It’s tiny joint, but your big toe joint (MTP) can be an important one. Yep, you probably don’t often think of your big toe unless you are stubbing it on some concrete path or whacking it on some furniture, but it’s a key joint for balance and locomotion- not to mention running. As you push off, your big toe must extend which causes your plantar fascia to tighten which helps to stabilize the foot. This rigidity it causes in your foot as it extends is good because it makes a strong lever for propulsion.
Recently I have been treating a lot of high school patients with hip and knee pain during sports activities, and in more than one case the underlying cause is probably a long history of “W sitting” which is demonstrated in the above photo. I would always correct my children when they got in this position because I know that it can have some serious long-term risks for their developing bodies like the following:
Our bodies are born mobile, and it’s not until we stop using certain positions that we loose our ability to get in them. Often its sedentary life style, desk jobs, and sitting in cars that slowly robs us of our mobility. Even sports, strength training and our workouts can leave us limited if we don’t constantly work areas that are prone to tightness.
The squat test is a great movement to tell you how well somebody’s body is moving, particularly if you have your arms overhead as you are doing it. A simple quick squat test can tell you some much about the movement quality of someone’s spine, shoulders, hips, and ankle joints and even assess their body control.
Why is important to stay mobile? Because the body is smart, and losing mobility in one area will cause it to find it in another often resulting in an injury. Also, less mobile areas mean other areas work harder and your body is not as efficient. For example, not being able to get low enough to lift something heavy with your legs, means you might round your back and be prone to an injury. Or another example, have a shortened Latissimus muslce (back muscle) or poor thoracic mobility can effect your shoulder in over-head range of motion leading to pain and inefficient over-head activities. Even being able to get into a good squat is vital for explosive jumping in sports.
The good new is it might take a little time, but you can get your mobility back. Through some functional movement assessment, joint mobilizations, tissue release and corrective exercises, you can increase your mobility and retrain your brain to use your body the way you did as a kid.
Here is an example of good squatting mechanics with hips below knees, knees over toes, torso upright with arms overhead. Can you get in this position?