Achilles Tendonois, the Big Toe, and Sprinting

This week I picked up a nice question from a competitive sprinter in his later 30s.  Brilliant knowledge in training and certified NMT.  Been to his gym in Tempe – just tables, floor, and gear, and a big garage door.
He is dealing with recurrent Achilles Tendonis from sprinting, and he documents his own struggles with the lower-crossed.  But his glaring problem is a Hallux Limitus, which is your smart-person way of saying tight big toe.
If you can’t push into quadruple-extension that you need in sprinting, bad things are going to happen.
Here is my response to him.

The lower-crossed is dominated descriptively by the myofascial slings at the pelvis. However, you can and should always try to find out if the chicken really came before the egg.
Your intuition is totally correct that the big toe could be throwing you into an anterior weight shift that leaves you lower-crossed. Or maybe you’ve always been lower-crossed, and you have selected your sprinting para-technique to compensate with less toe off leaving you with the stiffness at the big toe.

The big toe is an enormously underrated component in the joint by joint. We talk about this quite a bit on my DVD (I am getting 1st draft on 4.26). If you can’t hyperextend through triple/quadruple extension in a sprinting or any forward locomotive movement, you will shift stress to the anterior chain. This can be successful because certainly the quads can generate force, but this para-technique will also leave you with anterior knee pain.
You probably choose a different para-technique and keep trying to extend/PF against a brick wall. There’s your tendonosis. I bet your stride is asymmetrical, and if we used a magnifying glass, we’d find it all in the FMS or SFMA. We might have to look closely because you probably move well and can find the high thresholds to make it “look right.”

Things at your avail………
General soft tissue work
Joint mobs as you suggest
Great full body training

Something you should consider is throwing away those OL shoes on the shelves to the right when you walk in the gym; this may be your problem all along. In your case, perhaps consistently using heels leaves you with some toe dysfunction not from lack of toe explosion at the end, but a lack of stability through the mid-foot. The shoe does it all, and it puts you into a motor pattern that already uses the knees for the anterior weight shift. Your brain is like I can squat big with my quads, why should I bother blasting off my toe when I sprint?
Let’s look at 1st ray mobility and get that mobilized if necessary.
Can you demonstrate the short foot on command? Let’s look at some of those Janda approaches to get back mid-foot stability, and maybe we have a better chance to get the toe moving from the soft tissue work that you know.
We can suggest the same with the subtalar joint as well.
I don’t know how much you really use them, but these are things to think about.
The Vibrams you just got will also be very helpful I believe.

Lastly, and perhaps when I get better @ videoing things, there is Mulligan MWM and a Mulligan FMT technique for the big toe. Can you find a legit Mulligan clinician by you?

  • April 11, 2010

Leave a Reply 3 comments

Perry Nickelston Reply

Nice post. I actually see this big toe restriction a lot in my clinic. It always amazes me how many athletes have no type of recovery or regeneration plan mixed into their workouts. Nothing for joint mobility, soft tissue or stretching. Really frightening. So I keep at it educatin them one at a time. Life changing stuff.

knee pain treatment Reply

Hi mate would it be ok if we used some info from here to use on one of my sites? cheers mate

Painintheass Reply

It’s called tendinosis, not tendonosis…

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