Premature heel rise: Part 2

VIDEO: an atypical case of Premature heel rise. A follow up video for yesterdays discussion on the topic.

You should easily see premature heel rise here in this video. We will discuss this case at length with other video projections on our Patreon site next week, if you wish to dive further.

But here you should see, lets focus on the right limb, premature heel rise (again, stick with just watching the right foot/leg). This is, in-part, because this person does not achieve adequate hip extension, you should clearly be able to see that. Loss of terminal hip extension means premature heel rise, no exceptions. Train your eye to see this, you do not need expensive video software to see this.

So, Why inadequate hip extension? Well, just look at the amount of right knee flexion going into terminal stance, it is still heavily flexed and this forces them to prematurely heel rise, avoiding terminal hip extension, and prematurely load the forefoot. Without a knee that extends sufficiently, the hip cannot extend sufficiently, and thus premature heel rise is inevitable. And, trying to solve this issue down at the foot/ankle level is foolish in this case. Stretching this calf day after day until aliens come visit earth will still not be enough stretch time to fix this premature heel rise (ie. get that heel to stay down longer). There is a good reason why this is happening in this person, and it is a neurologic one, one we will discuss on the Patreon site for our Patrons. And, the reason does not matter for the concept I am teaching here today.

For today, you need to be able to see premature heel rise, and know all of the issues behind it, including causes, so that you can direct your phyiscial examination to solve your client's puzzle.
I have included yesterday's post below so you can review and bring this further together.
This is the kind of stuff we will do at Dr. Allen's Friday night Gait Lab, over some beverages. A unique, clinically curious and hungry 25 people need only apply. If you want to get to the next level of your human movement game, this is a way to get there.

Yesterday's post: We know that early/premature heel rise (PHR) leads to premature loading of the forefoot.
We know that premature heel rise (PHR) speeds us through many of the timely mechanical events that need and should occur for to get to safe and effective toe off during walking and running gaits.
This is why there are so many variables that need to be assessed and checked before instituting care to address the premature heel rise, because many times the problem is not even near the heel.
Consider, examine, assess (this is not an exhaustive list either) of causes of PHR
-short calf complex
-short quad (limits hip extension)
- short hip flexors
-anterior pelvis tilt as one's deviated norm posture
- prolonged or excessive rearfoot inversion
-lack of appropriate pronation (sustained supination)
-hallux limitus, rigidus
- weak anterior compartment lower leg
-lack of hip extension/weak glutes
-knee flexion contracture
- neurologic (toe walking gait from youth)
-painful achilles tendon mechanism
- loss of ankle rocker (which has its own long list)
. . . . to name a few

This is why you need to examine your clients, even after a gait analysis. Because, as we like to say, what you see is not your clients gait problem, it is their work around to other mechanical deficits.
After all, telling someone they just need to lengthen/stretch their calf to keep that heel down longer is utterly foolish.

*want to learn more about this stuff, you can join the upcoming Dr. Allen, Friday night Gait Lab series that he will be having in his office one Friday a month, in his Chicagoland office. Stay tuned for that notice. I will take only 25 people per session. We will dive into videos, cases, concepts, white-board rabbit holes, and enjoy some beverages and learn together. Stay tuned. The first 25 to pay and sign up are in !

Shawn Allen, the other gait guy

#gait, #gaitproblems, #gaitanalysis, #heelrise, #PHR, #prematureheelrise, #achilles, #achillestendinitis, #anklerocker, #heelrocker, #forefootpain, #halluxlimitus, #halluxrigidus, #heelpain

Premature heel rise: Part 1

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We know that early/premature heel rise (PHR) leads to premature loading of the forefoot.
We know that premature heel rise (PHR) speeds us through many of the timely mechanical events that need and should occur for to get to safe and effective toe off during walking and running gaits.
This is why there are so many variables that need to be assessed and checked before instituting care to address the premature heel rise, because many times the problem is not even near the heel.
Consider, examine, assess (this is not an exhaustive list either) of causes of PHR
-short calf complex
-short quad (limits hip extension)
- short hip flexors
-anterior pelvis tilt as one's deviated norm posture
- prolonged or excessive rearfoot inversion
-lack of appropriate pronation (sustained supination)
-hallux limitus, rigidus
- weak anterior compartment lower leg
-lack of hip extension/weak glutes
-knee flexion contracture
- neurologic (toe walking gait from youth)
-painful achilles tendon mechanism
- loss of ankle rocker (which has its own long list)
. . . . to name a few

This is why you need to examine your clients, even after a gait analysis. Because, as we like to say, what you see is not your clients gait problem, it is their work around to other mechanical deficits.
After all, telling someone they just need to lengthen/stretch their calf to keep that heel down longer is utterly foolish.

*want to learn more about this stuff, you can join the upcoming Dr. Allen, Friday night Gait Lab series that he will be having in his office one Friday a month, in his Chicagoland office. Stay tuned for that notice. I will take only 25 people per session. We will dive into videos, cases, concepts, white-board rabbit holes, and enjoy some beverages and learn together. Stay tuned. The first 25 to pay and sign up are in !

Shawn Allen, the other gait guy

#gait, #gaitproblems, #gaitanalysis, #heelrise, #PHR, #prematureheelrise, #achilles, #achillestendinitis, #anklerocker, #heelrocker, #forefootpain, #halluxlimitus, #halluxrigidus, #heelpain

Could your low back pain be related to your big toe?

Ok, he has low back pain. But i can also see that high gear (1st toe off) is impaired from loss of terminal dorisflexion at that 1st MTP joint.

Ok , so this means heel rise will be premature and when it does happen the toe off will be towards the lesser toes, low gear toe off.
This means the knee will be carried laterally as opposed to the more desirable sagittal tracking/hinging.
And, if heel rise is premature, this means the knee will likely flex and hinge sagittally just a little, when it should actually be extending and coupling with the gastroc and glute to produce propulsion.
And, when the knee flexes, I know the hip flexes, when we should again be moving into hip extension for propulsion.
And when the knee and hip flex, the vertical length of the leg is shorter functionally, which means a subtle lateral pelvis dip and compensatory thoracolumbar lateral bend to the other side to compensate. This leads to imbalance in the lumbar spine musculature and more work in some areas, and less in others.

So, doc, are you telling me my low back pain is from my big toe? It could be Sir. Lets get into it and find out.
Game ?
Game . . . .

One has to be able to quickly juggle normal known gait biomechanics with pathologic biomechanics. You don't have all day with your patient. Play these games in your head, often.
Example: So, if the knee doesn't terminally extend, what could this mean to the rest of the system ?

Stop treating the area of pain, is might not be the problem.

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys.

#gait, #thegaitguys, #gaitproblems, #gaitcompensations, #halluxlimitus, #turftoe, #hipextension, #prematureheelrise

Your big toe is impairing your limb rotation.

Hallux limitus and impaired limb rotation.
No rocket science here, but always good to remember the mechanical principles.
If you cannot get over the medial foot tripod cleanly, for whatever reason, be it loss of 1st MPJ ROM (hallux limitus) or because of pain or forefoot typing issues, or you will be impairing normal rotation of the entire limb. In the above cases, remaining perhaps in more relative external limb rotation, impacting gluteal function. But, going too fast and too far over the medial foot tripod without controlled loading through that region can be just as detrimental, too much internal spin. Stuff we pound sand on all the time.
 

J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2011 Nov-Dec;101(6):467-74.

Hallux limitus and its relationship with the internal rotational pattern of the lower limb.

Lafuente G1, Munuera PV, Dominguez G, Reina M, Lafuente B.

Podcast 131: Managing your injuries and body mechanics

Key Tag Words: thegaitguys, gait, gait analysis, hallux rigidus, hallux limitus, calf strength, calf endurance


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www.thegaitguys.com

summitchiroandrehab.com   doctorallen.co     shawnallen.net

Our website is all you need to remember. Everything you want, need and wish for is right there on the site.
Interested in our stuff ? Want to buy some of our lectures or our National Shoe Fit program? Click here (thegaitguys.com or thegaitguys.tumblr.com) and you will come to our websites. In the tabs, you will find tabs for STORE, SEMINARS, BOOK etc. We also lecture every 3rd Wednesday of the month on onlineCE.com. We have an extensive catalogued library of our courses there, you can take them any time for a nominal fee (~$20).
 
Our podcast is on iTunes, Soundcloud, and just about every other podcast harbor site, just google "the gait guys podcast", you will find us.
 
Show Notes:

Researchers turn skin cells into motor neurons without using stem cells
https://futurism.com/researchers-turn-skin-cells-into-motor-neurons-without-using-stem-cells/

Immune cells release “red flag” to activate muscle stem cells in response to damage
http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2017/09/25/immune-cells-release-red-flag-to-activate-muscle-stem-cells-in-response-to-damage/

Does structural leg-length discrepancy affect postural control? Preliminary study.
Eliks M, et al. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017.

Evidence for Joint Moment Asymmetry in Healthy Populations during Gait. Rebecca L. Lambach  et al. Gait Posture. 2014 Sep; 40(4): 526–531.

J Phys Ther Sci. 2017 Jun; 29(6): 1001–1005.
Published online 2017 Jun 7. doi:  10.1589/jpts.29.1001
PMCID: PMC5468184

Does the weakening of intrinsic foot muscles cause the decrease of medial longitudinal arch height?
Kazunori Okamura, RPT, MS,1,* Shusaku Kanai, RPT, PhD,2 Sadaaki Oki, MD, PhD,2 Satoshi Tanaka, RPT, PhD,2 Naohisa Hirata, RPT, MS,3 Yoshiaki Sakamura, RPT, MS,4 Norikatsu Idemoto, RPT,1 Hiroki Wada, RPT,1 and Akira Otsuka, RPT, PhD5

Podcast 106: Understanding Tendonopathies & Asymmetrical Bone density in athletes.

* Plus the global effects of Hallux Limitus, & Chronic exposure to routine high-impact, gravitational loads afforded to the support limb preferentially improved bone mass and structure

Show Sponsors:

newbalancechicago.com
Altrarunning.com

Other Gait Guys stuff

2 Podcast links: 

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http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/episode-106

B. iTunes link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gait-guys-podcast/id559864138

C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification & more !)
http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204

D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:
Monthly lectures at : www.onlinece.com type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen, ”Biomechanics”

-Our Book: Pedographs and Gait Analysis and Clinical Case Studies
Electronic copies available here:

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-Hardcopy available from our publisher:
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________________________

Show Notes:

New device to get people with paralysis back on their feet
Scientists have tested the world’s first minimally-invasive brain-machine interface, designed to control an exoskeleton with the power of thought
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160208124241.htm

Splicing out torsions, and aberrant foo types ? Club foot ? etc
http://gizmodo.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-crispr-the-new-tool-1702114381

Scientists Capture Crispr’s Gene-Cutting in Action
http://www.wired.com/2016/01/crispr-modification/

The UK Just Green-Lit Crispr Gene Editing in Human Embryos
http://www.wired.com/2016/02/the-uk-just-green-lit-crispr-gene-editing-in-human-embryos/

Asymmetries in limbs
http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/publishahead/Musculoskeletal_Asymmetry_in_Football_Athletes___A.97584.aspx

Tension or compression ?
link to full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676165/

Concept: the forces have to go somewhere, it is a “passing the buck” system.  
We did this blog post here to explain:
http://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/138680011664/the-banana-toe-the-force-has-to-go-somewhere

The new muscle discovery !
http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/tensor-vastus-intermedius
http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/tensor-vastus-intermedius
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26732825

tendinopathy vasculature: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4650849/

tendinopathy treatment paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2505250/

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Got big toe pain? Think it’s gout? Think again!   Things are not always what they appear to be. 

This gent came in with first metatarsophalangeal pain which had begun a few months previous. His uric acid levels were borderline high (6) so he was diagnosed with gout.  It should be noted his other inflammatory markers (SED rate and CRP) were low. Medication did not make the symptoms better, rest was the only thing that helped. 

The backstory is a few months ago he was running in the snow and “punched through"the snow, hitting the bottom of his foot on the ground. Pain developed over the next few days and then subsided. The pain would come on whenever he try to run or walk along distances and he noticed a difficult time extending his big toe.

 Examination revealed some redness mild swelling over the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint (see pictures above) and hallux dorsiflexion of 10°.   If we raised the base of the first metatarsal and pushed down on the head of the 1st, he was able to dorsiflex the 1st MTP approximately 50°. He had point tenderness over the medial sesamoid. We shot the x-rays you see above. The films revealed a fracture of the medial sesamoid with some resorption of the bone.

The  sesamoid fracture caused the head of the 1st metatarsal to descend on one side, and remain higher on the other, altering the axis of rotation of the joint and restricting extension. We have talked about the importance of the axis of this joint in may other posts (see here and here).

 He was given exercises to assist in descending the first ray (EHB, toe waving, tripod standing).  He will be reevaluated in a week and if not significantly improved we will consider a wedge under the medial sesamoid. 

A pretty straight forward case of “you need to be looking in the right place to make the diagnosis”. Take the time to examine folks and get a good history.

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The Banana Toe: The Force has to go somewhere. It’s a Jedi Gait Rule.

* note: there are 4 photos to today’s blog post. Be sure you click through all 4.

When you toe off, you have to toe off from somewhere in the foot unless you like an apropulsive hip flexion gait, where  you just lift you foot off the ground from foot flat, kind of like a true neurologic “foot drop” gait client would.  But, if you are lucky enough not to have a true foot drop, you are going to push off somewhere in the foot.  You can do it off the lateral foot (low gear toe off) and lesser toes, or you can do it off the big toe (high gear) the way we were built to do it. 

The above pictures show a nasty dorsal crown of osteophytes that is limiting hallux (big toe) extension/dorsiflexion. This is true hallus rigidus and hallux limitus. When this client attempts to toe off, the joint cannot normally partake in the activity, there is no Windlass effect, no posturing up over the sesamoids for mechanical advantage etc.   

In this scenario, there are two places you can put it, up into the next proximal joint(s) meaning the met-cuneiform joint or further down into the interphalangeal joint. In other words. the loads go proximal or distal to the limited joint, and they eventually play out there, over and over and over gain. The former option would basically mean you are pronating/dorsiflexing through the midfoot which is never good (can you say Saddle exostosis ! ouch !) or the latter option is to dorsiflex through the interphalangeal joint  and over time that toe begins to attenuate plantar ligamentous structures and extend beyond its normal limits resulting in the “Chiquita” toe (a upward bent toe resembling a banana shape). This will disable the long flexor of the great toe (FHL: flexor hallucis longus).and inhibit mechanical advantage of the extensor digitorum brevis.  If you struggle with the “how and why” behind this sentence in terms of restoration attempts, you need to watch my video here. It will offer you deeper insights.

Will this toe become painful ? yes, in time it is quite possible.  Is there much you can do? Sure, a rocker bottomed shoe will help take the load at toe off instead of forcing it into this toe or the midfoot.  Will an orthotic  help ? Well, this is a loaded question. If you are putting the forces into the midfoot choice as described above, the orthotic will block that motion and you will likely default option into the toe presentation above. So you are merely just moving loading forces around. It can be helpful, but you are quite possibly “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as they say.  The video I asked you to watch can be helpful but it will force that metatarsophalangeal joint into extension, a range it does not have, so it is not a remedy and not recommended.  Perhaps some awareness and slight increase in FHL(long toe flexor) use can be attained however.  These are tricky cases, simple in theory, but execution can be fussy and requires patient awareness and education. We like the rocker bottomed shoe as a nice easy solution and some increased FHL use awareness.  Help them find a little more FHL use by putting a pencil under the crease of the toe and help them to drive the tip of the toe down just a little out of that banana extension posture. It can help them control the overloading of the dorsal aspect of the interphalangeal joint.

As always, lets carry this forward into gait thoughts.  How is  hip extension going to be in this client ? How is glute strength ? Hip joint range ? Hip extension motor patterning ? Will the client go into anterior pelvic tilt to borrow the last range of hip extension ? Will the hamstrings have to accommodate ? Lots of yummy biomechanical and neurological mental gymnastics here. Bottom line answer to all the above ?  “ it depends, they will have to accommodate and compensate”.  And as the Jedi Gait Rule goes, “the Force as to go somewhere”.

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Yes, you are looking INSIDE this toe. That IS a screw and metal plate in that toe.    What kind of stuff finds its way into your office ? I get all kinds of things it seems, at least once a day something comes in that makes me scratch my head.   This client just wanted my opinion and thoughts on their toe and their gait once they are ambulating again. They have had multiple surgeries to this poor foot. You can see multiple scars over multiple digits and metatarsals.  This is the 3rd surgery to the big toe, the last 2 have been attempts at correcting failed prior surgeries. This is obviously the last straw surgery, total fusion of the metatarsophalangeal joint.  What is interesting in this case is that this plate was taken out about 4 weeks ago, and the skin was stretched back over and the wound closed up (forgot to take update photo for you). I saw it yesterday, and I was amazed at how healed up the area was. They are months post op now, and they can load the toe heavily now, that is always amazing to me. The body’s healing ability is a miracle. Of course, if you have been with us here long enough you will know that my “concern button” immediately got pushed but the client was proactive and asked the question before my  oral diarrhea of concerns  started.  So, they wanted to know about their gait and what to watch out for.  Off the top of your head, without thinking, you should be able to rattle off the following:   impaired toe off   premature heel rise   watchful eye on achilles issues   impaired hip extension and gluteal function   impaired terminal ankle plantar flexion (because they cannot access the synergists FHL and FHB)   impaired terminal ankle dorsi flexion (because they cannot access the synergists EHL and EHB)   lateral toe off which will promote ankle and foot inversion, which will challenge the peronei   frontal plane hip-pelvis drift because of the lateral toe off and lack of glute function   possible low back pain/tightness because of the  frontal plane pelvis drift and from altered hip extension motor patterning (and glute impairment)   possible knee pain from tracking challenges because they cannot complete medial tripod loading and thus sufficient pronation to internally spin the limb to get the knee to sagittal loading   impaired arm swing, more notable contralaterally    There is more, but that is enough for now. You need to know total body mechanics, movement patterns, normal gait cycle events (you have to know normal to know abnormal) and more. You have to know what normal is to understand when you are looking at abnormal.  * So, dial this back to something more simple, a “stubbed toe”, a painful sesamoid, painful pronation or a turf toe or hallux limitus.  They will all have the same list of complications that need to be evaluated, considered and addressed. This list should convey the importance that if your client has low back pain, examining the big toe motion is critical. Also, if you are just looking at the foot and toe in these cases, pack your bags … .  you don’t belong here. If you are just adjusting feet and toes and playing with orthotics while the list above does not constantly file back and forth through your brain, again, pack all your bags, grab your cat and leave town (just kidding, try reading more and get to some seminars).     If you know the complicated things, then the simple things become … … . . simple.     Your local treadmill gait analysis guru should know all of this if they are going to recommend shoes and exercises. Shame on them if there is no physical exam however. The data roadmap from the gait analysis software print out is not going to get you even out of the driveway let alone down the street. The data is going to tell you what you are doing to compensate, not tell you what is wrong. You must know anatomy, biomechanics, neurology, orthopedics and how to apply them to get the recipe right, not just which shoe in a store will unload the medial tripod of the foot or which exercise will lengthen your stride on the left.   … .  sorry for the rant, too much coffee this morning, obviously.  Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Yes, you are looking INSIDE this toe. That IS a screw and metal plate in that toe. 

What kind of stuff finds its way into your office ? I get all kinds of things it seems, at least once a day something comes in that makes me scratch my head. 

This client just wanted my opinion and thoughts on their toe and their gait once they are ambulating again. They have had multiple surgeries to this poor foot. You can see multiple scars over multiple digits and metatarsals.  This is the 3rd surgery to the big toe, the last 2 have been attempts at correcting failed prior surgeries. This is obviously the last straw surgery, total fusion of the metatarsophalangeal joint.  What is interesting in this case is that this plate was taken out about 4 weeks ago, and the skin was stretched back over and the wound closed up (forgot to take update photo for you). I saw it yesterday, and I was amazed at how healed up the area was. They are months post op now, and they can load the toe heavily now, that is always amazing to me. The body’s healing ability is a miracle. Of course, if you have been with us here long enough you will know that my “concern button” immediately got pushed but the client was proactive and asked the question before my oral diarrhea of concerns started.

So, they wanted to know about their gait and what to watch out for.  Off the top of your head, without thinking, you should be able to rattle off the following:

  • impaired toe off
  • premature heel rise
  • watchful eye on achilles issues
  • impaired hip extension and gluteal function
  • impaired terminal ankle plantar flexion (because they cannot access the synergists FHL and FHB)
  • impaired terminal ankle dorsi flexion (because they cannot access the synergists EHL and EHB)
  • lateral toe off which will promote ankle and foot inversion, which will challenge the peronei
  • frontal plane hip-pelvis drift because of the lateral toe off and lack of glute function
  • possible low back pain/tightness because of the  frontal plane pelvis drift and from altered hip extension motor patterning (and glute impairment)
  • possible knee pain from tracking challenges because they cannot complete medial tripod loading and thus sufficient pronation to internally spin the limb to get the knee to sagittal loading
  • impaired arm swing, more notable contralaterally

There is more, but that is enough for now. You need to know total body mechanics, movement patterns, normal gait cycle events (you have to know normal to know abnormal) and more. You have to know what normal is to understand when you are looking at abnormal.

* So, dial this back to something more simple, a “stubbed toe”, a painful sesamoid, painful pronation or a turf toe or hallux limitus.  They will all have the same list of complications that need to be evaluated, considered and addressed. This list should convey the importance that if your client has low back pain, examining the big toe motion is critical. Also, if you are just looking at the foot and toe in these cases, pack your bags … .  you don’t belong here. If you are just adjusting feet and toes and playing with orthotics while the list above does not constantly file back and forth through your brain, again, pack all your bags, grab your cat and leave town (just kidding, try reading more and get to some seminars).

If you know the complicated things, then the simple things become … … . . simple.

Your local treadmill gait analysis guru should know all of this if they are going to recommend shoes and exercises. Shame on them if there is no physical exam however. The data roadmap from the gait analysis software print out is not going to get you even out of the driveway let alone down the street. The data is going to tell you what you are doing to compensate, not tell you what is wrong. You must know anatomy, biomechanics, neurology, orthopedics and how to apply them to get the recipe right, not just which shoe in a store will unload the medial tripod of the foot or which exercise will lengthen your stride on the left. 

… .  sorry for the rant, too much coffee this morning, obviously.

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

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Pain at toe-off; Stopping Big Toe Impingement with the extensor hallucis capsularis.

Photo: note the AET coming off the EHL tendon in the diagram

What if there was a mechanism in place by which to pull structures out of the way of a joint moving to end range ? If you know your biomechanics, you know this is a true phenomenon on several levels. We know of one at the knee, the articularis genu has been written about having function of drawing the suprapatellar bursa and joint capsule/synovial tissue cephalad (upward) during knee extension preventing an impingement phenomenon during full quadriceps contraction in knee extension loading. 

What if there were a similar mechanism in the big toe ? When teaching we are sometimes asked what joint, that when it goes sour, creates more devastation to the entire biomechanical chain than any other joint. I like to choose the big toe/1st metatarsophalangeal joint because failure to fully push off the big toe at full joint range impairs hip extension, stride and step lengths, and creates compensations far and wide ipsilaterally and contralaterally in the body. Most everyone knows about bunions, turf toe, hallux valgus, sesamoiditis and the like, but there are many other things that can make this joint painful. Today we bring you another “clearing mechanism” that acts to pull synovial and capsular tissues out of a joint that is nearing end range.
As seen in the anatomy dissection photo above, the extensor hallucis capsularis (EHC) is an accessory tendon slip off of the extensor hallucis longus (EHL). Interestingly, one study found that 8% of the dissections showed the EHC came off of the tibialis anterior tendon slip. This EHC accessory slip typically originates off the long extensor tendon (EHL) and traverses medially to the dorsomedial joint capsule region. Some studies suggest it is found in 80-98% of people. We propose it is most likely present in everyone because of the critical nature of its function. We propose that perhaps it may be missed on traditional dissections because of its blending with fascial tissues and because of its sometimes trivial size and girth. Just like when we fully extend our knee we want to be sure the articularis genu will draw the synovial capsular tissue up and out of the patellar/femoral approximation, the EHC has been shown on intra-operative testing to exert a pretension on the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint capsule similarly pulling the synovial-capsular tissue free from the end range dorsiflexing toe. Without this function, synovial-capsular impingement can occur and create pain and an inhibitory arthrogenic reflex to the EHL, tibialis anterior or any other muscles around the joint for that matter. This can act and feel like an acute “turf toe” (hyper-dorsiflexion event) and yet, not be true turf toe osseous impingement.
So if your client has pain at the dorsal joint on end range extension of the great toe, meaning things like toe-off, doing push ups from the ball of the foot, jumping, kneeling or squatting with the hallux in forced dorsiflexion etc, this tendon slip (and its origin, the EHL muscle) should be on your mind and assessment of the anterior compartment for S.E.S. must commence (S.E.S.= skill, endurance and strength, our Gait Guys mantra). This is why you need to intimately understand this important video (link) and need to know how to do this exercise, the shuffle walks (video link) and build clean ankle rocker ranges of motion via S.E.S. of the anterior compartment.  Pulling on the great toe, twisting it like a radio knob, and forcing end range shouldn’t be the biggest guns in your arsenal, logically restoring all the dysfunctional components should be.

We wonder how many of the videos online of people demonstrating big toe mobilizations, toe distractions, fancy exercises and various toe circus tricks to regain motion and function and reduce pain actually truly know about the anatomy and function of the big toe and how ankle rocker and other things can impair its function.  We wonder about these kinds of things.  

Please just remember, the average uneducated viewer is merely looking for solutions to their painful parts. Those in the know have a responsibility to deliver as complete a package as possible, within reason. 

“With great powers (and knowledge) there must also come, great responsibility.”-Stan Lee  

Dr. Shawn Allen

the gait guys

Photo credit link: http://www.wisconsinfootandankleinstitute.com

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references:

Foot Ankle Surg. 2014 Sep;20(3):192-4. doi: 10.1016/j.fas.2014.04.001. Epub 2014 Apr 16.
The extensor hallucis capsularis tendon–a prospective study of its occurrence and function.Bayer T1, Kolodziejski N2, Flueckiger G2.

Foot Ankle Int. 2006 Mar;27(3):181-4.
Extensor hallucis capsularis: frequency and identification on MRI.
Boyd N1, Brock H, Meier A, Miller R, Mlady G, Firoozbakhsh K.

Foot Ankle Int. 2004 Jun;25(6):387-90.
The accessory extensor tendon of the first metatarsophalangeal joint.
Bibbo C1, Arangio G, Patel DV.

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

Hallux Varus: The anti-bunion. Thinking of bunion surgery ? This could be a complication if things go sour. 
  Hallux varus, when the big toe drifts medially, is a real problem. It is typically an acquired problem from a hallux valgus/bunion surgery gone awry.  (This post will not delve into some of the suspected culprits of this problem including   Mc Bride, Scarf, Chevron or Akin osteotomy etc but that would be some of the reader’s next steps into diving deeper into this problem. Surgical procedures to the 1st ray was one of the gait guys senior orthopedic residency thesis topics, hence we now hate this topic !).     
  This deformity can be rigid or flexible.  This case seen in the photo walked into our office recently.  These are not all that common and you won’t see many of them, but you do need to know they exist and where they can come from, how to cope with them and what issues you will need to understand (ie. footwear, talked about below) to assist your client.   
  Hallux varus can be painful, uncomfortable and even debilitating in some cases.  Sometimes they necessitate fixation to realign the hallux bone along a more reasonable alignment with the shaft of the 1st metatarsal.   
     
  Early correction seems critical because the linear and rotational forces at work generating the deformity can eventually lead to a further progressing deformity that can be even more problematic. When left unaddressed more drastic and radical corrective interventions seem necessary, including but not limited to,   resection of the base of the proximal phalanx, fusions and tendon transfers. However, newer surgical procedures are coming along proposing things like   reconstruction of the lateral stabilising components of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.   
     
  So here at The Gait Guys we like to ask the big, and sometimes obvious, questions.  What is toe off in walking and running gait going to look like in this hallux varus case ?  Well, one has to consider that the normal linear and rotational forces are now changed.  This means that the normal eccentric axis of the 1st MPT joint involved is going to very likely be changed. This means that the clearance of the base of the phalanx could be impaired and lead to painful binding, grinding or locking of the toe prior to reaching the adequate range of dorsiflexion for normal toe off. Additionally, the toe may act functionally unstable as the rotational forces remain unchecked leading to joint instability. Naturally, the medial foot tripod will be impaired and since the big toe acts in part like a kickstand to help support and fixate the 1st metatarsal (medial tripod), pronation forces can remain unchecked and beyond normal.  Naturally the foot will attempt to shift the tripod stability elsewhere and often this goes to the 2nd metatarsal commonly found with hammering of the digit in an attempt to help with stability through increased long flexor tone (FDL). Pain with a hallux varus can be a bigger complaint than the unsightly surgical outcome.  
     
  There is so much more to this topic. We could go on for at least another 50 pages on this topic (as our thesis reminds us) but volume is not the point of today’s task. It was to bring something new to light for our brethren here at The Gait Guys.  In the photo above, you see drift of the lesser toes, seemingly to follow the big toe. What you need to know is that this is not typical, however not impossible one could propose. This client had some other forefoot procedures done that were largely, although not exclusively, related to that lesser digit drift. Regardless, this is a client that is in some amount of foot trouble. They had good mobility of the 1st MTP joint, so full toe off was possible but because of the instability and uncontrollable rotational forces the joint was painful. A simple intervention made her life infinitely more comfortable, moving her into rigid rocker bottomed shoes.  Dansko clogs for work, and ROCS shoes for walking.  This left us with a very happy client. Not bad, all things considered.  In the mean time we will watch for deformity progression even though the patient could not be urged to have another surgery probably even if their life depended upon it.   
     
  In summary, being a patient can be difficult. These days, more than ever it seems, one needs to do their homework and be their own advocate.  Prior to surgery several consults should have taken place, risk and rewards should have been discussed, realistic outcomes dialogued and perhaps most of all questioning whether surgery needed to be on the table in the first place. Remember, surgery is most wisely selected in cases of neurologic decline and excessively painful and further detrimental biomechanics (ie. unaddressed ACL deficiency eventually promoting secondary instability with time). If there are ways around either, they should be explored. Cosmetic correction should never be on the table, and in the case of the foot, nor should poor shoe choices that promote problems.

Hallux Varus: The anti-bunion. Thinking of bunion surgery ? This could be a complication if things go sour.

Hallux varus, when the big toe drifts medially, is a real problem. It is typically an acquired problem from a hallux valgus/bunion surgery gone awry.  (This post will not delve into some of the suspected culprits of this problem including Mc Bride, Scarf, Chevron or Akin osteotomy etc but that would be some of the reader’s next steps into diving deeper into this problem. Surgical procedures to the 1st ray was one of the gait guys senior orthopedic residency thesis topics, hence we now hate this topic !). 
This deformity can be rigid or flexible.  This case seen in the photo walked into our office recently.  These are not all that common and you won’t see many of them, but you do need to know they exist and where they can come from, how to cope with them and what issues you will need to understand (ie. footwear, talked about below) to assist your client. 
Hallux varus can be painful, uncomfortable and even debilitating in some cases.  Sometimes they necessitate fixation to realign the hallux bone along a more reasonable alignment with the shaft of the 1st metatarsal. 
 
Early correction seems critical because the linear and rotational forces at work generating the deformity can eventually lead to a further progressing deformity that can be even more problematic. When left unaddressed more drastic and radical corrective interventions seem necessary, including but not limited to, resection of the base of the proximal phalanx, fusions and tendon transfers. However, newer surgical procedures are coming along proposing things like reconstruction of the lateral stabilising components of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. 
 
So here at The Gait Guys we like to ask the big, and sometimes obvious, questions.  What is toe off in walking and running gait going to look like in this hallux varus case ?  Well, one has to consider that the normal linear and rotational forces are now changed.  This means that the normal eccentric axis of the 1st MPT joint involved is going to very likely be changed. This means that the clearance of the base of the phalanx could be impaired and lead to painful binding, grinding or locking of the toe prior to reaching the adequate range of dorsiflexion for normal toe off. Additionally, the toe may act functionally unstable as the rotational forces remain unchecked leading to joint instability. Naturally, the medial foot tripod will be impaired and since the big toe acts in part like a kickstand to help support and fixate the 1st metatarsal (medial tripod), pronation forces can remain unchecked and beyond normal.  Naturally the foot will attempt to shift the tripod stability elsewhere and often this goes to the 2nd metatarsal commonly found with hammering of the digit in an attempt to help with stability through increased long flexor tone (FDL). Pain with a hallux varus can be a bigger complaint than the unsightly surgical outcome.
 
There is so much more to this topic. We could go on for at least another 50 pages on this topic (as our thesis reminds us) but volume is not the point of today’s task. It was to bring something new to light for our brethren here at The Gait Guys.  In the photo above, you see drift of the lesser toes, seemingly to follow the big toe. What you need to know is that this is not typical, however not impossible one could propose. This client had some other forefoot procedures done that were largely, although not exclusively, related to that lesser digit drift. Regardless, this is a client that is in some amount of foot trouble. They had good mobility of the 1st MTP joint, so full toe off was possible but because of the instability and uncontrollable rotational forces the joint was painful. A simple intervention made her life infinitely more comfortable, moving her into rigid rocker bottomed shoes.  Dansko clogs for work, and ROCS shoes for walking.  This left us with a very happy client. Not bad, all things considered.  In the mean time we will watch for deformity progression even though the patient could not be urged to have another surgery probably even if their life depended upon it. 
 
In summary, being a patient can be difficult. These days, more than ever it seems, one needs to do their homework and be their own advocate.  Prior to surgery several consults should have taken place, risk and rewards should have been discussed, realistic outcomes dialogued and perhaps most of all questioning whether surgery needed to be on the table in the first place. Remember, surgery is most wisely selected in cases of neurologic decline and excessively painful and further detrimental biomechanics (ie. unaddressed ACL deficiency eventually promoting secondary instability with time). If there are ways around either, they should be explored. Cosmetic correction should never be on the table, and in the case of the foot, nor should poor shoe choices that promote problems.

“… knowing this will not mistakenly leave one with the interpretation that the joint is suffering restriction, that the joint is merely showing its limitation because of the return shift of the eccentric axis to a less mobile position.” - The Gait Guys  

This video is just the kind of stuff that drives us nuts.  We do not have a personal problem with the good doctor, he may know (and most likely does know) far more than he is letting on here but is merely simplifying things for some reason. We merely have a problem with the information that is missing that could make this a valuable addition, or omission, to someone’s care. There are times to simplify things, but when we put out a video on the web where the world can see it, we try to be as thorough as possible even if this means that something will come across seemingly overcomplicated. The fact of the matter is that human biomechanics are in fact complicated and simplifying something, when it is just not possible to do so, really doesn’t help anyone. People, and maybe some medical professionals, who do not know better will see this and not see what is missing, importantly so, here.

In this video there is no regard to the pre-positioning of the metatarsal to that big toe. This is a very unique joint, it has an eccentric axis that changes with metatarsal plantarflexion and dorsiflexion. This eccentric axis is shifted by the shifting position of the relationship of the metatarsal head with the base of the hallux. Here, at this joint, we have a concave-convex joint interface which with all said joint types, has a roll-glide biomechanical rule.  This rule at this joint is unique in that the axis of roll-glide is eccentric meaning that the joint has a shifting axis during the motion of dorsi and plantarflexion.  This is dictated and dependent upon the posturing of the sesamoid bones properly beneath the metatarsal head.  You can hear more about this premise here, in a video we did a few years ago. It is long, but it is all encompassing.  What is important, that which is not noted here, is that with more metatarsal plantarflexion there is opportunistically more dorsiflexion at the joint.  (This is precisely the joint range loss that occurs in “turf toe”, hallux limitus.)  Thus, in the above video, to properly mobilize the big toe into dorsiflexion, the foot must be taken into full metatarsal plantarflexion (pointing the foot) where greater amounts of joint dorsiflexion will be found (because of the eccentric axis shift) and the joint should be also mobilized in full ankle and metatarsal dorsiflexion, but the therapy giver must know, and be expected to find, that less toe/joint dorsiflexion will ALWAYS be found in this position.  Knowing this will not mistakenly leave one with the interpretation that the joint is suffering restriction, that the joint is merely showing its limitation because of the return shift of the eccentric axis to a less mobile position.   

* Here is a little experiment you can do to teach yourself this principle. It should also help you to realize the gait cycle.

Sit in a chair, cross one ankle over the opposite knee and see what happens to the joint ranges as you proceed.  

  • dorsiflex the ankle and big toe. With your muscles only, not your hands, actively pull back the ankle and toe striving to get the most amount possible of dorsiflexion at both joints.  You should see that there is some toe dorsiflexion of the big toe.  
  • now keeping that big toe dorsiflexed as strongly as possible, begin to plantarflex the foot, thus moving the 1st metatarsal into plantarflexion as well. You should note that the relative amount of toe-metatarsal dorsiflexion DRAMATICALLY increases !
  • you can also do this passively. This time start at full foot plantarflexion (foot pointed) and passively pull that big toe back into dorsiflexion.  A huge range is likely to be found if you have a cleanly functioning foot.  Now, try to hold that significant range while you push the ankle into dorsifleixon.  At the end of the metatarsal and ankle dorsiflexion range you should feel the big toe start to resist this range you are trying to maintain, the big toe will forcibly start to  unwind the dorsiflexion. This is because of the eccentric shift of the joint and tension building in the passive tissues in the bottom of the foot. 
  • You want, and need, these relationships to occur properly and timely in the gait cycle and there are milliseconds to get it right and that means the entire kinetic chain must be clean of flaws, otherwise compensation will occur. (Note: Blocking or trying to control these issues with a foot bed, shoe type or orthotic can either be helpful therapeutically, or harmful to the chain.)

This is precisely what happens in the gait cycle. During swing phase the foot/ankle is in dorsiflexion to create foot clearance and to prepare the foot tripod for the contact phase with the ground.  There is some big toe (hallux) dorsiflexion represented in this swing phase, but it is not a significant amount you likely learned from your own self-demo above, mainly because it is not possible, nor warranted.  But, once the foot is on the ground and moving through the late stance phase of gait into heel rise, the ankle is plantarflexing. Thus, the metatarsals are plantarflexing, and this is causing the slide and climb of the metatarsal head up onto the sesamoids.  This causes the requisite shift of the axis of the 1st MTP joint (metatarsophalangeal) and affording the greater degree of toe dorsiflexion to occur to allow full foot supination, foot rigidity to sustain propulsive loading and also, never to forget, sufficient hip extension for gluteal propulsion. At this point, the range of the big toe in dorsiflexion is far greater than the dorsiflexion of the joint at ankle dorsiflexion. Impairment of this series of events is what leads to turf toe, hallux limitus as it is called. And when that becomes more permanent, even mobilizing the joint, as seen in the video above or otherwise, is not likely to get you or your client very far in terms of normal gait restoration.  And forcing it, won’t made it so either.

Remember this, the kinetic chain exists and functions in both directions. If you are starting with a hip problem that limits hip extension, and thus full range toe off during gait, in time you will lose the end range of the toe-off dorsiflexion range. And any attempts to try and regain it at the foot will fail long term if you do not remedy the hip.  "If you don’t use it, you will lose it". So to gain it back actively, sometimes you have to restore all of the functional losses of the entire kinetic chain to get what you are hoping for.  And for all you people doing “activation” to the glutes on your athletes, finding you are having to do it over and over and over again…….day after day after day, well … . . we hope you take this blog article to heart and put this thought process into action.

Remember, if you do not have the requisite strength, skill and endurance of the 2 toe extensors and 2 toe flexors as well as sufficient strength of the tibialis anterior (as well as many other components) you are likely to see impairment of this joint.  In this environment, do not expect joint mobilizations to offer you anything functionally lasting.  

We are not saying that joint mobilizations are useless and unnecessary, not by any means.  We are saying that you have to know what you are doing when you do them, so you can get the results you desire or, to realize why you are not getting the results you desire.  

Treat your clients with clear biomechanical knowledge and you will get the results you desire. If you go in with limited knowledge, results may speak for themselves. 

Gait analysis and understanding movement of the human body is a difficult task. It takes many years to learn the fundamental parameters and then many decades to implement the understanding wisely and with effectiveness.  Here at the gait guys, we hope to someday get to this point. We too, are students of gait and gait pathology. It is a journey.

“Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things.”  -Miyamoto Musashi

 

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys

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What does sustained rearfoot and forefoot inversion look like in terms of shoe wear ?

This is a client who came to us with a history of several months of big toe pain (specifically 1st metatarsophalangeal joint pain). The pain was dorsally located (ie. top of the big toe joint).  It was clear that on examination the pain was being caused by osseous and soft tissue dorsal impingement due to a progressing hallux rigidus/limitus. 

This painful status obviously is creating both a conscious medial toe off pattern during the propulsive phase of late stance phases.  The client is more than obviously steering push off laterally as can be seen in this photo. The grey lateral pods are almost obliterated. This means the foot is perpetually supinated during the entire stance phase of gait and this means that pronation shock absorption is not present.

Remember, a perpetually supinated foot means the talus and arch never descend as part of the pronation/shock absorption cycle and so the same side limb will always remain longer than the other limb which is seeing the internal rotation/pronation effects which functionally shorten the leg during stance phase.  So in this case, we have a pelvic unlevelling and a frontal plane shift to the functionally shorter leg during its stance phase.  It should not surprise you that this client has hip pain contralateral to this abnormal shoe wear/hallux limitus side. 

There are plenty of other issues here to be discussed, like eccentric weakness of the same side g.maximus, patellar tracking issues, lack of hip extension and thus weakening of the glutes and thus resultant shortness of the quadriceps group which will all often be found in this clinical picture. But we will save that all for another time.

Remember, the longer this client stays in this shoe, the easier it is mechanically on them because the eVA foam and the shoe are broken down into their compensatory avoidance behaviour.  But, this is where the pattern becomes subconsciously embedded and thus when the pattern drives many of the other compensatory patterns off of this one since it is the new norm. The faster you address this problem, the sooner you stop the compensatory cascade.  And on that note, if you read our blog post re-run of the Arm Swing last week you will understand why  these folks will begin altering the opposite arm swing phase.

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys

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The Rigid Flat Foot: Do you know what you are actually dealing with ?

In these 5 photos of a client with a flat arch we see some great opportunity to discuss some of the clinical issues and clinical thinking that needs to occur.  As usual we write our blog posts on the fly with a principle at hand that we want to drive home, or in this case “into the ground”.  There are many more clinical issues with this type of foot and its problems, so today’s list and dialogue is not meant to be exhaustive.  But, if you take one thing away from this case, it should be that not all flat feet can take a stability shoe or an orthotic. So, if you are in the mind set that “when it is flat, jack it up (the arch)” and “when it is high (the arch), cushion it” hopefully you will open your eyes a bit to the reality that it just is not that simple.  IF you want to learn more about these issues we have purposefully put together the National Shoe Fit program for stores and doctors/therapists so they can learn more about the anatomy of the feet and shoes and how to pair them up to create the best recipe for a person.  

Now, onto this case.

In this case you should notice a few things. 
1- the rigidity of the flat foot as portrayed in the photo where we are pushing up with our thumb on what once was the peak of the arch (yes, there are 5 photos in this case, click on one to enlarge or scroll) . We are attempting to push up, but the midfoot is completely rigid. This is a classic Rigid Flat Foot Deformity, A Rigid Pes Planus if you will. 

2- There is a prominence at the navicular bone, both top (dorsal) and bottom (plantar) aspects of the foot (see photo of my hand with finger and thumb indicating these areas). The plantar prominence is the actual naviular bone (mostly) that has become weight bearing (termed “weight bearing  navicular” and crudely by some as a dropped navicular, a term we dislike). And the dorsal prominence is a dorsal crown of osteophytes. This means a dorsal ridge of bone has formed at the navicular-1st cuneiform bone/joint interval because of the constant and repetitive compression of the two against each other dorsally as midfoot arch collapse occurred repeatedly and then became a fixed permanent entity.

3- The hyper dorsiflexion range at the 1st MTP joint (the big toe). This range is excessive at actually was able to exceed 90 degrees (see photo) !  Even at rest the hallux (big toe) is extended suggesting the volume of dorsiflexion it gets all the time.  By the way, there was little to no hallux 1st MPJ joint plantarflexion (downward bend), not in a foot this flat. In fact most of that is from the contracture of the short extensors of the toes as noted by the photo showing the hammer toe formation (hammer toe = contractured short extensor myotendon, and to the long flexors as well). Hammer toes are almost always seen in a flat foot presentation, to a degree.

Now, lets put some things together (but a reminder, this is a single principle today, there are many more issues here).

Today’s Principle: Passing the Buck

Normally we need to have just slightly greater than 90 degrees of ankle mortise dorsiflexion to progress the body over the ankle.  Put in other words, we need to be able to get the tibia slightly past vertical (perpendicular to the ground, hence 90+ degrees). Depending on the reference, anywhere from 15-25 degrees past that 90 degree vertical, thus 105 to 120 degrees) is the goal.

If an ankle cannot get that range, the range must be achieved either proximal or distal to that joint, ie. Passing the Buck beyond the ankle mortise joint.  Proximally, one can hyperextend the knee to enable the body mass to pass sagittally over the ankle but a better strategy (arguably) is to compensate distally via collapsing the arch and pronate more than normally through the midfoot putting undue stress and strain into the plantar fascia and over time eventually collapsing the arch and creating the dorsal and plantar bony prominences we mentioned in #2. By dropping the arch, the subtalar joint exceeds its ranges and the talus and navicular collapse medially and plantarwards. 
When the arch drops to the planus stage the tibia is passively thrust forward achieving the necessary forward tibial progression to get body over and past the ankle to enable forward progression. 
Remember, this pes planus will dorsiflex the long metatarsal bone (meaning make it parallel to the ground). This will screw up the 1st Metatarsal-phalangeal joint function and  impair the Windlass Mechanism of Hicks at the big toe (translation, it will impair the sesamoids, possibly leading to sesamoiditis, and change the normal toe function and its tendons.  This is seen both in the pes planus foot and in hallux rigidus turf toe presentations where the big toe loses its  normal ranges as compared to this case here).

So, the normal range can as for the buck to be passed proximally into the kinetic chain or distally. Which one would you want, if you had to chose?  It is a tough choice, luckily the body decides for us.  IF you consider that luck !
Regardless, one has to stand in awe that the body will find a way to get the range elsewhere when it cannot find it in the primary motor pattern.  And when the range has to be gained elsewhere, the muscular function has to change as well and prostitute the normal kinetic chain motor patterns. 
Here is a tougher question for you. Would you want this phenomenon on one side and be uniliaterally compromising (and thus have to compensate on the opposite side) the kinetic chain or bilaterally and have the asymmetry on both sides ?  That is a tough one. There is no good choice however.


*So, a flat RIGID foot.  If you jam an agressive orthotic (or possibly even a motion control shoe) under this foot it could very likely be painful to those rigid bony prominences and it will remove the client’s “passing the buck” compensation. Now the forces may have to revert to the proximal strategy at the knee.  So, when do YOU go with the orthotic or motion control shoe ? When it comes to the feet, use your head.  And, consider the Gait Guys, National Shoe Fit DVD program.  Email us at : thegaitguys@gmail.com

Foot “Roll Out” at Toe Off : Do you do this ? And if so, why do YOU do it ?

As we always say, “what you see in someone’s gait is often not the problem, rather a compensatory strategy around the problem”.


What do you see in this case ? We would like to draw your attention at this time to the transition from midfoot stance to toe off on the right foot.  You should watch both feet and note that the right foot tips outward (inverts) as toe off progresses.
What could cause this ?  It is certainly not normal.  Remember, it is highly likely it is not the problem, that something is driving it there or something is not working correctly to drive this client to normal big toe propulsive toe off. Now, there are many other issues in this case, some of which  you can see and many of which you cannot, but do not get distracted here, our point is to talk about that aberrant Right toe off into inversion which prevents the optimal hallux (big toe) toe off. 
A clinical exam will give many answers to joint ranges and what muscles are strong and which are weak and inhibited.  Without the clinical exam and this information about the entire kinetic linkage there is no way to know what is wrong. This thinking should awaken shoe stores when prescribing shoes off of watching clients run or walk on a treadmill.  There is so much to it beyond what one sees. 
So what could be causing this foot to continue its supinatory events from heel strike all the way through lateral toe off ?
The foot could be:
- a rigid high arched cavus foot
- perhaps pronation through the midfoot and forefoot is painful (metatarsal stress pain, painful sesamoiditis, plantar fascitis) so it is an avoidance strategy possibly
- a common one with this gait presentation is perhaps there is a hallux limitus/rigidus (turf toe), painful or non-painful
- weak peronei and/or lateral gastrocsoleus thus failing to drive the foot medially to the big toe during the midstance-to-forefoot loading transition
- contractured medial gastrocsoleus complex (maybe an old achilles tear or reconstruction ?)
-rigid rearfoot deformity not allowing the calcaneus to perform its natural evertion during early stance phases thus maintaining lateral foot pressures the entire time
- presence of a rigid forefoot valgus
- avoidance of the detrimental medial pressures from a forefoot varus

 These and many other issues could be the reason for the aberrant toe off pattern.  This is not an exhaustive list but it should get your brain humming and asking some harder questions, such as (sorry, we have to say it again), “is what you see the problem, or a compensatory strategy to get around the problem ?”

We know you have busy days but we appreciate your time watching our videos and embracing something we are both passionate about.
We are The Gait Guys

Dr. Shawn Allen & Dr. Ivo Waerlop

Jon “Bones” Jones great toe dislocation.

For you UFC fans out there (and for you gait fans) who saw this injury at UFC 159 here was some update video on his toe shortly after the injury. Here is the picture (graphic).

“Dr. Robert Klapper, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group, was a guest on Tuesday night’s edition of UFC Tonight to discuss the injury and the recovery process in detail.” He does a pretty good job in highlighting the injury. He went over the FHB (flexor hallucis brevis) injury and the sesamoid concern which impressed us that he was fairly knowledgeable in the critical function of this toe and joint.  We still remain very concerned about the amount of dorsiflexion he is able to regain at that joint.  These kinds of injuries can lead to hallux rigidus and some premature degenerative changes in the toe cartilage which can impair heel rise through toe off in gait. (it also might affect his sprawl (see below for definition) for all you MMA junkies!). Although first metatarsophalangeal instability (big toe joint) is an uncommon condition it can result from disruption of the capsular-ligamentous complex which is most certainly the result of Jon Jones injury. Patients can experience pain with push-off and hallux rigidus type of symptoms including loss of end range of the joint which is critical for gait.  Quite often the joint needs restabilization which can be done through many surgical methods including anchoring the plantar plate to the extensor hallucis longus tendon. When this toe is not sufficiently stabilized the anchoring of the head of the medial tripod of the foot (the 1st metatarsal head) often becomes unstable. And when it becomes unstable more foot pronation can occur and bunion formation and hallux drift can occur, amongst many other things such as chronic sesamoiditis and functional imbalance (and thus power) across the joint. These things can all affect speed, agility, balance, power and the like. 

Lets hope that Jones’ toe restilizes on its own. We won’t know for several more weeks however.  One thing is for sure, with our 45 years experience, no  matter what the media spins right now, he is not out of the woods yet. Seriously.  It will be interesting to see if there is evidence of favoring of the joint in his next fight, whenever that is.

oh, and here was our Tweet to Bones Jones after the fight. Never heard from him……. tisk tisk tisk.    #regret (we hope not !)

27 Apr

good win. You are gonna need to restore function for that toe once it heals. Ouch ! Nasty ! champ !

define: Sprawl (wikipedia)

A sprawl is a martial arts and wrestling term for a defensive technique that is done in response to certain takedown attempts, typically double or single leg takedown attempts. The sprawl is performed by scooting the legs backwards, so as to land on the upper back of the opponent attempting the takedown. The resultant position is also known as a sprawl or sprawling position.

Ideally, the sprawling athlete should arch his back as much as possible and keep his knees off the mat. His options here including attempting to gain leverage on the lower back by hooking underneath the elbows; throwing in a headlock; and grabbing his opponent’s ankles and trying to get behind his opponent.

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys……. hoping Jonny Bones reaches out to  us if things don’t come out so well !

Do you have enough Ankle Dorsiflexion to do this ?  Some clues ?

Two guys pulling 40,000 pounds over one mile in just over an hour !

Watch the video above and then check out this link.

http://www.powerropes.com/brtrophy.html

Look at the fellas left foot in the video compared to his right.  Notice the turn out (the increased progression angle as it is referred to as) ?  Now look at the photos from the article link above, again the fella in the red shirt has his left foot turned out again.  Why is he doing this ? 

Because he does not likely have enough ankle dorsiflexion (ankle rocker) to get into this far of a forward lean.  Have you seen this in people or your students doing squats ? Lunges ? Will this present in his normal gait ? Perhaps, but if he has enough for normal gait (~15 degrees past vertical 90 degrees) he shouldn’t need to turn it out.

Turning out the foot will allow you to pronate through the midfoot to gain more dorsiflexion. It is why some people do it.  Look for it.

It is also possible that he has a painful big toe or a hallux rigidus/limitus (ie. turn toe) and thus cannot toe off sagittally like on the other foot or like the other fella.  This turn out will avoid loading that joint as much. 

Regardless, you must examine this fella and figure out why he is using this strategy only on one side.  This is just one theory, but we did not want to pollute this post with a few others. We can do that another time.

Ankle rocker dorsiflexion. It is critical for some activities.

Shawn and Ivo

__________

from a FAcebook reader:

  • Question:  Most sources allow for a small amount of turnout as “normal” in gait - about 7 degrees on average. Should feet point straight ahead? What is the repercussion of turnout, even a small amount? I think in barefoot societies the feet are pointing straight ahead so I wondered where this belief comes from and if it is correct. Perhaps people are losing dorsiflexion from wearing positive heels and are turning out in response? Thanks.
  • The Gait Guys You are correct. zero degrees progression angle is not considered normal….. 5-20 degrees is more “normal”……but it depends on the source. Keep in mind that femoral torsion and tibial torsion will be big players in this foot angle. The more the foot is turned out the more pronation (more than normal) can sneak in. IT will challenge the foot tripod. Weakness in the glutes, (particlarly g. medius from frontal plane challenges ) may ask the limb and foot to turn out to engage a more stable foot tripod. meaning, if you engage another plane (ie. more frontal plane) via more foot/limb turn out you can gain the help from other muscles such as the quadriceps. Reducing the heel height can force one to adapt to the use of more ankle dorsiflexion, you are correct. Hence why the literature suggests less injuries from more minimialist shoes. Hope this helps.
Using a Pedograph to get Dynamic Answers to Foot Dysfunction: 
 Pedograph topic: One quick topic here. Note the hot spot (ink concentration) at the big toe and note that the ink is proximal on the toe pad. We would like to see the pressure point at the center of the pad. This spot means this person walked across the Harris Ink mat with increased FHB (flexor hallucis brevis) use and not enough FHL (flexor hallucis longus);  too much short flexor, not enough long flexor. There is loss of synergy between the two. This will likely mean there is something going on in the extensors as well, something abnormal. 
 Need a review? Look at Monday’s video again on the EHB (extensor hallucis brevis) where we discuss all of the toes muscles. 
 Clinically this patient had a hallux limitus/rigidus (could not dorsiflex great toe) which complicated the mechanics at the joint and forward into the great toe, sadly also at the foot’s medial tripod as well. You cannot get an accurate read from a static (standing only) pressure mapping. Don’t rely on them for dynamic info ! 
 Too much FHB with not enough FHL means EHB (as well as long extensors of the lesser toes) is going to be impaired. Impair the EHB and you ask the EHL  to work differently as well.  Here’s a hint, look at all the printing under the lesser digits distally, there is too much flexor activity here as indicated by intense inking from toe clenching / hammering.  They are likely doing this to add more stability since the great toe cannot from what we discussed above. There are problems that come from these issues as well but we want to stay focused on the big toe today. 
  Now, go back and review Mondays blog video post  (here is the link) .  
  Treatment:  
 In a case where there is some loss of the 1st MPJ range of motion (metatarsaphalangeal joint) (depending on the source, 45 degrees is typically needed) there will be impairment of the long and short toe flexor/extensor pairing and synergy.  In this case above there is highly suspected increased short flexor (FHB) activity (hence the ink at the proximal big toe) and this means that the long flexor is usually submissive.  And, when the long flexor (FHL) is submissive the long extensor is dominant. When the long extensor is dominant the short extensor is submissive. Can you now see the beautiful symphony and harmony we need here. This is why we loosely say that the FHB and the EHL are paired and the FHL and EHB are paired.  It is not exactly the case but hopefully you catch our drift.  
 So, in this case, with a hallux limitus/rigidus when the 45 degrees of dorsiflexion is lost these pairing can be challenges and the synergy is lost.  The symphony of these muscles is “off tune”.  This can further provoke the 1st MPJ and it can also be the slow brewing initiation of the problem. It can be a vicious cycle when it gets going. And, when the 1st MPJ is limited the dorsiflexion that is supposed to occur at the joint can be shunted proximally into the midfoot or ankle and cause pain/pathology there.  It can also impair the normal pronation-supination cycles. The big toe when it goes sour makes the whole orchestra angry and play off tune.   Doing your best to normalize and maximize muscle harmony and function many times will dampen the pathology and pain and get the person going again.  Of course the problem is still lurking under the surface.  Test the muscles, try to isolate them but remember that your muscle tests need to be as specific as you can. Nothing is isolated in the body, but do your best.   Of course there are many other scenarios but this is the one we chose to teach today from this pedographing of the big toe. We will explore other options and challenges another time. 
  Shawn and Ivo.    Gait geeks promoting gait literacy and competency everywhere we can get an open ear.

Using a Pedograph to get Dynamic Answers to Foot Dysfunction:

Pedograph topic: One quick topic here. Note the hot spot (ink concentration) at the big toe and note that the ink is proximal on the toe pad. We would like to see the pressure point at the center of the pad. This spot means this person walked across the Harris Ink mat with increased FHB (flexor hallucis brevis) use and not enough FHL (flexor hallucis longus);  too much short flexor, not enough long flexor. There is loss of synergy between the two. This will likely mean there is something going on in the extensors as well, something abnormal.

Need a review? Look at Monday’s video again on the EHB (extensor hallucis brevis) where we discuss all of the toes muscles.

Clinically this patient had a hallux limitus/rigidus (could not dorsiflex great toe) which complicated the mechanics at the joint and forward into the great toe, sadly also at the foot’s medial tripod as well. You cannot get an accurate read from a static (standing only) pressure mapping. Don’t rely on them for dynamic info !

Too much FHB with not enough FHL means EHB (as well as long extensors of the lesser toes) is going to be impaired. Impair the EHB and you ask the EHL  to work differently as well.  Here’s a hint, look at all the printing under the lesser digits distally, there is too much flexor activity here as indicated by intense inking from toe clenching / hammering.  They are likely doing this to add more stability since the great toe cannot from what we discussed above. There are problems that come from these issues as well but we want to stay focused on the big toe today.

Now, go back and review Mondays blog video post (here is the link).

Treatment:

In a case where there is some loss of the 1st MPJ range of motion (metatarsaphalangeal joint) (depending on the source, 45 degrees is typically needed) there will be impairment of the long and short toe flexor/extensor pairing and synergy.  In this case above there is highly suspected increased short flexor (FHB) activity (hence the ink at the proximal big toe) and this means that the long flexor is usually submissive.  And, when the long flexor (FHL) is submissive the long extensor is dominant. When the long extensor is dominant the short extensor is submissive. Can you now see the beautiful symphony and harmony we need here. This is why we loosely say that the FHB and the EHL are paired and the FHL and EHB are paired.  It is not exactly the case but hopefully you catch our drift. 

So, in this case, with a hallux limitus/rigidus when the 45 degrees of dorsiflexion is lost these pairing can be challenges and the synergy is lost.  The symphony of these muscles is “off tune”.  This can further provoke the 1st MPJ and it can also be the slow brewing initiation of the problem. It can be a vicious cycle when it gets going. And, when the 1st MPJ is limited the dorsiflexion that is supposed to occur at the joint can be shunted proximally into the midfoot or ankle and cause pain/pathology there.  It can also impair the normal pronation-supination cycles. The big toe when it goes sour makes the whole orchestra angry and play off tune.

Doing your best to normalize and maximize muscle harmony and function many times will dampen the pathology and pain and get the person going again.  Of course the problem is still lurking under the surface.  Test the muscles, try to isolate them but remember that your muscle tests need to be as specific as you can. Nothing is isolated in the body, but do your best.

Of course there are many other scenarios but this is the one we chose to teach today from this pedographing of the big toe. We will explore other options and challenges another time.

Shawn and Ivo.    Gait geeks promoting gait literacy and competency everywhere we can get an open ear.