LIKE YOUR OTHER PARTS, your feet cannot be separated from the rest of you. Hips influence knees and feet, and feet influence knees and hips.
If you are a dancer or gymnast you probably have very strong flexible feet. If you are a dancer, especially on point, your feet probably hurt. I can remember as a young ballet student that my toes were black and blue, bleeding, nails were falling off and they hurt. No amount of lamb’s wool prevented these conditions. If you are a gymnast, modern dancer or a dancer who needs only minimum foot covering then you probably don’t have this problem.
No matter, dancer or not, look at your feet! Most people don’t give their feet a second thought until they start hurting, or swelling. Then they use band-aids in the form of: compresses, corn plasters, cushions, toe separators, toe aligners ad infinitim. Look at your feet. Are they strong and flexible? Do they take you where you want to go? Do they serve you well? If not, maybe you haven’t served THEM well.
Feet are designed to take you places, feel sensations, jump for joy! They are also supposed to look good and if properly cared for they will serve you well.
The Long Second Toe
This condition is hereditary and is one of the few things you can blame on your parents. The long second toe has two aliases: “Morton’s toe,” named after Dr. Morton who first understood its enormous influence on the rest of the body as well as the feet; and “the classic Greek foot” given by Dr. Janet Travell who noticed that the people who posed for all the ancient Greek statuary must have had such feet. No matter what you call it, if you have it you will also have the potential for bunions, hammertoes, calluses, aching legs, sprained ankles AND a balance problem.
To find out if you have a “long second toe” don’t just look at your toes as they may all be even. With one hand bend your toes down and with a felt marker, circle the first joints of the first two toes. If the joint of the second toe is farther forward in your foot than that of the big toe, you have a long second toe, no matter how far the tips reach. The placement of the joint is what counts. Make sure to look at BOTH feet as one may be long and the other not. If this is the case, note the difference in your feet regarding calluses and so forth.
The Good Foot vs Long Second Toe Foot
The “good’ foot lands on its heel, and, as the weight is shifted forward onto the front of the foot, it lands on the ball of the foot just behind the big toe. This provides a solid tripod: a well-balanced base for the column of the leg, above.
The foot sporting the long second toe is different. From its landing gear, the heel, the foot drops forward onto the joint of the long second toe, which is in the middle of the metatarsal arch. Since these feet are not tripods, but knife edges, the ankles are being stressed, the knees are being stressed and so are the hips. And if this is your foot it has been going on since you started walking. On the feet of people who have this condition and must wear shoes, especially tight shoes with heels, there is usually a callus at the point where the front of the foot strikes and another on the outside of the big toe where it constantly grabs for balance, and a hammertoe, or bent second toe. And the start of a bunion. If you walk behind a woman with heels and a long second toe you will note a teeter laterally with every step.
How to Fix the Problem, Improve It or Prevent It
Buy a pair of innersoles and some THICK adhesive moleskin. They sit side by side at your local pharmacy. First, peel off the backing and then cut out a circle about the size of a quarter and stick it to the bottom of the sole. It should be stuck right on top of the circle over the ball of the foot behind the big toe. Cut a second circle about the size of a nickel and stick it onto the first. Put the inner soles, pads down, in your shoes. Now you have a stable tripod base. If you wear sandals you can stick the circles directly on the sandal. Just use a SHARPIE® pen on the bottom of your foot marking the place where the circle should be, then put your foot into your sandal. It will leave a black mark in the exact place the circle should be applied. In a sandal you don’t need the inner sole, just the circles. Incidentally, SHARPIE® is are also great for treating trigger points. They can be used in the place of your fingers, knuckles or bodos — our self-help tools. If you are a barefoot dancer, you can stick the circles directly on your foot and use electrical tape to bind it on while dancing. You will notice that your balance will be better and your turns easier.
Now that you have your new inner sole and pads affixed you may notice that your legs feel funny. That is because you have just changed your “landing pad” and the muscles are saying, “What the heck?” If you ride horseback, always using the same horse and suddenly you chose another… the next day your muscles are probably going to be screaming, “What the heck?” Same way with any change you make whether it be the desk height, different shoes or new car seat. In other words, when you change the way your muscles are used, THEY know it and they tell you about it.
If you have a long second toe but haven’t acquired the side effects yet, go barefoot as much as possible and use the pad and / or the innersole to give stability to your foot. The development of strong, flexible feet begins at the beginning… Little feet — whether with or without a long second toe — allowed to go barefoot are grateful and will not only build power and spring, but also sensitivity as there are untold numbers of nerve endings in the bottom of the feet.
Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy
for Long Second Toe Folks
If you were coming to me for a treatment, I would begin by doing what we call a “quick fix” in the back pocket area (Figure #4), followed by a “quick fix’ to the muscles of the hip and upper leg. A ‘quick fix’ addresses the key trigger points most commonly found in the various muscle groups, and they are mapped out in all of Bonnie’s books and shown here indicated by the circles. Always do BOTH sides even if only one side hurts.
Half of Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® is pressure to the trigger points. The other half is teaching the newly freed muscles a different way of moving using corrective exercise. So following “Quick Fix” to the area of #1, 2, 3: lie on your side for the SIDE LYING STRETCH. If you need help with your technique, refer to our instructional videos at www.bonnieprudden.com or to one of Bonnie’s books.
Follow with the corrective exercises: CROSS OVER FRONT, CROSS OVER BACK, THIGH SHIFT, and FLEXIBILITY BOUNCE FORWARD (Figure #7).
Now that your upper leg is happier move to the lower leg. Look to Figure 6 again and follow ALL the dots and dashes you see there. It is important to be more thorough in the lower leg because those muscles run under your foot and act as a support. Remember you are helping your muscles to adjust to a new way of moving, a more normal way of moving, following your use of the Long Second Toe pad.
Now to Your Feet
The bottoms of your feet have 4 layers of muscles (which no one sees), and they would all be happier if we cared for them the way we do our faces (which everyone sees)! Look at Figure 8 and follow all dots and dashes you see. You may even have more than are shown here. Put some lotion on your feet and search between the toes as well… OUCH! Be very gentle as they may be very tender. Go easy but be thorough. You can use your knuckle here or even a finger will do.
Of course, follow with your stretches as shown below in Figure 9: ½ KNEE BENDS, INSTEP STRETCH, EDGING, ROLL OUT/TOE LIFT, HEEL LIFT.
By now you can probably hear your feet sighing in relief. Remember how they feel RIGHT NOW, and that will help you to remember to follow up your work in another week with another treatment for yourself and your happy feet.
If you really want to treat them, get on the phone and make an appointment for a foot massage and pedicure. Or you can follow the instructions in Bonnie’s book, Pain Erasure The Bonnie Prudden Way. It has all the Myotherapy instructions as well as instructions for foot exercise and foot massage.
Finally: take your happy BARE feet for walks… in the grass, in the water, in the dirt, on the beach. If you are lucky enough to live near water and your beach is sloped, vary your walking by going in a continuous S. That way your feet, knees, and hips won’t get out of kilter.
To build strength and flexibility in your lower legs and feet and to increase your endurance, check out my 2:15 minute video. Click the play button and do it along with me.
For additional information on feet and legs, read my blog:
- June 2014: Athletes, Non-Athletes, Knees, Trigger Points, and Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®
- October 2014: Have You Been Hamstrung by Your Hamstrings?
- December 2014: The Feet Begin in the Hips… Including the Dreaded PLANTAR FACIITIS
- March 2015: Immediate Mobilization: Sprain Today, Walk Tomorrow
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy