This article originally appeared in “Runner’s World / Zelle”
Keep your big piggie in top shape with these exercises.
A runner’s big toe has a big job. When your foot strikes the ground, it helps stiffen the tissues along your arch. This creates a stable platform, giving your foot more ability to propel you forward. But if your big toe is stiff or misaligned, it can’t do its job as well, which can disrupt your mechanics, says Christopher Johnson, a Seattle-based physical therapist. He suggests testing your range of motion with the “Flex Test” below and, if needed, doing these other exercises three times a week
Flex Test: Determines your toe’s range of motion
Use one hand to press down on your four smaller toes while using the other hand to pull up on the big toe. The angle formed by your big toe and the ground should be at least 35 degrees (or high enough to clear the width of a Popsicle stick). Not there? You likely have hallux rigidus (a.k.a. stiff big toe) and may benefit from this routine.
Body Saw: Improves mobility of the toe joints (bonus: also strengthens the core)
Start in a plank position on your forearms. Push your heels back so you feel a stretch in your calves. Then shift your body forward (below) so that your shoulders move beyond your elbows, rocking from the balls of your feet to your toes. Continue for 30 seconds, rest, then repeat two more times.
Marching: Trains you to keep the toe in proper position
Lift your left leg to hip height while keeping your right big toe planted on the ground. Keep it pointing straight (as if it’s facing noon on a clock). March forward, landing softly on your left foot as you lift your right leg. Keep all toes relaxed and on the ground while in the single-leg stance. Do for one minute. Rest and repeat three times.
Step-Up and Push-Up: Works the muscles that keep the big toe in proper alignment
Stand with your right foot on a low step, your left foot on the ground. Drive your left knee up as you rise onto the ball of your right foot. Lower your right heel down with control, making sure it lands directly behind your forefoot. Return your left foot to the floor. Do 10 repetitions, then switch sides. Repeat for three to five minutes.
Toe Dexterity Drill: Strengthens foot and toe muscles to help decrease the stress of impact by distributing forces across a broader area
Stand with feet at hip width, toes pointing forward. Lift your right big toe while keeping your other toes flat on the ground. Lower your big toe to the ground, then lift your lesser toes while keeping your big toe planted. Perform three sets of 15 repetitions on each foot.