If you are a sprinter, how you load the forefoot bipod might be a variable for speed or injury. Tendons can change their cross sectional area, if you load them.

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Of course this article is not exclusive for sprinters, it pertains to any running sport, even endurance.

Maximum isometric force had increased by 49% and tendon CSA by 17% !
Tendons can change their cross sectional area, if you load them.

Here I show lateral forefoot loading in a heel raise, and a medial forefoot loading in heel raise. This has to be part of the discovery process outlined below. Forefoot types will play into the loading choice, and unequal strength of the medial or lateral calf compartment will also play into the loading choice made. Where do you need to put your strength ? And is the forefoot competent to take that loading challenge ? Meaning, do they have a forefoot valgus? A forefoot supinatus ? These things matter. If you are a sprinter, how you load the forefoot bipod might be a variable of foot type, asymmetrical posterior compartment strength, or foot strike pattern in the frontal plane (search our blog for cross over gait and glute medius targeting strategies for step width) ,or a combination of several or all of the above. These things matter, and why and where you put your strength matters, if you are even aware of where and how you are putting the loads, and why of course. Of course, then there are people like the recent Outside online article that says how you foot strike doesn’t matter, but it does matter. But of course, if you do not know the things we have just mentioned, it is easy to write such an article.

Isometrics are useful, they have their place. In a recent podcast we discussed the place and time to use isometrics, isotonics, eccentrics and concentrics.
One of the goals in a tendinopathy is to restore the tendon stiffness. Isometrics are a safe way to load the muscle tendon complex without engaging a movement that might have to go through a painful arc of movement. With isometrics here is neurologic overspill into the painful arc without having to actually go there.
The key seems to be load. More load seems to get most people further along. Remember, the tendon is often problematic because it is inflammed and cannot provide a stiffness across its expanse. Heavy isometric loading seems to be a huge key for most cases. But, we have to say it here, not everyone fits this mold. Some tendons, in some people, will respond better to eccentrics, and strangely enough, some cases like stretching (perhaps because this is a subset of an eccentric it seems or because there is a range of motion issue in the joint that is a subset of the problem). Now the literature suggests that stretching is foolish, but each case is unique all in its own way, and finding what works for a client is their medicine, regardless of what the literature and research says.
Finding the right load for a given tendon and a right frequency of loading and duraction of loading is also case by case specific. Part of finding the right loading position is a discovery process as well, as noted in the photos above. Finding the fascicles you want to load, and the ones you do not want to load (painful) can be a challenging discovery process for you and your client. Finding the right slice of the pie to load, and the ones not to load takes experimentation. When it is the achilles complex, finding the safe However, if one is looking for a rough template to build from, brief, often, heavy painfree loads is a good template recipe to start with.

Here, in this Geremia et al article, "ultrasound was used to determine Achilles tendon cross-sectional area (CSA), length and elongation as a function of plantar flexion torque during voluntary plantar flexion."
They discovered that, "At the end of the training program, maximum isometric force had increased by 49% and tendon CSA by 17%, but tendon length, maximal tendon elongation and maximal strain were unchanged. Hence, tendon stiffness had increased by 82%, and so had Young’s modulus, by 86%.

Effects of high loading by eccentric triceps surae training on Achilles tendon properties in humans. Jeam Marcel Geremia, Bruno Manfredini Baroni, Maarten Frank Bobbert, Rodrigo Rico Bini, Fabio Juner Lanferdini, Marco Aurélio Vaz
European Journal of Applied Physiology
August 2018, Volume 118, Issue 8, pp 1725–1736

Part 2: The amputated hallux & the complex biomechanical fall-out from it.

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Last week we promised Part 2 to this case, the amputated big toe.
Here is part 2. These are the complicated biomechanical fall-outs, so grab a big mug o' coffee and have at it !

In review, this person (all photos and case premissioned in swap for insight) had the distal hallux removed because of a progressive melanoma on the big toe. Can you believe that ! This is one more reminder that the sun and regular dermatologist screenings are wise.
This person had a complaint of progressing right gluteal and QL pain, spasm, tone and some persistent pain now in the 2nd metatarsal as well as some shoe challenges. We discuss this case briefly in and upcoming podcast, #139 or #140 we believe.

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Before we add our final thoughts to this case, lets cap our post from last week.

-Without the hallux, we cannot wind up the windlass and shorten the distance between the first metatarsal and heel, thus the arch will splay (more permanently over time we suspect) and we cannot optimize the arch height.
This will promote more internal spin on that limb because of more midfoot pronation and poor medial foot tripod stabilization.
- More internal limb spin means more internal hip spin, and more demand (which might not be met at the glute level) and thus loads that are supposed to be buffered with hip stabilization, will likely be transferred into the low back, and or into the medial knee. Look for more quad protective tone if they cannot get it from the glutes. Troubles arise when we try to control the hip from quadriceps strategies, it is poorly postured to do so, but people do it everyday, *hint: most cyclists and distance runners to a large degree).
- anterior pelvis posturing on the right, perhaps challenging durability of the lower abdominals, hence suspect QL increased protective tone, possible low back tightness or pain depending on duration of activities
- These factors are likely related to his complaints in the right gluteal and low back/QL area.

Now, onto our next thoughts.

- when the hallux is incompetent, in this case absent, there are few other choices to gain forefoot purchase on the ground other than more flexion gripping of the 2nd toe (then the 3rd, then 4th). This is a progressing "searching" phenomenon for forefoot stability and without the function of the big fella, the 2nd toe will begin a hammering phenomenon, often, but not always. We would not be surprised to see hammer toe development in this case, but this person is now very aware of it, and can at least now fight that battle with increased awareness. There is some mild evidence of this on the side lateral photo.

- We are happy to see that the proximal phalange was spared. The adductor hallucis is inserted medially there, and this will help to reduce bunion generation risk (medial metatarsal drift). Comparing the photo and the radiograph is a great example of how far back/proximal the 1st MTP joint is. One could easily assume that the entire hallux was resected from the photo, but the radiograph shows otherwise.

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- Toe off is obviously going to be compromised. The patient cannot adequately stabilize the 1st metatarsal (MET) and this will mean a compromised foot tripod, medial foot/tripod splay, arch pronation control challenges but toe off stabilization is going to have to be met by the 2nd and 3rd digits, as discussed above. They are not suited to be the major players here, they are synergistic to this end. Do not be surprised to see one of 2 strategies at toe off here:

1. heavy medial foot tripod toe off, dropping into the void and this maximize the internal spin challenges and minimizing the requisite foot supination stiffness generation phase that should be normal at toe off

2. avoidance of the above, with a forced conscious forefoot lateral toe off, a supinatory strategy, to avoid internal limb spin, more toe hammering, and the lurch heavily and abruptly off of the right foot and onto the left limb.

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3. taking #2 further, any time there is perceived challenges or deficits in strength, endurance, proprioception, balance, power and the like, the brain often will create a premature departure off of said limb, creating a requisite premature loading onto the opposite limb. This can cause a phenomenon well loosely refer to "catching" in the contralateral quadriceps mechanism. These clients, with their abrupt loading pattern onto the opposite limb will most often have troubles getting into initial gluteal hip stabilization strategies, and thus default into a quadriceps strategy, that in time can lead to quad shortness and increased tone, which can cause more compression across the patellofemoral joint and cause knee pain. This is more of a compression/loading response issue rather than tracking phenomenon, which we see at the typical diagnosis. We often look for causes in the opposite limb for contralateral knee pain. IT is quite often there if you are looking hard enough for it. Fix the problem, not the symptom.
There is a long host of other things than can arise from here, including heavy contralateral (in this case left sided) foot loading challenges, often more forefoot initial loading, and all of the problems than can arise when this pattern is cyclical, but that would take this post far too deep and long. So, . . . . another time.

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4. Shoe fit, we could make the case that a shoe that nicely hugs the forefoot, as opposed to a wide toe box'ed shoe, could help fight off the risk of 1st metatarsal abduction and thus bunion formation risk. However, one cannot dismiss the wider toe box giving the remaining toes a better environment to engage without hammering with over use of long flexors. We might suggest a trial of an elastic sleeve, one often used for plantar fascitis symptom management, placing a snug one around the forefoot when ambulating. This could help keep that metatarsal snug and stop the bunion-like drift we would be watching for.

have at it gang, cases like this are far and deep and require deep understanding of normal and abnormal biomechanics, and the rabbit hole deep myriad of compensations that can be engaged.

have a great weekend !

Shawn and Ivo

You need toe extension, more than you might think.

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There is a major difference in these 2 photos.One foot is ready for foot loading, the other has one foot over the starting line, and is going to possibly have the risks related to inappropriate loading.

In clients with one of several possible issues related to poor control of the arch during weight bearing loading, it is not all too uncommon for us to bring to their attention that not only do they NOT utilize toe extension appropriately, and at the right time, they just simply have poor strength and endurance of the toe extensors (we will not be bringing up the complicated orchestration of the long and short toe extensors today, lets just keep it loosely as looking at them as a whole for today).

We know we say it an awful lot, that clients need more toe extension endurance and strength. But more often than not, they need more awareness of how little they are actually using their toe extensors during foot loading. This is why we despise flip flops and foot wear without a back strap on them, the flexors have to dominate to keep the footwear on the foot.  And, if you are into your toe flexors, you are definitely not into your toe extensors.

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You can easily see in this photo that there is a major difference in the integrity and preparation of the foot arch prior to foot loading in these 2 sample photos. One the toes are up in extension, the other the toes are lazy and neutral.  The toe up photo demonstrates well that when the toes are extended, the Windlass mechanism draws the forefoot and rearfoot together and raises the arch. Go ahead, lift your toes, it will happen on you as well (unless your arch is so collapsed that the first metatarsal actually dorsiflexes during toe extension, in this case, you are a whole different management tier). From this arch raised position, the first metatarsal is adequately plantarflexed, this means the joint complexes proximal and distal to the metatarsals are all in the right position to load and cope with loads. In the toe neutral picture, these components are not prepared, the arch is already getting ready to weight bear load from a half-baked position. One cannot expect the foot complex to load well when it is starting from a position of "half way there". One should start the loading of the foot from the starting line, not 3 steps over the line and not 3 steps before the starting line.  There is no athletic or mechanical endeavor that does well when we start the challenge too soon or too late, timing is everything.

How you choose to prep your foot for contact loading, and yes, there is some conscious choice  here, one is lazy the other is optimal, can determine to a large degree if you or your client is about to fall into the long list of problems related to poorly controlled pronation (too much, too soon, too often, too fast). Any of those bracketed problems lead to improper loading and strains during time under tension.

We will almost always start our clients on our progressing protocol of arch awareness and we will loosely say arch restoration, and attempts at better optimizing the anatomy they have, with toe up awareness.  Many clients will have poor awareness of this component issue, on top of poor endurance and frank weakness. The arch is to a great degree build from a lifting mechanical windlass effect, from the extensors and foot dorslflexors, not from the foot flexors. This is one of our primary beefs with the short foot exercise of Janda, there needs to be a toe extensor component in that exercise (search our blog for why the short foot exercise is dead). The short foot exercise is not actually dead, all exercises have some value when placed and performed properly, but the short foot exercise is based off of the toes being down and utilizing the plantar intrinsics to push the arch up and shorten the foot, this is a retrograde motion and it is not how we load the foot, but, it does have value if you understand this and place it into your clients repertoire appropriately.  This is also why we have some conceptual problems in stuffing an orthotic under someones arch to "lift it up", ie. slow its fall/pronation.  There are times for this, but why not rebuild the proper pathways, patterns and mechanics ?

Teach your clients about toe extension awareness. TEach them that they need to relearn the skill that when the toes drop down to the ground that the arch does NOT have to follow them down, that the client can relearn, "toe up, arch up . . . . . then toes down, but keep the arch up".  IT is a mantra in our office, "don't let your arch play follow the leader".  Reteach the proper neurologic disassociation between the toes and arch.

Perhaps the first place you should be starting your clients with foot and ankle issues, is regaining awareness of proper toe extension from the moment of toe off, maintaining it through swing, and then keeping it until the forefoot has purchase on the ground again, and not any time sooner than that ! If their toes are coming down prior to foot contact, it is quite likely their arch is following the leader.

So, if your client comes in with any of the following, to name just a few:  tibialis posterior tendonitis, plantar fascitis, heel pain, forefoot pain, painful bunions, arch pain, hallux limitus, turf toe, . . . . and the list goes on. Perhaps this will help you get your client to the starting line.

Shawn & Ivo, thegaitguys.com

 

The season to pathologize our feet is upon us. Toe extension matters.

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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.

Wiping out the pinky (5th) toe from the evolutionary tree. What the 5th toe does for your COM (center of mass)

Just the other day we saw this article in Popular Science written by Sally Zhang. Sally obviously does not read our blog, but she got a lot of stuff right.

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“If you’re born without a pinky toe or have an accident and it’s removed, you can completely do everything you wanted to do,” Dr. Anne Holly Johnson, instructor in orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, says.

Above you will see a photo of one of the gait guy’s feet. It is quite clear from the photo that competent use of the pinky toe is not necessary for adequate, and possibly exceptionally skilled, foot function. But . . . .

Archived blog link:

https://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/96538178584/do-i-really-need-my-pinky-toe-just-the-other

Do I Really Need My Pinky Toe?

Just the other day we saw this article in Popular Science written by Sally Zhang.  Sally obviously does not read our blog, but she got a lot of stuff right.

“If you’re born without a pinky toe or have an accident and it’s removed, you can completely do everything you wanted to do,” Dr. Anne Holly Johnson, instructor in orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, says.

Above you will see a photo of one of the gait guy’s feet.  It is quite clear from the photo that competent use of the pinky toe is not necessary for adequate, and possibly exceptionally skilled, foot function.  Here, check out this video of our foot in these 2 videos (here and here) for some advanced foot function (sans pinky toe). As you can see in the photo above, this 5th toe has likely never felt the ground, this is a fixed deformity.  Flexor and extensor function of the toe are intact, but it does not reach the ground and so assistance in gaining adequate purchase of the 5th metatarsal on the ground is absent. 

This brings us to a deeper question, what about the 5th metatarsal then? Is it necessary ?  Our answer even without deeper research is a solid “yes”. The foot tripod is severely compromised without the 5th metatarsal. The lateral stability of the foot is impaired without the 5th MET.  The natural locking of the calcaneocuboid joint mechanism will be impaired, the peroneal muscles that provide such critical lateral ankle and foot stability will have fascial planes and tendon attachments disengaged, the natural walking gait lateral to medial foot progression would be impaired, propulsion would be impaired and the list goes on and on. And, not even on the local foot/ankle level. Because, if you take out the function and stability of the lateral foot the hip is very likely to suffer lateral (frontal plane) stability deficits. Meaning, the gluteus medius and abdominal obliques will have more difficulty guarding frontal plane drift when in stance phase rendering all of the “cross over gait” risks (link) highly probable.  

So, not much exciting stuff here today. The presence of a functioning pinky toe does not appear to be critical but don’t take away its big brother neighbor, the 5th Metatarsal or trouble is just around the corner. Don’t believe us? Just ask anyone with a non-union fracture (Jones fracture) of the 5th metatarsal.

The answer goes back to the evolutionary history of humans, explains Dr. Anish Kadakia, assistant professor in orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University. "Primates use their feet to grab, claw, to climb trees, but humans, we don’t need that function anymore,“ Kadakia says. "Clearly we’re not jumping up and down trees and using our feet to grab. We have toes embryologically, evolutionary for that particular reason because we descended from apes, but we don’t need them as people.”

The gait guys, working with 4 toes on each foot, one step ahead of evolution it seems.

Dr. Shawn Allen

one of the gait guys

reference:

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-05/fyi-do-i-really-need-my-pinky-toe?dom=tw&src=SOC

Hallux valgus can affect the entire kinetic chain(s)


Here at The Gait Guys we have been mentioning hallux valgus in many different clincial and biomechanical scenarios over the years.  Inability to stabilize this all critical joint is a severe handicap for the recipient. Not only is there a lateral drift of the hallux (big toe) which has its own challenges, but clients have a rotational stability challenge that makes anchoring the distal 1st metatarsal extremely difficult.  Often clients have few other options other than to begin strategies into lesser toe hammering and even flexion hammering of the hallux itself which does little than to further create the rotational vectors about the metatarsal head.  This is one of the most difficult problems to address let alone a remote changes of correction.  Surgery, when absolutely the last resort, has its own set of challenges to say the least.  
Impairing of the hallux-metatarsal interval makes toe off inefficient and can often lead to instability and pain that begins to impair the medial foot tripod, splay of the forefoot-rearfoot relationship, challenges the tibialis posterior and contributes to hip extension motor pattern impairment and thus gluteal function. These are all realms we have beaten into our readers heads over and over for years. 
The background of this study was "The aim of our study was to compare spatiotemporal parameters and lower limb and pelvis kinematics during the walking in patients with hallux valgus before and after surgery and in relation to a control group."
Here were their summary highlights from the study, things we have been saying for years and and could not agree with more:

Hallux valgus deformity is not only a problem of the foot's structure and function.
•Hallux valgus affects the entire lower limb and the pelvis motion during walking.
•Hallux valgus surgery itself solves only problems related with skeletal alignment.
•Hallux valgus surgery does not solve dynamic related problems that occur during walking.
•Hallux valgus surgery solves only consequences and not causes.



Hallux valgus surgery affects kinematic parameters during gait

Jitka Klugarova
http://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(16)30154-1/abstract?platform=hootsuite

The Circle of Durability.


The article below for some reason inspired today's soft rant. I hope you feel this is worth your time. 
Yesterday I talked about arch height and ankle mortise dorsiflexion and how we can obtain more global dorsiflexion range through some pronation, loosely meaning, some arch compression/drop and splaying apart of the tripod legs of the foot. Global arch flexibility is a piece of that puzzle.  This action of arch compression/drop/tripod splay moves the tibia forward in the sagittal plane and this is global dorsiflexion. Let me be clear however, a reduced ankle mortise dorsiflexion range of sagittal motion which is met by more arch height reduction/prontation/tripod splay, is still dorsiflexion however it is less sagittal dorsiflexion and a little more adduction and medial drift. This can bring the knee into the medial plane and it does promote more internal spin of the limb, this can be a problem.  None the less, it is still global dorsiflexion. It is something we see at the bottom of a squat, we see it because to get there most of us do not have all that dorsiflexion at the mortise. It is not abnormal, the question is, "is it safe for you? Can you do it repeatedly, safely?" It is where we go when we need more sagittal motion, but it may not be ideal, and is often what creates functional pathology. We see it all the time, someone says in an email, "I have plenty of ankle dorsiflexion, that is not my issue".  Do you have plenty? Is it not really your problem? This is fine tuning stuff, it takes a skillful eye and assessment hand. It takes experience to see the whole picture. You cannot get this full 4k experience and understanding from a 2 dimensional youtube video. This arch compression and pronation is normal to occur, it should occur, it must occur. But, how much is too much, for you ? I like to explain it this way, 


"there is a point at which sound, economical, durable, biomechanics becomes a liability. And, at that point where the liabilities begin is in fact where we begin to skirt the edges of that durable skilled movement. Where we begin juggling our liabilities is where the risks begin to mount and begin to whittle away or trump our S.E.S.P (skill, endurance, strength, power). This is where injury often occurs, at that intersection where the gas tank of our S.E.S.P. begins to run low and our liabilities begin to run high." 


Sidebar: 
I have explained this concept many times before when talking about the cross over gait. Moving towards a narrower step width is fine if you have the durability to be there. The question is, how long are you going to be there ? A cross over gait tendency is more economical but you begin to risk liabilities toward injury if that durability becomes challenged. As a runner you must know where your safe zone exists and know how much durability you have at those fringes of your movement. It is when you are there too long, too often, or too much that you empty that durability gas tank which then increases your liabilities towards injury. This is why I give high volume and strength work once a problem is solved, to make sure that they can keep that circle of durability high. It is when we stop keeping our gas tanks large and full that we run on fumes and our risks increase. You might be able to run economically for 5 miles with a narrow step width cross over style running gait. But, can you do it safely at 10 miles ? How about 15?  Is it any wonder why people get injured as they fatigue their safe motor patterns ?  If they have worked hard to keep that circle of durability large (S.E.S.P.) they are bound to be safer and less injured. Injuries occur because we exit our circle of durability, its gas tank has run too low, liabilities now trump economy and durability.

- Dr. Shawn Allen, the gait guys

http://www.japmaonline.org/doi/abs/10.7547/8750-7315-2016.1.Song
 

Short foot exercise death.

Here is an article we wrote 5 months ago. It is worth reviewing in light of the other short foot articles we have shared this week.
" . . . this Short Foot exereise is a pretty prehistoric exercise if you ask me, it needs to be dusted off and updated and retaught correctly"- Dr. Allen

" . . . 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)."

We have much more to say in the blog post...... link provided below.

https://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/139486938004/is-the-short-foot-exercise-dead-dr-allen

Loss of medial tripod


It is Rewind Friday.
Today, we are reaching back to a brief 2009 lecture I did for the local NSCA chapter on the patterns of kinetic chain compensation that match with loss of medial and lateral foot tripod. (video starts at 49 seconds, for some reason)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeCBGZkNaeM

Toe sardines. What have we done to our feet ?

Note that form follows function. If you are observant, you will see the deformation of the 5 digit, just like in this case as the quadratus weakens and the long flexors dominate. The toe begins to spin laterally, and thus the plantar toe pad begins to deform medially, look closely, you can see that here in the video.

Does this look like your foot ? There are a few subtle issues here. 

In the foot, the toe that delineates abduction and adduction of the toes is the 2nd toe. The 2nd toe is considered the anatomic middle of the digits and forefoot. Any toe or movement that moves away from the 2nd toe is abduction and any movement towards the 2nd toe is adduction. This is obviously different than in the hand where the 3rd digit, the one you use during road rage, is the reference digit. Next time you are questioned, tell them you threw them your reference finger, not “the bird”, it is a more accurate descriptor.

In this foot, note how neatly and tightly packed the cute little toes are, all snuggled up to their brothers and sisters. Remember, form follows function. Obviously function has been low on these fellas, at least in abduction.  This often comes from snug toe box footwear and lack of abduction (toe spread) use.  But make no mistake, this is a weak foot.

Today we wish to really focus your attention to an old topic, just a revisit. We can see the 4th and 5th toes curl under from the probably weak lateral head of the quadratus plantae thus encouraging unopposed oblique pull of the long flexors of the digits (FDL). See this post here for an explanation of this phenomenon.  There is also obvious imbalance between the long and short flexors and extensors in these toes, the long flexors are expressing more tone, and that means the long extensors are deprived. 

Note that form follows function. If you are observant, you will see the deformation of the 5 digit, just like in this case as the quadratus weakens and the long flexors dominate. The toe begins to spin laterally, and thus the plantar toe pad begins to deform medially, look closely, you can see that here in the video. This spin can carry the toe nail so far laterally sometimes that the nail can begin to touch the ground during gait and cause painful nail lifting with even some losing the nail. 

There is plenty of life left in this foot, but you have to get to it quickly and get them in lower heeled shoes if tolerable and ones with a wider toe box.  The client needs to be retaught how to access the toe extensors and abductors. Lumbrical retraining, which is a recurrent topic here on our blog, should also be instituted. 

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Attempting to regain a level playing ground for your foot.

“Remember, we were born with both our rearfoot and forefoot designed to engage on the same plane (the flat ground). We were not born with the heel raised higher than the forefoot. And, the foot’s many anatomically congruent joint surfaces, their associated ligaments, the lines of tendon pull and all the large and small joint movements and orchestrations with each other are all predicated on this principle of a rearfoot and forefoot on the same plane. This is how our feet were designed from the start.  This is why I like shoes closer to zero drop, when possible, because I know that we are getting closer to enabling the anatomy as it was designed. This is not always possible, feasible, logical or reasonable depending on the problematic clinical presentation and there is plenty of research to challenge this thinking, yet plenty to support is as well. The question is, can you get back to this point after years of footwear compensating ? Or have your feet just changed too much, new acquired bony and joint changes that have too many miles on the new changes ? Perhaps you have spent your first 20-50 years in shoes with heeled shoes of varying heel-ball offset. Maybe you can get back to flat ground, maybe you cannot, but if you can, how long will it take? Months ? Years ?  It all makes sense to me, but does it make sense for your feet and your body biomechanics after all these years ? Time will tell.” -Dr. Allen

Fundamental foot skills everyone should have, subconsciously. This video shows a skill you must own for good foot mechanics. It needs to be present in standing, walking, squatting, jumping and the like. It is the normal baseline infrastructure that you must have every step, every moment of every day. 

Is your foot arch weak ? Still stuffing orthotics and stability shoes up under that falling infrastructure ? Try rebuilding a simple skill first, one that uses the intrinsic anatomy to  help pull the arch up.  If your foot is still flexible, you can likely re-earn much of the lost skills, such as this one. This is a fundamental first piece of our foot, lower limb and gait restoration program. We start here to be sure this skill is present, then add endurance work on it and then eventually strength and gait progressions. This is where it starts for us gang. 

Shawn and Ivo, the gait guys

The all to common case of the Wobbling Hexapod (Tripod) : Is Your Foot hexa/Tripod Stable Enough to Walk or Run without Injury or Problem ?

Note the music we have chosen today. We tried to match the rate of the dancing tibialis anterior tendon to the tempo of the song, just for fun of course. Well, actually, for neurological reasons as well, as with a steady tempo or beat, your nervous system can learn better. Why do you think we teach kids songs to learn (or you can’t get the theme from the “Jetsons” out of your head).

This is a great video. This client has an obvious problem stabilizing the foot tripod during single leg stance as seen here.  There is also evidence of long term tripod problems by the degree of redness and size (although difficult to see on this plane of view) of the medial metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint (the MPJ or big knuckle joint) just proximal to the big toe.  This is the area of the METatarsal head, the medial aspect of the foot tripod.

As this client moves slowly from stance into a mild single leg squat knee bend the challenges to the foot’s stability, the tripod, become obvious.  Stability is under duress. There is much frontal plane “Checking” or shifting and the tibial and body mass is rocking back and forth on a microscopic level as evidenced by the dancing tibialis tendon at the ankle level.  The medial foot tripod is loading and unloading multiple times a second. 

Is it any shock to you that this person has chronic foot problems which are exacerbated by running ?  Every time this foot hits the ground the foot is trying to find stability. The medial tripod fails and the big knuckle joint (the 1st MPJ or big toe joint) is enlarging from inflammation, uncontrolled loading through the joint, and early cartilage wear and decay, not to mention the knee falling medially to the foot line as well.  Hallux limitus (turf toe) is subclinical at this time, but it is on the menu for a later date. A dorsal crown of osteophytes (the turf toe ridge on the top of the foot) is developing steadily, soon to block out the range necessary for adequate toe off in this client.  And that means a limitation in  hip extension sometime down the road (and premature heel rise……. did you read Wednesday’s blog post on that topic ?).

*addendum:

Take the time to develop the skill. We ask our clients to work on standing with the toes up to find a clean tripod and do some shallow squats working on holding the tripod quietly. Be sure your glutes are in charge, spin of the limb is in part controlled at the core-hip level so that can a primary location to hunt as well. Eventually work into toes pressed flat but be sure the tripod is still valid, esp the medial tripod. Don’t be what Dr. Allen refers to as a “knuckle popper”. No toe curling/hammering either. Keep that glute on. Move the swing leg forward during a lunge, and then behind you during a squat (mimicking early and late midstance phases of gait/running). This will help your brain realize when it needs this stability and it will also act to press you off balance and will make the foot check and challenge. Do this until you feel the foot fatigue on the bottom. Then Stop. Repeat later. If the medial tripod collapses, the knee will drop inwards and excess pronation is inevitable. We modified this with our prescription of the “100 ups”…..combine the two !

Shawn and Ivo … .  comfortably numb.

Once you have been to the Dark Side of the Moon  (and hopefully you didn’t have any Brain Damage) you will know it well and know what to expect when you return again.  Meaning, when you have seen these issues over and over again, hopefully in your daily work if not regularly here at The Gait Guys, you will quickly know what things to assess and look for in your athletes.  And you might just turn into a Pink Floyd fan at the same time, or at least crave some Figgy Pudding (but you have to eat yer’ meat! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat  yer’ meat?).

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The partial truth about the Foot Tripod. The HEXApod.

The gait guys have talked about the foot tripod for a very long time. But the truth of the matter is that it is really a HEXApod. HEXA means 6. And when the foot is properly orientated and engaged on the ground, the 5 metatarsal heads and the heel should all be engaged with the ground, truly making it an asymmetrical hexapod. In an ideal scenario, the foot would be most stable if it looked like the strange symmetrical hexapod above with the contact points equally distributed around a center point. But that is not the human foot and this version of a hexapod is far simpler and likely inferior to the foot hexapod when human locomotion is to be attempted. The human foot is engineering marvel when it works properly.  

Perhaps the best example of what I mean by the foot being a HEXApod is in the pressure diagram above. In that first picture, on the right of that picture, we see multiple pressure points under the metatarsal heads of the right foot.  Minus the missing 1st metatarsal head pressure point (taken over by increased flexor hallucis longus activity represented by increased pressure at the big toe),  this pretty much confirms that the foot is not a tripod, rather a hexapod. The theory of the tripod, the 1st and 5th metatarsal heads and the heel, is only crudely accurate and honest. In this picture case, this person has increased lateral foot weight bearing (possibly why the 1st MET head pressure is absent) and possibly represented by pressure under the base of the 5 metatarsal. This is not normal for most people and if this person could get the 1st MET head down, they might even have a HEPTApod foot structure because of the 5th metatarsal base presentation (which sometimes represents peroneal muscle weakness). 

Where did we lead you astray after all these years of “tripod” talk ? We have always discussed the foot tripod. We have always discussed the imperative need to keep the limb’s plumb line forces within the area represented by the tripod.  If your forces fall more laterally within the tripod, as in this first discussed picture, one is at increased risk of inversion events and the myriad of compensations within the entire body that will occur to prevent that inversion. So again, why the tripod?  Well, it is easier to understand and it serves our clients well when it comes to finding active foot arch restoration as seen in this video of ours here.  But, the truth of the matter is that all of the metatarsal heads should be on the ground. The 2nd METatarsal is longer, the 3rd a little shorter, and the 4th and 5th even a little short than those. With the 1st MET shorter, these 5 form a kind of parabolic arc if you will. Each metatarsal head still should contact the ground and then each of those metatarsals should be further supported/anchored by their digits (toes) distally.  So the foot is actually more truly a HEXAPOD. Take the old TRIPOD theory we have always spoken about and extend a curved line beyond the forefoot bipod points (1st and 5th metatarsals) to incorporate contact points on the 2, 3 and 4th metatarsal heads. These metatarsals help to form the TRANSVERSE arch of the foot. It is this transverse arch that has given us the easily explainable foot TRIPOD because if a line is drawn between just the shorter 1st and 5th metatarsals, we do not see contact of the 2-4 metatarsal heads when we only look for pressure between these two bipod landmarks, but the obvious truth is that the 2-4 metatarsals are just longer and extend to the ground further out beyond this theoretical line drawn between the 1st and 5th MET heads.   

So, the foot is a HEXAPOD. Make no mistake about it. It is more stable than a tripod because there are more contact points inside the traditionally discussed foot tripod model. And frankly, the tripod theory is just a lie and just too fundamentally simple, unless you are an American 3 toed woodpecker.

Dr. Shawn Allen,     www.doctorallen.co

one of the gait guys

The Abductor Heel Twist: Look carefully, it is here in this video.

This should be a simple “piece it together” video case study for you all by this point. This young lad came into our office with left insertional achilles pain of two weeks duration after starting some middle distance running.

What do you see here ? It is evident on both the right and the left, but it is a little more obvious on the left and can be seen on the left when he is walking back toward the camera as well.  You should see rearfoot eversion, it is excessive, and a small rearfoot adductor twist. Meaning, the heel pivots medially towards the midline of his body.  Some sources (Michaud) call this an Abductory Twist, but the reference there is typically the forefoot.  Regardless, to help our patients, we sometimes refer to this is “cigarette butt” foot. It is like stepping on a lit cigarette to put it out via twisting/grinding it into the ground. 

So, now that you can see this, what causes it? 

The answer is broad but in this case he had a loss of ankle dorsiflexion range.  The ankle mortise clearly did not have enough of ankle rocker range during midstance so as that limitation was met, the heel raised up prematurely during the moments when the opposite leg is in full swing imparting an external rotation on the stance limb (hence the external foot spin (adducting heel/abducting foot……depending on your visual reference)). There is a bit more to it than that, but that will suffice for now because it is not the central focus of our lesson today.

What can cause this ? As we said, a broad range of things:

  • hallux limitus
  • flexion contracture of the knee (swelling, pain, joint replacement etc)
  • short calf-achilles complex
  • weak tib anterior and extensor toe muscles
  • Foot Baller’s ankle
  • limited/impaired hip extension
  • weak glute (minimizing hip extension range)
  • sway back (lower crossed syndrome-type biomechanics)
  • short quadriceps (similarly impairing hip extension)
  • flip flop excessive use (or any other motor strategy that imparts more flexor compartment dominance (read: calf-achilles, FDL)
  • excessive pronation
  • impaired foot tripod mechanics
  • etc

The point is that anything impairing TIMELY (the key word is timely) forward sagittal gait mechanics can, and very likely will, impair ankle rocker.  Even the wrong shoe choice can do this (ie. someone who suddenly drops from a 12 mm heel ramped shoe into a 0-4mm ramped heel shoe and who thus may not have earned the length of the calf-achilles complex as of yet).

The abductor-adductor twist phenomenon is not a normal visual gait observation. It is a softly seen, but screaming loud, pathologic gait motor pattern that must be recognized.  But, more importantly, the source of the problem must be found, confirmed and resolved.  In this fella’s case, he has some weakness of the tib anterior and extensor toe muscles that has lead to compensatory tightness of the calf complex. There was no impairment of the glutes or hip extension, as this was just 2 weeks old or so, but if left unaddressed much longer the CNS would have likely begun to dump out of hip extension and gluteal function to protect……another compensation pattern. Remember, ankle rocker and hip extension have a close eye on each other during gait.

Clinical pearl for the true gait geeks…… if you see someone with a vertically bouncy forefoot-type gait (you know, those people that bounce up and down the hallway at work or school) you can usually suspect impaired ankle rocker and if you look closely, you will usually see a quick abductor-adductor twist.

Shawn and Ivo

the gait guys

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How good is your tripod? Looks can be deceiving

You have heard us here on the blog talking about the foot tripod. For those of you who may not remember; click here and here for a refresher.
In the right foot (far left image) pedograph, you notice increased ink under the three points of the tripod (pass your mouse or click on the image to enlarge): The center of the calcaneus, the head of the 1st metatarsal and the head of the 5th metatarsal. Looks pretty good, correct ? The left one (center image) shows more weight on the lateral aspect of the foot.

Note now the picture of the feet that go with this tripod (far right). Pretty scary, huh ? Their left foot actually looks like a better tripod, especially the medial tripod.  So, what does that tell you? It tells you that from the pedograph print (remember the person is walking across the pedograph), they are able to compensate better on the right than on the left.  Remember what we always say, what you see is not what is wrong or what is actually truthfully going on.
So, what do you do?
consider exercises to increase the foot tripod (tripod standing, the Extensor hallucis brevis exercise,  lift spread reach ) and try and make the weight distribution equal from side to side.

The Gait Guys. Making sure you are firing on all your cylinders (or walking on all 3 points of the tripod). 

Want to know more? Consider taking the 3 part National Shoe Fit Program. Email us at thegaitguys@gmail.com for more details. 

Podcast #16: Monkeys, Newton Shoes & Gait Vision

Gait, running, Newton Shoes, Forefoot Strike, Gait Software, limb torsion problems, foot tripod and lots more !

LINK: http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/podcast-16-monkeys-newtons-gait-vision


Join us today for the following topic list and show note links:

Links to DVD’s & e-downloads: http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.asp?m=80204

1- scars of evolution:

Bigfoot blog post:    http://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/day/2011/11/05

Why gait must be taught slowly. Even running gait must be taught slowly.

2- email from a reader

wondering if you had any internal femoral torsion videos? I have been looking online and noticed most of the articles were on children with IFT. I have internal femoral rotation, a “winking patella” and I believe an externally rotated tibia? I am a runner and I am trying to find some more info on my awesome gait:) As you can imagine, I have had my fair share of injuries from running (hip, knee, and foot) and I have tried foam rolling but I am hoping you have some other recommendations

3- The Almighty Foot Tripod exercise - good for pronation of the foot

4- DISCLAIMER: We are not your doctors so anything you hear here should not be taken as medical advice. For that you need to visit YOUR doctors and ask them the questions. We have not examined you, we do not know you, we know very little about your medical status. So, do not hold us responsible for taking our advice when we have just told you not to !  Again, we are NOT your doctors

5- Blog post we liked recently:  Perception/vision and Gait analysis software.

http://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/search/vision

2 blog posts here…….review them before the pod

The Observation Effect:   http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980227055013.htm

6- SHOE TALK:   Skora Shoes
7- Our dvd’s and efile downloads
Are all on payloadz. Link is in the show notes.
Link: http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.asp?m=80204

Is Your Foot Tripod Stable Enough to Walk or Run without Injury or Problem ?

The all to common case of the Wobbling Tripod.

Note the music we have chosen today. We tried to match the rate of the dancing tibialis anterior tendon to the tempo of the song, just for fun of course. Well, actually, for neurological reasons as well, as with a steady tempo or beat, your nervous system can learn better. Why do you think we teach kids songs to learn (or you can’t get the theme from the “Jetsons” out of your head).

This is a great video. This client has an obvious problem stabilizing the foot tripod during single leg stance as seen here.  There is also evidence of long term tripod problems by the degree of redness and size (although difficult to see on this plane of view) of the medial metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint (the MPJ or big knuckle joint) just proximal to the big toe.  This is the area of the METatarsal head, the medial aspect of the foot tripod.

As this client moves slowly from stance into a mild single leg squat knee bend the challenges to the foot’s stability, the tripod, become obvious.  Stability is under duress. There is much frontal plane “Checking” or shifting and the tibial and body mass is rocking back and forth on a microscopic level as evidenced by the dancing tibialis tendon at the ankle level.  The medial foot tripod is loading and unloading multiple times a second. 

Is it any shock to you that this person has chronic foot problems which are exacerbated by running ?  Every time this foot hits the ground the foot is trying to find stability. The medial tripod fails and the big knuckle joint (the 1st MPJ or big toe joint) is enlarging from inflammation, uncontrolled loading through the joint, and early cartilage wear and decay, not to mention the knee falling medially to the foot line as well.  Hallux limitus (turf toe) is subclinical at this time, but it is on the menu for a later date. A dorsal crown of osteophytes (the turf toe ridge on the top of the foot) is developing steadily, soon to block out the range necessary for adequate toe off in this client.  And that means a limitation in  hip extension sometime down the road (and premature heel rise……. did you read Wednesday’s blog post on that topic ?).

*addendum:

Take the time to develop the skill. We ask our clients to work on standing with the toes up to find a clean tripod and do some shallow squats working on holding the tripod quietly. Be sure your glutes are in charge, spin of the limb is in part controlled at the core-hip level so that can a primary location to hunt as well. Eventually work into toes pressed flat but be sure the tripod is still valid, esp the medial tripod. Don’t be what Dr. Allen refers to as a “knuckle popper”. No toe curling/hammering either. Keep that glute on. Move the swing leg forward during a lunge, and then behind you during a squat (mimicking early and late midstance phases of gait/running). This will help your brain realize when it needs this stability and it will also act to press you off balance and will make the foot check and challenge. Do this until you feel the foot fatigue on the bottom. Then Stop. Repeat later. If the medial tripod collapses, the knee will drop inwards and excess pronation is inevitable. We modified this with our prescription of the “100 ups”…..combine the two !

Shawn and Ivo … .  comfortably numb.

Once you have been to the Dark Side of the Moon  (and hopefully you didn’t have any Brain Damage) you will know it well and know what to expect when you return again.  Meaning, when you have seen these issues over and over again, hopefully in your daily work if not regularly here at The Gait Guys, you will quickly know what things to assess and look for in your athletes.  And you might just turn into a Pink Floyd fan at the same time, or at least crave some Figgy Pudding (but you have to eat yer’ meat! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat  yer’ meat?).

Part 2 of the EHB: Bringing the Extensor Hallucis Brevis of the Foot Back to Life.

Today we show you a proprietary exercise we developed here at The Gait Guys. It was developed out of necessity for those clients who are too EHL dominant (long big toe extensor muscle) and big toe short flexor dominant (FHB). These two muscles are what we call a foot functional pair.  Big toes like these will be dysfunctional and will not be able to gain sufficient purchase on the ground to produce stability and power without impacting the joint (1st metatarsophalangeal joint).  Imbalances like these lead to altered joint loading responses and can be a possible predictor for premature damage to the joint over time. These imbalances are also what lead to injuries to the big toe, the arch and other areas of the foot. After all, when the big is weak or dysfunctional gait will be compensated.  When imbalance at this joint occurs because of EHB weakness the medial tripod anchor (the head of the 1st metatarsal) is compromised possibly transmitting stress into the foot, arch and medial stabilizers such as the tibialis posterior for example.

This exercise is to be weaned back to less and less yellow band resistance until the EHB can be engaged on its own. Then the gait retraining must begin. Simply reactivating and strengthening the skill and muscle is not enough. The pattern must be then taken to the floor and learned how to be used in the gait cycle.

Do we need to mention the critical function this muscle plays in extension of the 1st MPJ, of its importance in hallux rigidus/limitus, in bunions, hallux valgus, toe off function, arch height and function ? We hope not.

It is a process restoring gait. All too often the “Devil is in the Details”.
If you liked this video, visit our daily blog: www.thegaitguys.tumblr.com
or our website: www.thegaitguys.com
See our other free videos here on youtube on our “The Gait Guys Channel”.
Or our other videos here: http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.asp?m=80204

Shawn and Ivo
The Gait Guys

all material copyright 2012 The Gait Guys/ The Homunculus Group: all rights reserved.

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Gait Topic: The Mighty EHB (The Short extensor of the big toe, do not dismiss it !)

Look at this beautiful muscle in a foot that has not yet been exposed to hard planar surfaces and shoes that limit or alter motion! (2 pics above, toggle back and forth)

The Extensor Hallicus Brevis, or EHB as we fondly call it (beautifully pictured above causing the  extension (dorsiflexion) of the child’s proximal big toe) is an important muscle for descending the distal aspect of the 1st ray complex (1st metatarsal and medial cunieform) as well as extending the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint. It is in part responsible for affixing the medial tripod of the foot to the ground.  Its motion is generally triplanar, with the position being 45 degrees from the saggital (midline) plane and 45 degrees from the frontal (coronal) plane, angled medially, which places it almost parallel with the transverse plane. With pronation, it is believed to favor adduction (reference). Did you ever watch our video from 2 years ago ? If not, here it is, you will see good EHB demo and function in this video. click here

It arises from the anterior calcaneus and inserts on the dorsal aspect of the proximal phalynx. It is that quarter dollar sized fleshy protruding, mass on the lateral aspect of the dorsal foot.  The EHB is the upper part of that mass. It is innervated by the lateral portion of one of the terminal branches of the deep peronel nerve (S1, S2), which happens to be the same as the extensor digitorum brevis (EDB), which is why some sources believe it is actually the medial part of that muscle. It appears to fire from loading response to nearly toe off, just like the EDB; another reason it may phylogenetically represent an extension of the same muscle.

*The EDB and EHB are quite frequently damaged during inversion sprains but few seem to ever look to assess it, largely out of ignorance. We had a young runner this past year who had clearly torn just the EHB and could not engage it at all. He was being treated for lateral ankle ligament injury when clearly the problem was the EHB, the lateral ligamentous system had healed fine and this residual was his chief problem.  Thankfully we got the case on film so we will present this one soon for you !  In chronic cases we have been known to take xrays on a non-standard tangential view (local radiographic clinics hate us, but learn alot from our creativity) to demonstrate small bony avulsion fragments proving its damage in unresolving chronic ankle sprains not to mention small myositis ossificans deposits within the muscle mass proper.

Because the tendon travels behind the axis of rotation of the 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint, in addition to providing extension of the proximal phalynx of the hallux (as seen in the child above), it can also provide a downward moment on the distal 1st metatarsal (when properly coupled to and temporally sequenced with the flexor hallicus brevis and longus), assisting in formation of the foot tripod we have all come to love (the head of the 1st met, the head of the 5th met and the calcaneus).

Wow, all that from a little muscle on the dorsum of the foot.

The Gait Guys. Definitive Foot Geeks. We are the kind of people your podiatrist warned you about…