Keeping My Toes Happy

I have challenges with my toes. While not nearly as serious as some of my friends, I noticed changes in my toes and feet over the last few years.

My feet are starting to look like my mother’s. I’ve got some bunion action on two different joints. My baby toe and 4th toe now stay in the rolled position on both sides. Toes 2 and 3 are not looking hammered, so that makes me very happy. However, it is big toe, number one, that is starting to give me some grief. They have developed a distinct angle to them, which is not natural.

We have lots of sayings about them too: “Toe the line.” “Going toe to toe.” “From head to toe.” Toes are the foundation. When you have a weak base, it can cause other problems as well. Toes are so important to balance. That’s one of the reasons why I focus on my toes.

I think one thing that really caused the problem was having worn high heels, every weekday, 9-5 at the office, from age 22 until I was 38.

I remember the day I threw away my high heels. I was standing on the second floor of the R&D building at work… in front of the copy machine, xeroxing a memo for the weekly marketing department production schedule. I was in pain. Those stupid shoes were sending shooting pains up and down my calves. The shoes weren’t stupid, but I was for wearing them! That was my last day in high heels at work. I went out and bought some low pumps. Thank goodness or I’d have much worse toe problems today.

Also when I was a kid, I’d pretend to be a ballerina and stand on my tippy tippy toes. No, not the top joint, but actually having the tip of the toe nail touch the floor. Now that I think about that, it was fun balancing, but probably a bad thing to do to my joints. Luckily I usually only did that around Christmas time, inspired by the nutcracker ballet.

So at this stage of my life, I am working with what I’ve got… which is some pre arthritis and maybe some arthritis as well. I am trying to keep my toes happy! I value “comfort” over “cute” when it comes to footwear. And I do preventative and rehab on my toes and feet.

Here’s how I am exercising:

Lots of exercise modifications:

  • I do a warm up of my toe joints before class.
  • During class, I try not to get carried away and do something that would jolt the joint.
  • Burpees, while great for cardio, are a big no-no for my toes. When the group exercise calls for mountain climbers or burpees, anything you have to slam down on your bent toes, I step back and carefully place my feet.
  • I get down very carefully for push-ups.
  • Quick pylo lunge jumps are painful so I modify. I get my cardio by changing the movement to something that doesn’t force the toe joint quickly into a bent position.

Go slowly:

  • Getting into downward dog is something I do very carefully, especially the first few times from certain positions.
  • Planks are okay if I get into them slowly. I find I have to have more of the “palm” of my foot on the ground than what I expect I should.
  • I do separate exercises for my feet and toes. I call it my “Toga” (toe yoga, get it?!)

Here are some of the foot and toe exercises I do to help keep movement, maintain good position and reduce pain.

Toga exercises:

  • Roll the golf ball – I have high arches. It feels really good to me to GENTLY and lightly roll the ball on the planter facia ligament on the arch of my foot.
  • Hold the golf ball with your fingers on the bottom of your instep. Wiggle the toes. Slowly raise and lower the big toe. Careful placement is the key here.
  • Widen the space between the toes – put the soft gel sponge that they goes between the toes during a pedicure to separate the toes while applying polish
  • Interlace your toes with fingers
  • Zipper up your toes by interlacing your two sets of toes – I usually need lotion to get the toes to move into position.
  • Toe lifts
  • Towel scrunches with the toes
  • Working on the big toe after a workout
  • Foot massages by using my knuckles to really dig into the fascia

I really try to protect these important joints. Doing stretches, PT type exercises and loosening up tight tendons (very gently) really helps to keep my toes working better. I need to keep my toes happy for darned near everything like standing, walking, going up stairs, running, and once in a while, even jumping.

Do you have trouble with your toes? What do you do to keep them working? Any toe or foot exercise that you do often that really does the trick? I’d love to know new ways to keep my toes happy! Send me a message or leave a comment below. Thanks!

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