Your Foot is a Mummy

Your foot lives in a cave. A small cave.  Rather, it lives in a cocoon. Actually, it mostly lives in a sarcophagus, which is like a cave,  but with a cocoon for a sock. I’m pretty sure your foot is a mummy.

Try this exercise to strengthen the muscles that spread your mummy toes away from each other. When you spread your toes, you strengthen the ABDuctors of the second through fifth toes as they ABDuct or move in the transverse plane away from the midsagittal plane (mid-line) of your body. But toe spreading ADDucts your great toe because it actually moves towards the mid-line of your body. Confusingly, the ADDucting muscle of the big toe was named ABDuctor Hallucis by early anatomists, at a time when the accepted axial reference line bisected the middle of the foot. Strong toes are essential for optimal gait and balance. Strong toes have great blood flow and a healthy nerve supply.

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Place a thick rubber band around all of your toes and spread them. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

The blue muscles in the first illustration ABDuct or spread toes two through five away from your body’s midsagittal plane. In the second illustration, the olive muscle ADDucts your great toe away from the others and towards your mid-line. The pink muscle ABDucts your pinky away from your other toes and your mid-line.

Dorsal Interossei in blue

Dorsal Interossei in blue

Abductor Hallucis in olive; Abductor Digiti Minimi in pink

Abductor Hallucis in olive; Abductor Digiti Minimi in pink

Namaste, Michele

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Super Awesome Toe Up Toe Down Exercise

I am working on Part 2 of Barefoot is Better, but it’s not ready to post. I’ll be posting from the workshop “Walking The Lines: Gait, Anatomy Trains & Fascial Efficiency” with James Earls over the next three days, but should be able to pick up on the barefoot theme soon after.

Here is a great exercise that I call Toe Up Toe Down that stretches the adductor muscles of your toes. Another great mobilization for feet that have been in shoes all day, all life. You will probably do this seated, but I guess it could be done standing in a figure four balance with your foot crossed over your thigh.

Toe Up Toe Down

  1. Bend your right knee and bring it toward your torso so that you can handle your toes.
  2. Pull your big toe away from its base or proximal joint and stretch it down and at the same time stretch the second toe long and up. Hold for 30 seconds and keep the toes as straight as you can – no flexing (bending) in the joints
  3. Next, release your big toe and stretch your second toe up and your third toe down. Hold for 30 seconds with out bending the toes.
  4. Continue until you reach your pinky toe
  5. Start over, but this time with the big toe stretching up while the second toe stretches down and so on.
  6. Repeat on your left foot.
Toe Up Toe Down

Toe Up Toe Down

Toe Up Toe Down

Toe Up Toe Down

Toe Up Toe Down

Toe Up Toe Down

You can see the video of Toe Up Toe Down at my FootLove Yoga Facebook page. I hold the stretches only a few seconds, but I suggest that you hold them longer, at least 30 seconds.

Hello Foot, How Do You Do?

Have you ever shaken “hands” with your foot? Well, it’s time you did.

Your toes have probably been casted into shoes all day – particularly shoes with tight toe boxes that don’t allow your toes much mobility. Remember, tight toe boxes don’t have to feel tight, as evidenced by the tracing I made of my foot from mat board last week. I was unable to slide it into one of my favorite shoes because it would not yield or deform as my foot does when I slide it into my shoe, demonstrating that my toe box, even though it feels comfortable, does not have enough room to house my foot in a healthy manner. Toe boxes that don’t allow full spreading of your toes will cause the muscles that bring your toes together (adduct) to be tight and weak and those that spread them apart (abduct) to lose function.

Use your toe alignment socks when your are sitting/sleeping for passive stretching. But for active stretching, shake “hands” with your foot. Here’s how.

Preparation for really tight toes

  1. Sit on the floor or a chair, bend your knee to bring your foot towards your trunk and face the palm of your hand towards  the plantar (bottom surface) of your foot.
  2. Insert the tip of index finger between the tips of your big and second toes
  3. Insert the tip of your third finger between the tips of your second and third toes
  4. Insert the tip of your fourth finger between the tips of your third and fourth toes
  5. Insert the tip of your little finger between the tips of your fourth and pinky toes
  6. Spread your fingers apart
Inserting my fingertips between my toes at the distal joints.

Inserting my fingertips between my toes at the distal joints.

Advanced Greeting

When/if you are ready to advance to a full hand/foot greeting, follow the instructions above except try to slide the whole of your fingers down to where your rings are, all the way to the base joints of the toes. Like this:

Inserting my fingers between my toes at the proximal joints

Inserting my fingers between my toes at the proximal joints

Once you are there, clasp your fingers and toes around each other and commence to shaking and moving your hands to mobilize your toes.

Shaking "hands" with my foot

Shaking “hands” with my foot

Since your other hand won’t be doing anything, use it to massage the arch of your foot. In the picture below, I’m using the same thumb so that I can take the picture, but its a richer experience if you use your free hand.

Using my thumb to massage my arch

Using my thumb to massage my arch

On my Facebook page is a kind of ridiculous video of a hand/foot greeting. About halfway though, where my foot starts to spaz out, is where I stop moving my foot with my hand and instead let my foot move my passive hand. It increases movement nutrition.

Holding hands with your foot is the first step in being able to spread your toes – using the strength of your toes to stretch your toes. Being able to spread your toes, using your own intrinsic foot muscles, is a healthy indicator that your foot is optimally innervated, meaning your muscles are actually firing as opposed to lying dormant and inert. Each time your spread, lift, and wiggle your toes, you are increasing circulation of tissue food (blood) and facilitating cellular waste removal.

Good to meet you toes.

Namaste, Michele

Prop Review – Alignment aka Toe (Spreading) Socks

If you’ve been to my Facebook page, you’ll have seen toe socks on my cover photo. I’m not referring to socks with little glove fingers in them, but socks like this:

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Alignment socks are a great way to passively stretch your toes after they’ve been casted in shoes all day, particularly shoes with tight toe boxes that don’t allow your toes much mobility. Tight toe boxes don’t have to feel tight. Remember the tracing I made of my foot from matting paper earlier this week? I was unable to slide it into one of my favorite shoes because the stiff card stock would not yield or deform the way my foot does when I slide it into my shoe. This tells me that my toe box, even though it feels comfortable, does not have enough room to house my foot in a healthy manner. Toe boxes that don’t allow full spreading of your toes will cause the muscles that bring your toes together (adduct) to be tight and weak and those that spread them apart (abduct) to lose function.

When you don’t have time to perform the manual toe stretching and strengthening exercises I’ll be sharing on this blog, or you’ve already done them, then put on a pair of alignment socks. You can wear them for hours, while sitting or sleeping (not really meant to be walked in), to separate, stretch, and properly align your toes.

The Original Foot Alignment Socks can be had here for about $20

For quite a bit less money, around $6.00 a pair, you could try these from Amazon

Women’s Large/Men’s

Women’s Medium

Yep, I’ll be needing these socks after wearing these shoes…

cut out tracing of my foot

cut out tracing of my foot

does not fit into my shoe.

does not fit into my shoe.

Namaste, Michele