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The importance of toes

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by scotfoot, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. scotfoot

    scotfoot Active Member


    Members do not see these Ads. Sign Up.
    How best to explain the importance of toes and toe flexors to a target audience ? Perhaps as follows .

    I have found that most people greatly underestimate how much of the foot is actually taken up by their toes and 3 photographs /slides can make a big impression .

    Photo 1 This is simply a photograph of the dorsal aspect of a subjects foot .

    Photo 2 This shows the same foot with the toes in a curled position . Dots made with a suitable skin safe pen (eye liner pencil or such) are placed on the now easily identifiable MTFJ (explained to the audience as where the toes meet the rest of the foot similar to the knuckles of the hand ) and a photograph is taken of the foot with the dots in position .

    Photo 3 This shows the foot with the toes back in the non curled position but with a line drawn across the foot and through the dots on the MTFJ (a join the dots type of thing ) . It can then be explained to an audience that the part of the foot distal to the line is toes and associated interproximal tissue . The reaction to the sequence of images is always the same . " Your kidding ,all of that is toes " ?

    Any thoughts ?

    Gerry
     
  2. HansMassage

    HansMassage Active Member

    Very good. In my therapy work I explain that each toe [and all other parts of the foot have reflex actions to balance the movement of the body. For example the little toe [the most often contracted] balances the movement of the arms. In non shoe wearing populations it is well extended and its abductor is highly developed to balance the abduction of the arm on the opposite side which causes the body to lean over that foot.
     
  3. len stevens

    len stevens Member

    I too am interested by the function of toes. All you hear about is the windlass function but there has to be more to toes than a passive lever arm. I suspect that wearing soles makes them largely ineffective compared to their barefooted function. Did you ever read the paper on ostrich locomotion? they have 2 toes. the big one (3rd) acts like a spike to gain traction and the lateral one (4th) is for balance. could maybe bring that into your presentation for some light relief?
     
  4. scotfoot

    scotfoot Active Member

    Hi Len
    The toes definitely have less of a role to play in the shod condition than the unshod and so it is inevitable that some of the forefoot structure is underutilized when we wear shoes .
    Also it think it has been shown that the toe flexors are active during late stance which is necessary for the spreading of plantar pressures between the ball of the foot and the pads of the toes thus helping with balance both in the shod and unshod conditions .

    In the unshod condition the role of the toes to give traction (grip) is crucial .
    In fact I would go so far as to say that in the unshod condition, toes were as important to our ancestors as flight feathers are to bird or a tail fin is to a fish . Regardless of how powerful an animal is ,or the medium through which it moves, the end point of muscular effort must be force delivered through a structure which provides good traction ( in the senses of grip ) between the animal and the medium.

    I will take the ostrich idea under advisement !

    Regards

    Gerry
     
  5. len stevens

    len stevens Member

    Hi Gerry, Don't underestimate the ostrich is a useful comparison to our own locomotion!!
    OK so their knee equivalent (ankle) is reversed to ours but name another obligate biped that uses alternate stepping rather than hopping can run but can't fly and I'll send you a prize!
    Sometimes I wonder if we had continued to evolve towards a running based life strategy rather than a tool making one would we also be standing up on elongated metatarsals with our knees tucked under our hips.;)
    http://physiology-locomotion.weebly.com/ostrich.html
    http://jeb.biologists.org/content/214/7/1123
    Len
     
  6. scotfoot

    scotfoot Active Member

    Hi Len
    I think we are into an interesting general subject area here but just to clarify ,the challenge is " name another obligate biped that uses alternate stepping rather than hopping can run but can't fly and I'll send you a prize! " . What sort of prize might I expect if I can name another such creature ?
    Regards
    Gerry

    Ps I would pay good money to see a paper detailing an MRI comparison between the forefoot structure of a group of professional beach volleyball players verses a group of full time indoor players .
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2017
  7. len stevens

    len stevens Member

    A jar of home made chutney could be winging it's way to the lucky winner! (And I hate to add conditions after the challenge but.....I am not accepting an emu.) The MRI comparison would indeed be interesting but I am not sure that the beach volley ballers would have changed their toe use. I have noticed that many western barefooters have not changed the way they use their toes because they walk largely on flat and uniform surfaces (anecdotal only). It is only when a person walking on a variety of surfaces including rounded boulders, muddy slopes, slippery uneven paths that they start to use their toes to grip and start strengthening the flexers. I would like conduct a simple experiment of comparing pressure time differentials of subjects walking normally and then after being taught to flex their toes from heel off to toe off. I suspect that one would see a reduction in peak pressures over the met heads. For a proportion of people this could even be a strategy for reducing ulceration over the met heads.
    Len
     
  8. scotfoot

    scotfoot Active Member

    So when you walk on a sandy beach in your barefeet (provided of course its safe for you to do so ) you don't feel your toes splaying apart as you walk ? Barefoot on concrete and barefoot on sand are very different beasts in terms of the mediolateral functions of the forefoot .

    I'm not fond of chutney so is marmalade an option ? And you will kick yourself when you hear my answer .

    Regards

    Gerry
     
  9. len stevens

    len stevens Member

    Apologies for delay. I have sourced said marmalade should you provide a valid answer. I have very short, chubby toes with no space between them and there is not a lot of splaying going on on any surface but yes i guess toe off on a soft surface would be about the point of max splayage.
     
  10. scotfoot

    scotfoot Active Member

    Hi Len
    Marmalade first then . So the challenge was " name another obligate biped that uses alternate stepping rather than hopping can run but can't fly " . And my answer is ........... me . Well humans in general actually .

    Also if you think you have short toes look to the first post and you might just change your mind .

    Now perhaps I can set you a challenge ? You can win back the marmalade if you can cite any paper that has studied ,as its principle theme, the role of the toes of the human foot in interacting with the ground to provide traction (in the sense of grip ) . It does not seem possible that this has never been studied before but , as far as I am aware , that is the case . The role of toes in propulsion , particularly with regard to their length , yes . Spreading the toes during swimming to improve traction in water , yes . But traction (grip ) on land , no .

    If I were an evolutionary biologist (which I am not ) with a keen interest in the foot I would feel compelled to link the structure of the forefoot with one of its primary roles ,traction .
    Also , if I were a manufacturer of glove like footwear (which I am not ) I would see that a shoe which allows the toes to spread out when walking on cold wet sand but still allows the foot to stay warm ,would give me a unique selling point . I would , therefore , fund the evolutionary biologist to see if moving on a sandy substrate , wearing my glove like footwear , might improve foot health .

    The research evolutionary biologist , might start his/her research by looking at a comparison between the forefeet of unshod beach and shod indoor , volleyball players .

    Regards

    Gerry
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
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