So this past week PT Sarah spent a lot of time checking out my left foot after I told her I was still having some pain after walking longer distances. We spent most of the session working on ways of getting more mobility and strength in my foot.
Basically, I have some problems that revolve around the arch in my foot. I have written before about the three arches of the foot but here they are again. Basically, I still have weakness in A-C, the medial longitudinal arch.
What is happening is that the navicular bone, sometimes called the “keystone” of the foot is dropping because of weak foot muscles. You can tell just by looking that my left foot has less muscle development than my right one does, particularly around the arch and big toe. I also have some stiffness in my big toe joint (metatarsophalangeal joint). The two issues are related; using the big toe properly also engages the arch, and limitations in big toe mobility can lead to all sorts of foot, knee, and hip problems. Ack!
But I am in good company. There are all kinds of articles out there about mobilizing those big toes. There are numerous articles on running; here’s one on yoga. And I like this article on “toe yoga” for runners. Before talking with Sarah and then doing this online research, I had no idea that so many problems could develop if this joint became too stiff.
So now I have some new foot exercises and stretches. My favorite is the “foot wave.” I found a really good video on this website from some exercise physiologists located in Brisbane, Australia. I really like the explanations (and the accent is cool, too). I’m also working on stretching the top of my foot, especially around the metatarsals.
I’m keeping on my daily list a modified version of the “short foot” exercises that just engages my big toe (instead of all my toes at once). Apparently I have been trying to compensate for the stiffness in my big toe by overworking my other toes. This explains why I sometimes get cramps in my middle and fourth toes when I point my toes. Mystery solved!
I’ve only been doing these exercises for a few days, but I’ve already felt a difference in my balance while standing and walking. Lunges have felt more stable, too. I have been trying to make sure I use that big toe as much as I can in my various activities, since some of this is all about getting those foot muscles to activate automatically, rather than having to think about it all the time.
I’m hoping that this off-ice foot work will be the last piece of the therapy puzzle for me. Now the final question: will it make a difference in my skating? Will report back!