Spreading toes sounds like something we don’t do very often.
Can you spread your toes as easily as you can spread your fingers? Can you move your toes independently and as you want? Or do they have “life on their own”? Which means: when you want to move your big toe, all the other toes follow…
If your toes have life on their own, you are not alone. The older we get, the less control we have over our toes.
Look at babies and little kids. They can grasp things with their toes and they can do anything with them. Or people who had an unfortunate accident and lost their arms, they had to learn how to do everything with their feet. They use their toes like fingers. They can eat, paint, write…
We cannot do that because we don’t use our toes and we lose the function and control over them with each year.
Your feet and the intrinsic muscles (muscles inside the foot) are more important than you can imagine. Properly functioning feet create correct movements. If the feet don’t work correctly, different compensations in other muscles and tendons happen and over time these systems can get overused and even injured.
It is extremely important to take a good care of your feet and exercise the intrinsic muscles regularly. We covered this in previous articles:
- Fit and Healthy Feet for Better Tennis and Less Injuries
- Short Foot Exercise
- Foot Massage with a Ball
- Big Toe for Balance and Pain-free Life
Make your Feet Healthy With Exercise
The simple exercises covered in previous articles are easy to do anytime and anywhere, because you don’t get too tired or too sweaty, but your feet will benefit tremendously.
- toe lifts
- toe abduction
- stretching toe flexors
- foot circles and flexes
- short foot exercise
Make Your Feet Healthy Without Exercise
But there are also other ways that you can help your feet become more functional and these ways are fun. They are quite passive. You don’t need to do too much.
You relax. You walk. And you reap the benefits.
Flex Toe Stretchers are simple silicon tools that you put on your toes while chilling in the sofa, or working at the desk. You put them on and passively enjoy the “work” that the silicon stretchers do to you. Over time, you will find your toes more functional and your feet feeling better.
Flip-Flops vs. Spreading Toes Sandals
Many people love to wear different flip-flops, but they often have unnatural shape that causes too much pressure on the front-foot and the toes. Overtime this excess pressure can cause bunions, hammertoes, metatarsalgia (known as stone bruise, inflammation in the ball of the foot), neuroma pain (injured nerves), and heel pain.
The traditional flip-flops with the single thin strap between the big toe and the second toe causes you to grip the sandal with your toes excessively and your gait changes. This continuous gripping creates imbalances in the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles (inside vs. outside the foot).
Spreading your toes is healthy for the feet. The sandals that have small strap placed between each toe secure the foot better, you don’t need to grip on the sandal with your toes and thus you improve the function of your gait. Almost like you walk barefoot.
Spreading Toes Study
Dr. Emily Splichal, the foot doctor and barefoot specialist, did a little study with people who had mild to moderate bunion pain. They were wearing the toe spread sandals for 2 hours every day for 3 months. The subjects were X-rayed before the study, and then after 2, 3 and 6 months. After 3 months, they reported much less foot pain and improved function.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Balance
For overall foot function and healthy movement, it is extremely important to maintain balance between the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles.
As an athlete, you often strengthen the extrinsic muscles, such as in the gym (calf raises), on the court (moving on your toes), or daily walking and running.
But the intrinsic muscles are neglected, and we have to put more awareness into them. With conscious training (the exercises above) and in a leisure time with your flex toe spreaders and footwear that spreads your toes you should improve your intrinsic muscles significantly in pretty short time. You will notice that your atheltic performance will improve and your aches from training may disappear.
Be awesome, you and your healthy feet!