| Article written on September 5th, 2015 at 1:30pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
How much attention are you giving your feet?
With the amount of abuse our toes, feet, and entire lower extremity endure while running, we have to re-pay our debt. We tend to spend a lot of time considering joints like the knee, hip, and lower back, without much emphasis closer to the ground. Our great toe, foot, and ankle can often become restricted from a joint and/or soft-tissue standpoint, which causes pain elsewhere throughout the kinetic chain.
The foot alone is comprised of a series of bones and soft-tissue structures. It is also the starting point for fascial continuity of the superficial front line, deep front line, and superficial back line. This means that dysfunction in the foot can cause issues elsewhere throughout the body.
In caring for the foot, some things we need to take into consideration are the resiliency of the plantar soft-tissue, and great toe extension.. Notice that I said plantar soft-tissue and not solely the plantar fascia. Too often we are referring to everything on the bottom of the foot as the plantar fascia, when there are a myriad of intrinsic foot muscles and ligamentous structures of equal importance. On a weekly basis, I treat people who have previously been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, when that structure isn’t actually involved.
Let’s start distally and look at the great toe. This joint carries a lot of mojo! Typically, we want 70-80 degrees of extension at the great toe. Wait, what? Imagine having limitations in this joint and being unable to adequately push-off and propel the body forward to the fullest extent in your runs. How much will that limit your running performance? If you are lacking motion, try doing the traditional calf stretch against the wall, but only place your toes on the wall instead of the bottom of the foot. Now, lean forward while lifting the heel lightly to add more extension into the great toe.
Next, we have the plantar soft-tissue… Are you wearing properly fitted footwear to give your feet the kind of support it needs? This area often becomes bound up and fibrotic from running on a consistent basis. It definitely needs to be added to your everyday self-myofascial release routine. I have found that a lacrosse or golf ball is perfect to roll at a slow speed into this tissue. Some areas you may want to key on are just anteriorly to the underside of the heel, and into the medial longitudinal arch (inner arch).
The medial arch contains the plantar fascia, and intrinsic foot muscles that flex the great toe. When restricted, these may be part of the problem limiting great toe extension, mentioned above. You may also want to explore further up the chain into the calf and hamstring, which are fascially connected to this area.
The more miles you are completing, the more love you need to show your feet. Maintaining adequate great toe extension and resiliency of the foot musculature are essential in preventing injuries and maximizing running performance.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART