Physiotherapy and the foot- let’s talk about the big toe!

Big Toe Mobility

The feet are the foundation of the body that stabilize and mobilize from the ground up. Each foot has 28 bones comprising a total of 30 joint and include 20 muscles. There are a number of conditions, diseases and deficiencies that can develop in the feet and can cause issues or compensations further up the leg and even into the core.

During gait especially, big toe mobility is essential to push you forward and provide stability to keep your balance. If there is a lack of movement through the big toe, the body will cheat and find another way to obtain the motion it needs.
Studies show that a lack of big toe mobility can increase the chance of falls in the aging population. However, even high level athletes need to maintain their range of motion in their toes so as not to develop compensations which could potentially lead to injury or poor technique.
Here are a couple exercises to help increase or maintain you big toe range of motion that you can add to your routine. These exercises are designed to load through the big toe and help the supporting tendons to adapt appropriately to the needs placed upon it.

Soft tissue mobilization

  • Using a firm ball, roll the ball against the soft tissue below your big toe and into the arch
  • At the end of each roll, draw the base of the big toe towards the floor to put a slight stretch on the big toe then continue to roll the ball under your foot
  • Repeat x10 repetitions x3 sets


Calf raise

  • With a towel under your toes, perform a calf raise at the edge of step and support yourself against the wall or railing if needed
  • Think about raising through the big toe and not splaying out to the side at the very top
  • Begin with both feet raising together until you are comfortable; to progress the exercise, perform using your body weight through one foot only
  • Start by performing x10 repetitions x2-3 sets

By Alison Parker
Registered Physiotherapist
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Alpha Health Services Physiotherapist Alison Parker
Arthritis.Org, 2020, Accessed 13 Mar 2020.
“Foot And Ankle Anatomy, Medial – Stock Image – P116/0603”. Science Photo Library, 2020,
Taddei, Ulisses T. et al. “Effects Of A Foot Strengthening Program On Foot Muscle Morphology And Running Mechanics: A Proof-Of-Concept, Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial”. Physical Therapy In Sport, vol 42, 2020, pp. 107-115. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2020.01.007. Accessed 13 Mar 2020.
Viseux, Frederic J.F. “The Sensory Role Of The Sole Of The Foot: Review And Update On Clinical Perspectives”. Neurophysiologie Clinique, vol 50, no. 1, 2020, pp. 55-68. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.neucli.2019.12.003. Accessed 13 Mar 2020.

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