Toe to Toe

Have you ever wondered why you need your toes? What purpose do they serve? Which toe is the most important? Read on and I will try to explain how the humble toe has a particularly significant role to play!

The most important is undoubtedly the big toe and the least important of the toes are the little pinky toes. As the smallest, they bear the least weight and have the least impact on maintaining balance!

The Big or First toe, also called the hallux, is considerably larger and thicker than the remaining four toes on the human foot. All our toes are far more useful than applying nail polish or gripping flip flops, however the big toe plays a vital role in our balance.

Incredibly, up to 90% of the control of the foot comes from the flexibility of the big toe. In a standard stride, our toes extend upward when we land to help the foot arch, working as a shock absorber. The arch will then flatten as the toes lower naturally with the stride.

Ultimately, the big toe is what helps keep us from falling anytime we stand or engage in activities. Without the big toe, the foot would essentially have to learn how to balance all over again. This in turn would force other parts of the foot to take on the balancing function that the big toe usually has.

A lack of flexibility in the big toe leads to a loss of stability and the muscles and joints further up the leg need to compensate. This compensation often causes problems and pain.

If the hip must compensate

Without sufficient extension at the big toe the ability to extend the hip is severely affected. Hip extension is connected to the knee straightening, but the shift towards pushing off from the lesser toes can cause the hip to rotate.

This causes the body to have to compensate, resulting in an unstable gait and less power when walking or running.

If the knee must compensate

Normal big toe extension allows the foot to supinate (the heel turns in) and the knee to externally rotate to be able to achieve full extension. If the foot pushes off on toes 2 through to 4 this will place strain through the knee.

Therefore, you are more likely to experience knee pain and for you runners out there, it will make your running slower!

If the foot must compensate

Whilst running or walking push off from the ground usually occurs through the first and second toes. If these toes cannot extend properly then the push will drift onto the smaller toes.

These smaller toes are not designed to take this kind of load and can lead to stress fractures and neuromas!

The good news is that Chiropractors treat feet too!

If you feel that you have stiffness and/or pain in the big toe, call your Chiropractor as these two symptoms are usually caused by inflammation that can be resolved with Chiropractic care.

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or [email address=””