Walk This Way! Why Your Big Toe Is Important.

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When you walk or stroll well, your head leads the movement and your foot comes forward to prevent you from falling on the ground.

Have you ever heard that walking is “controlled falling”?

Toddler walking
Walking is controlled falling. Photo: Unsplash, Joao Alves

Imagine a child first learning how to walk.

Most adults shift their weight from side to side when they walk. If you were to exaggerate this movement, it would look like a waddle, but if you watch a child walk, they walk forward and straight.

Children don’t waddle when they walk.

One problem with the waddle is that you lose the momentum that each step generates. It’s as if you are applying a brake with each step. Instead, if you think of yourself walking forward and not side to side, you will discover that your legs and feet will dynamically flow underneath you. Walking dynamically with forward intention will make walking easier and more efficient.

Another problem with the waddle is that the foot doesn’t articulate with the ground in a dynamic way, thus having an undesirable effect on balance and stride. When your foot works well, it strikes the ground slightly to the outside and to the front of the heel. Your weight then crosses the large arch, the medial-longitudinal arch, over to the big toe.

Your big toe has two very important jobs. It helps you balance, and it propels you forward. Many adults do not engage the big toe at all. Instead, they hold the toe up and only walk on the soles of their feet. This inevitably results in the side-to-side waddle. People who do this to an extreme will create holes with their big toes on the tops of their sneakers and slippers.

If you were to exaggerate this movement, you would eventually shuffle.

The good news is that if you are shuffling now, with a little conscious thought, you can stop shuffling and move into a dynamic walk.

Shoes that fit well with a pliable and thin sole are essential for happy feet and dynamic walking. Here is a Keen sandal at Amazon. I absolutely love, love, love this shoe

Stay away from bulky, padded sneakers that, although comfortable, are not flexible.

Your toes need to be able to splay as you move. Your feet need to flex and adjust in order to keep you balanced.

Make sure that your shoes are large enough to accommodate this movement. Also, overly tight socks can impede movement and diminish balance.

If you are unsteady on your feet or you fear falling, hiking poles are a great way to ensure balance and gain confidence.

Whether you use one or two poles is up to you, but the added point of contact is a huge benefit. Used by hikers and climbers worldwide, the hiking pole is lightweight yet sturdy.

The pole height is adjustable, and it comes with a strap that goes around your wrist. To customize the height, hold your forearms at a right angle from your upper arm.

You can purchase hiking poles at many sporting-goods stores or at Amazon here.

Last week I talked about the benefits of turning your power walk into a stroll. You can see that article here.

Next week I will give  more instruction on how to improve your balance while walking.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!

 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!



4 thoughts on “Walk This Way! Why Your Big Toe Is Important.

  1. Great and much inspired article again,ag. Thorough study and research from you and the additional sources along with damn diligence to attenuate motor,technical and mind body conflation slowly improving.some days sprinting up hills and sadly the next fighting both cum morning out of intermittent slumber or lack thereof and focused correction of locomotive trying not to appear as Otis the town drunk and world classless athlete

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks for reading and taking time to get back to me. Don’t you wish progress could be linear sometimes?
      Over the next few weeks, I will continue to write about walking and ways to improve balance and momentum.
      Stay tuned!
      Warmest regards

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