Why your big toe is so important for movement

by Trevor Aung Than on June 23, 2013

Ever wondered why your big toe is so important for movement?

Have you ever hurt your big toe and been crippled from what seemed like a minor injury?

Well here is one of the reasons why: your Superficial Back Line (SBL).

sbl

The SBL is one continuous length of connective tissue starting/ending from your plantar fascia at the sole of your foot and traverses all the way up your posterior chain to end at the bony ridge at the base of the skull, connecting from there via your scalp to your eyebrow ridge. So if you’ve ever wondered, yes, your big toe is connected to your eyebrows. The plantar fascia connects to each metatarsal (toe joint) and the big toe being the largest metatarsal will have a bigger fascial attachment.

Try this: do a downward dog. This a great stretch for the SBL. Now I want you to really drive that big toe into the ground as you stretch into it. Feel the stretch along the inside portion of your calf. Now lift the big toe off the ground and repeat the downward dog. Can you feel how you lose that portion of the stretch to the inside calf?

downward-dog-e1338738029742

This is a simple exercise but if we apply it in a larger context to our body, if we disengage the big toe from the ground when we move (run, jump, lunge, whatever!) we will actually disengage a large portion of the tissue in our body. And when I say ’tissue’ it means everything: muscle, tendon, ligament, fascia, ECM, skin. Disengaging the big toe might mean wearing improper footwear, lacking mobility at the big toe or incorrect technique when exercising.

So how to address this?

For one, wearing bulky shoes will not help in gaining greater toe mobility. Start mobilising your toes, get them in touch with the ground again. Train in the soft sand at the beach. Do yoga. Pick things up off the ground with your toes. Try marbles, pebbles, whatever. Start small. Little steps.

foot

And this is just the SBL which is just one of the myofascial lines. What about the other myofascial lines?

Superficial Front Line. Where does it start? Oh, tibialis anterior. And where does that attach….first metatarsal you say? Yep, that’s the big toe.

Lateral line. Starting point – fibularis longus. And where does that attach? First metatarsal.

Spiral line. Tibialis anterior and fibularis longus. Big toe. Big toe.

Deep Front Line. Where? Flexor hallucis longus. You guessed it…big toe.

Now can you see that stubbing your toe not only affects your foot but really has far reaching implications for pretty much everything in your body?

Next time you train pay really good attention to what your big toe is doing in each of the exercises. You might be surprised in what he/she is ACTUALLY doing!

NB// These myofascial lines are the work of Thomas Myers and his sublime text, The Anatomy Trains 2nd Ed . The other thoughts are my own – Copyright Trevor Aung Than June 2013

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Sanderson June 25, 2013 at 9:40 am

Great article as always Trevor. I pick up stuff with my big toe all the time. My oldest boy has started doing the same. My wife thinks it is freaky but I know it can only lead to bigger and better things!

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Trevor Aung Than July 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Thanks for following as always Mark…you freak…

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emily phillips August 13, 2013 at 4:42 am

dear trevor,
for the past couple of days i’ve been hit with sciatica – tried to get an appt with my orthopedist for akupunkture but everyone’s on vacation. was ready to go in and just get some shots from my gp to stop the pain. opened up my computer and your video ‘tips on how to increase your yoga flexibility part 2′ popped up, and it was exactly what i needed! all of the points hit the points, muscles opened up, numb feeling went away (and of course, after doing the release with rollar and balls in socks suddenly i’m more flexible in the poses than imagined!) – right time, right video. i’m hooked! thanks again…me, and my body are most appreciative.
emily phillips

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Trevor Aung Than August 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

Hi Emily

That’s great to hear!! The video is here if anyone is wondering: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRX58AoL2wI&feature=share&list=UUFYbLvz0iXSzQjxr5UD9CxQ
So glad to help!
More videos to come so stay tuned :)

Cheers
Trevor

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