands (or should we say “good feet”).
The government needs to start a “Just say no to bunions” grassroots program. Although on second thought, maybe that is not a good idea. It would only get caught up in congress and the senate for years.
Warm regards,
Shawn and Ivo

Bunions

Dear Gait Guys:

if treated when still a child can you change a bunion without surgery? I have a young kid, 12, with a bilateral forefoot varus and bilateral bunions, he has started to compensate even through his hip and core already which I have been working on but wondered if, by retraining the foot, tripod exercises, lumbricals, interossei, can we actually change his foot? And do you have any other ways that I might be able to attack this foot in order to change it?

Thanks

J

Dear J

As we sure you are aware, bunions form from unopposed activity of the adductor hallicus. Normally, with an appropriate tripod, it serves to assist in forming the transverse and longitudinal arches of the foot during the stance phase of gait. When the 1st ray (in basic terms, the medial aspect of the foot) isn’t anchored, it acts unopposed and adducts the hallux instead, forming an abductovalgus deformity over time. This causes a medial shift of weight in the foot and the metatarsals to abduct to compensate for this. In other words, the big toe and medial tripod are supposed to be well anchored so that the lateral foot is pulled towards it. This forms the forefoot’s transverse arch. But when the medial tripod is not anchored, the lateral foot serves as the anchor and thus the big to is pulled towards that lateral anchor by the adductor hallucis muscle.

It is imperative that you restore function (and the ability) to fully descend the 1st ray (your child must relearn how to anchor that metatarsal head aspect of the tripod).  This is imperative for success.  We have a youtube video of a young child demonstrating how they learned this. You can often accomplish this with manual methods, mobilization, appropriate footwear and most importantly exercises to descend the 1st ray , particularly toe extensor exercises (both the EHB and the EHL which descend the head of the 1st). Sometimes, if the 1st ray is rigid and won’t descend, you will need to use an orthotic or a cork addition to their footbed with a Mortons toe extension to bring the ground up to the base of the 1st metatarsal.

It sounds like you are strengthening the core, which provides stability from above down. Pay close attention to the external rotators, as they will often be lengthened due to excessive internal rotation of the extremity.  But the key is restoring the skill, endurance and strength of those muscles that descend the head of the 1st metatarsal and that help reengage the medial tripod.

We hope this helps. PLease let us know

Ivo and Shawn

When the toe extensors become short or tight.

Here is a really great video.

One of us was treating physicians for the Chicago Joffrey Ballet for a time in the early 2000’s. Feet like these were nothing new. For the most part there was amazing flexibility, amazing strength and occasionally some nasty bunions but not as often as one might think. What was clear however was that the majority of the population of feet seen were freakishly strong, amazingly flexible and with skill levels that most of us only dream of.

In this video we can see two things which we just highlighted. Full uninhibited ranges of motion and apparent strength. In order to have full ranges we usually see wonderful strength. When we see a loss of range of motion, frequently but not always, we see weakness of the muscles necessary to drive that range. In other words, if we had the strength we would have the ability to engage the full range because of that strength.

You have heard it here before, that when there is weakness in a muscle around a joint (since all muscles cross a joint) we will see a neuro-protective loss of range due to a neuro-protective tightening (we are using the word TIGHTENING very carefully, note we did not use the word SHORTNESS) of some related muscles in a response to attempt to stabilize the joint. It is not a perfect remedy, but what other strategy do we have ? Sadly, it is usually the strategy of the owner of the broken part to try to stretch that tightened (again, note we did not use the word shortened) muscular interval which then presents the joint again with the afferent detection that the joint is unstable and unprotected. So, more tightness develops and the vicious cycle continues. It is our hope that those that find they need to stretch daily will someday have a light bulb moment and see that they are doing nothing to remedy the vicious cycle. That searching for the weakness that drives the neuro-protective tightness (as opposed to true “Shortness”, which is truly physiologic loss of the length-tension relationship) is where the answer lies to remedy the joint imbalance.

Here this client has generous ranges of motion and highly suspected appropriate strength. The two often go hand in hand unless the client has the phenomenon commonly referred to as “double jointed” which is truly just a collagen abundance in the passive restraints (lets leave this as a merely generalized term for now, it is a topic of another blog post).

What we wanted to talk about here today was the plethora of tightness AND shortness we see daily in the extensors of the toes. How many of your clients have the flexion (toe curl, at all joints) range of the toes that this client has ? Not many correct ? But most have near full extension ranges of the toes correct ? This can only come down to one theory that must be proved or disproved. That being that the toe extensors are either tight because the flexors and plantar intrinsics are weak OR that the toe extensors are short because they have been in this environment of flexor-plantar weakness for so long that the tightness eventually morphed into a more permanent reduced length-tension relationship.

Go ahead, see if you can flex your toes or those of your spouse or clients as far at this dancer can. See if you have full range at the metatarsophalangeal joints like this dancer does. Very likely you will notice a nasty painful tension and stretch across the top (dorsum) of your foot. This is reduced length of the long and/or short toe extensors and likely fascial connective tissue as well. Heck, what else runs across the top of your feet ? Nothing else really. So, what is one to assume ?

Digit extensor tightness is rampant in our society. We have been in shoes and orthotics and stable shoes for so long that our flexors and foot intrinsic muscles have become pathologically weak. As the opposing pull of the flexors and extensors across the end of the foot at the metatarsalphalangeal joints becomes so imbalanced our foot has no other choice but to express this imbalance.

Is this why we see bunions, hammer toes, even gentle flexion of our toes even at rest ?

Yup, the mass population of feet we see are slowly going into a coma. The pattern we see most commonly is even a bit more complex however, it is not quite as simple as tight-short extensors and weak flexors and intrinsics. Looking at the functional neuro-pathology of the hammer toe proves the complexity of our compensations. Here is the most typical pattern (and hence the hammer toes that are taking over the earth):

  • weak long toe extensors
  • strong short toe extensors
  • weak short toe flexors
  • strong long toe flexors

This combination ends up in a functional/flexible hammer toe, and if left alone to fester, a rigid hammer toe in time.

From this combination you should now as the question, “So, when I attempt to put my foot and toes in the flexion positioning of this dancer in the video above what is the tightness i feel across the top of my foot ?”

Answer: functional tightness (and possibly shortness if it has been there long enough, which is likely for most folks) of BOTH the long and short digit extensors (EDB, EDL). Think about it, in the hammer toe position both are short, but for different reasons. The EDB because of the resting extension position at the metatarsal phalangeal joint and the EDL becuase it is wrapped around two distal chronically flexed interphalangeal joints in the presence of an ALREADY extended metatarsophalangeal joint ( which takes up EDL length).

This phenomenon occurs rampantly in the upper limb as well across the elbow, carpals and finger joints. It is a big component of TOS and carpal tunnel and of the multitude of functional problems that the elbow such as medial and lateral epicondylitis.

Why do you care ? After all we are The Gait Guys. Well, because most of us swing our arms during gait and what is pathologic in the upper limb can affect the lower limbs and gait. It is all connected after all, according to the song ……

Chronic disruption of the length-tension relationships of the toe extensors.

It is a bigger problem than you think.

Shawn and Ivo. Discussing the distal sister disease of polio……… affecting just the toes of course. Ever hear of Tolio ? (pronounced……Toe-Lee-oh). Just kidding.