The foot and ankle contain: 26 bones (One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet.); 33 joints; more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.
The muscles in the feet are called the ‘intrinsic foot muscles’, these muscles often get forgotten about. Their daily routine is often left to being put in a shoe all day and forgotten about while we work.
However, once you look at the roles of each of the individual foot muscles you start to see how dynamic each of them can be and how they can relate to common chronic foot problems that some of us suffer from on a daily basis.
Ever heard of bunions? Plantar Fasciitis? had pain at the ball of the feet? These are all injuries that can be related to weak or non-firing intrinsic foot musculature (Bunions especially!)
Try it now, see if some of your foot muscles are not firing properly, a good simple test is to try spreading your toes apart. Can you do it with all of them? Even the little toe? On both sides? Another one some people struggle with is raising your big toe while keeping the other four flat on the floor, can you do it?
If you find you can do something on one side but not on the other, the likelihood is that that muscle has been turned off from not being challenged regularly. As you may have guessed, this can lead to compensations as we are designed to use all muscles at some point and when we dont have that muscle something else has to take the brunt of the force.
Pain usually builds over time, a bit like how a bunion gets worse and worse over time, the muscle responsible for bunion formation is Abductor Hallucis. When this muscle stops firing the big toe starts to drift toward the 2nd toe and base of the big toe starts taking too much force when walking and pain begins to develop as the bone is not designed to be used for pushing off with walking.
However, get that bad boy moving again and voila! The toes is back in the game (as long as you keep challenging it). The same can be the case with different intrinsic foot muscles with certain onsets of Plantar Fasciitis (policeman’s heel) or pain at the ball of the foot.
There are some great videos out there showing you how to isolate the individual foot muscles, with some very impressive results, Check out the video I’ve posted below.
Improving these muscles can help stop some very painful chronic injuries. It can also improve your balance and co-ordination as your brain has better feedback from the feet. Try experimenting with toe spacers or toe alignment splints to help your foot re-engage the muscles function though ultimately some soft tissue work and actively challenging the toes on a daily basis is how you will get your feet working properly again.
Hope you find this useful,