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Why Your Big Toe Matters

Our poor big toes. They are one of the unsung heroes of our lower extremity and are integral for walking, running, and optimal function during standing activities. We commonly focus portions of treatment within an athletic physical therapy session to big toe function.

The big toe helps with shock absorption and propulsion while often bearing over 50% of our body weight. It provides an essential role in sustaining the arch of the foot, thus setting the stage for optimal function of the rest of the foot.

For these reasons, people that suffer big toe amputations typically experience balance deficiencies and struggle with a variety of upright activities.

The great toe needs approximately 60 degrees of extension for walking, specifically during the terminal phase of gait (push off) when the weight is on the front of the foot and the heel is off the ground.

Even more motion is needed for running and athletic activities like sprinting. We commonly find that our athletic patients have limited great toe mobility which forces the body to compensate, and increases the risk for overuse injuries elsewhere.

A good target for a committed runner or athlete is 90 degrees of great toe extension, which you can test on yourself!

Begin seated with your foot flat and relaxed on the ground. While keeping the balls of your feet on the ground, use your hand to lift your big toe up towards the ceiling. Can it reach 90 degrees and get perpendicular to the ground?

If not, our Director of Education, Dr. Alex Immermann has a fantastic drill to help you! Check it out below!

Big Toe Extension PAILs/RAILs

If this drill created any pain or discomfort, please contact us.

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