Hips and toes, toes and hips! Weird combination that you wouldn’t think can cause injury to one another. But they can. Now I don’t need to tell any runner out there, that core stability and glutes are also vital to running. Gluteus medius being the stabiliser predominantly and gluteus maximus being mainly the power drive! If either of these two muscles are weak or dysfunctional it is more than likely your hip flexors will be over working and be tight. But today I shall be looking and the lesser thought of toes!
Unfortunately, due to our ever growing sedentary lifestyle naturally tightened hip flexors are common. Be this from sitting at a desk 8/9hours a day, or even a long cycle commute in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying cycling is bad, but for hip flexors it does dramatically shorten them from being in the crouched position! Sessions such as yoga are fantastic for hip opening and most core stability work will also target the hips such as glute bridges and leg lowers.
So how are hip flexors relevant in the running cycle? Well, alongside our core muscles, hip flexors aid our upright position throughout gait. However, the phase I am predominantly focusing on, and where most injury can occur, is what is known as the propulsive phase/toe off. I’m not going to describe every muscles function at this phase but I must state that at toe off: glutes should be firing, while hamstrings lengthen to allow hip flexors to extend, knee moves into extension as calfs concentrically contract to aid propulsion off the ground using the metatarsal and toes.
Your 2nd metatarsal and 1st are key in propelling the foot off the ground, as they together work as strong levers. You’ve probably never thought about it but if your big toe joint is stiff/immobile or even super flexible, this can affect how much power you can generate from the ground and obviously your speed!
Now there are things you can do to improve this such as foot/toe rolling exercises with a small ball for improving mobility. For strength through this area try picking up pens with your toes or grabbing towels with your toes.
Lastly shoes can play a massive part to play in hip issues. If you are weak/tight through the hip AND your toes are weak/stiff a shoe being too soft in the forefoot could exaggerate the problem. It’s like running on pillows don’t get me wrong here super comfortable but if you haven’t the power through toes, lower leg or hips, how are you going to quickly drive out from the ground?
So to round up: hips and toes correlate closely with each other. But this does not mean that they ALWAYS directly cause an injury. Weakened of the glutes are still a key reason why runners get injuries so strengthen everything. Shoe choice has an impact. So if you know you suffer from tight/weak hip flexors look for shoes with slightly firmer cushioning in the forefoot. If your unsure you can always visit http://www.profeet.co.uk and get you gait professionally analysed to help with shoe choice!
Hope this helps and any questions just get in touch! Happy Monday!