Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

Now Available Naboso Barefoot Insoles : Advancing the Science of Proprioceptive Insoles

Imagine experiencing the same proprioceptive stimulation and neuromuscular control you do barefoot – but in your shoes!

VivoThe concept of enhanced neuromuscular control in footwear was first introduced by the advance in minimal footwear.   From Vibram FiveFingers to VivoBarefoot shoe companies and footwear are now allowing more and more natural foot function than ever before.

With minimal shoes featuring minimal cushion, no shank or midsole and no heel toe drop, this is one of the best categories of footwear for optimal foot function.

Unfortunately despite these great features, one thing that is still lacking in minimal footwear is the stimulation or utilization of all possible proprioceptive input!

The Power of Plantar Proprioceptors  

The skin on the bottom of the foot has very unique proprioceptors which are sensitive to different stimulation.   This stimulation includes vibration, light touch, deep pressure, texture and skin stretch.

Much of the work I speak during EBFA Education is about or references the importance of vibration and it’s importance during dynamic movement, such as walking.   The minimal footwear which was mentioned above is great for allowing optimal vibratory stimulation which is necessary for the auto-correction of initial contact and for enhancing movement accuracy.

But what about the other important stimuli that is necessary for the control of dynamic movement?

One such stimulation which we can take advantage of is sensed by haptic or touch receptors in the feet – this stimuli is texture.    Texture and the ability to sense rough vs. smooth is also used in the control of dynamic posture, shifts in center of gravity and joint position sense.

Are all textures created equal? 

IMG_1918Texture is one of the primary proprioceptive stimuli targeted through Naboso Technology and has been shown to have some impressive and immediate effects on the neuromuscular system.

The unique and patent-pending textural design of Naboso Technology is based on the latest surface science and texture research.   So to answer our question above – NO – not all texture is created equal.   There is a specific texture you need to create a neuromuscular response.

A couple examples of the power of texture includes: 

A 2016 study by Steinberg et al. found that textured insoles in ballet dance shoes enhanced the rate of ankle joint position sense.  This translated to enhanced movement accuracy and faster rates of stabilization in the dancers.   This research supports and opens up the opportunity for the application of Naboso Insoles in athletic performance and injury prevention during shod sports.

A 2014 study by Clark et al. found that textured insoles decreased prefrontal activity during gait which translated to enhanced automaticity of gait.   As we age the less subconscious our gait becomes which greatly contributes to fall risk.   This research unlocks the potential of Naboso Insoles in reducing falls and enhancing balance in seniors or those suffering from post-stroke, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis + more.

Your Naboso Insole Questions Answered

I get quite a few questions as it relates to Naboso Insoles with some of the most common questions including:

How are Naboso Insoles different from orthotics? 

Naboso Insole target proprioception while orthotics are designed to alter or control biomechanics of the foot.    As I always mention in my workshops – the foot is not just a biomechanical structure – but also a very powerful neuromuscular structure.

In many cases neuromuscular control and stimulation can trump biomechanical control of the foot and therefore both aspects of foot function need to be respected.

Naboso Insoles address optimal foot function from a neuromuscular perspective and do have an important role and function in the control of over-pronation, foot stabilization, reflexive foot stiffness and foot to core sequencing.

Can I wear socks with my Naboso Insoles? 

You can do whatever you want – however the science of proprioception and Naboso Insoles means that socks should not be worn.   Any barrier between the foot and the Naboso Insole will take away from the proprioceptive input.

In the near future we will be designing harder Naboso Insoles which will allow consumers to wear socks with the insoles and still gain optimal proprioceptive stimulation.

Can I wear my Naboso Insoles every day?   And in all shoes? 

Yes we actually encourage you to wear your Naboso Insoles every day and in all shoes.   At just 3mm in thickness the Naboso Insole will fit into almost all footwear.   The Naboso Insoles can also be cut to ensure proper fit in all your footwear.

If you find yourself feeling sensitive to the texture then we recommend gradually increasing your time to exposure with 30 minutes and increased incrementally each day.

Where can I buy Naboso Insoles?  

Naboso Insoles are AVAILABLE NOW! at our special pre-order rate of $30 USD (regular rate is $50 USD).    Simply click on the link below and you’ll be brought straight to our online store.

We ship to all countries and allow 30 day return policy to all US-based orders.

Are you ready to experience barefoot stimulation in a shod environment?     Experience Naboso Barefoot Insoles today!


Barefoot Science, Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

Time To Stabilization & Athlete Injury Risk

dancerA majority of my podiatry practice is built around treating athletes and chronic athletic injuries.   From professional dancers to marathon runners all athletes – regardless of sport or art – require the same thing – rapid stabilization for optimal loading and energy transfer.  

Why is rapid stabilization so important? 

During dynamic movement such as walking, running or jumping the ability to rapidly load and unload impact forces requires a baseline of stabilization.   With a rate of impact forces coming in at < 50 ms during walking and < 20 ms during running it is no wonder the rate of stabilization must be fast!

To put this a little bit more in perspective.   Our fast twitch muscle fibers don’t reach their  peak contraction till about 50 – 70ms.   So if impact is coming in at rate < 20 ms during running and your hip / knee / ankle and foot are not already stable before you strike the ground – it is too late!     It physiologically is not possible to react to impact and stabilize fast enough.

A client or athlete who is reacting to impact forces will often present with ITB syndrome, runner’s knee, peroneal tendinitis, stress fractures, shin splints – and that’s just naming a few!

Considering Time to Stabilization (TTS)

In my workshops I often say that “we are only as strong as we are stable” or that “stabilityacle is the foundation through which strength, force and energy is generated or transferred”.

The precision, accuracy and anticipation of stabilization must be so well programmed into the nervous system that peak stability is happening before contact with the ground.   This is referred to pre-activation and is associated with a faster TTS.

The opposite of pre-activation stabilization is reactive stabilization and is how many – if not most – of my patients or people in general are moving.   When we think of the rate of neuromuscular coordination even a small delay (think milliseconds) will result in tonic (exaggerated) muscle contractions, micro-instability and inefficient loading responses eventually leading to neuromuscular and connective tissue fatigue and injury.

So how can you improve client and athlete TTS?

1. Pre-activate base to center stabilization pathways aka foot to core sequencing

This is THE basis to EBFA Certifications Barefoot Training Specialist and BarefootRx.   With our feet as our base the activation and engagement of our feet to the ground is key to center or core stabilization.    Fascially the feet and core are connected through the Deep Front Line and must be integrated and sequenced as part of a proper warm-up or movement prep.

To learn more about foot to core sequencing please view HERE

2. Consider surface science to optimize foot feedback

All surfaces are designed differently with certain surfaces actually blocking and damping IMG_1753the critical proprioceptive input between foot and ground.    When we think of softer surfaces and mats research has shown a direct correlation between softer surfaces and delayed / prolonged loading responses.

Harder surfaces.  Surfaces that allow the transmission of vibration.  And surfaces with textures allow more accurate and precise proprioceptive input.   Thus led to the innovation of Naboso Technology by EBFA Founder Dr Emily Splichal

Ideally if Step 1 – pre-activation of our stabilization pathway could be done on a Naboso surface this would be ideal.    More information can be found at

3. Footwear to allows optimal feedback and foot function

If follow Step 1 & 2  and activate the neuromuscular system barefoot and from the ground up we then want to ensure this carries over as soon as we put on our shoes and begin our sport or activity.

Imagine if you activate the proper neuro pathways but then put your client into a thick cushioned shoe.  This essentially shuts off and defeats the purpose of Step 1 & 2.   We need IMG_1767to ensure a proper shoe is worn to allow this carry over into sport.    So think flexible, minimal cushioning. possible textured insoles (check out Naboso Insoles launching Spring 2017)

Additional ways to begin to train pre-activation training and shortening the TTS is covered in our EBFA Certifications.    From the ground up landing techniques, foot to core sequencing, single leg decelerations + more are critical to injury prevention and optimal performance.

To learn more about EBFAs Certifications and workshops coming up near you please visit     Our workshops can be found in over 30 countries and taught in over 12 languages.

Isn’t it time for your clients and athletes to become BAREFOOT STRONG!


Barefoot Science, Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

Local Reflexive Stabilization & Movement Efficiency

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 12.24.22 AMWhether we consciously realize it or not we all want to move better, feel stronger and stay pain-free.   We all seek the ability to do the activities we love – whether that be going for a long walk with a loved one or competing in an obstacle race.

It is my mission to help professionals and patients alike achieve what I call movement longevity by better understanding the concepts of movement efficiency and local reflexive stabilization.

What does it mean to be efficient?

To be efficient means to effectively use energy.   When we think about bipedal locomotion the energy that we need to get from Point A to Point B is found from the ground we walk on.

Bipedal locomotion or walking is considered a series of falls with each foot contact (foot fall) providing the energy needed to take the successive step.   As our foot contacts the ground we are encountering 1 – 1.5x our body weight in impact forces. These impact forces are converted from potential energy to elastic energy, providing a recoil effect to bring the swing leg forward.

forceWhen we look at the force peak curve of a walking gait cycle what’s quite fascinating and perhaps under appreciated is that even though our body brings in 1 – 1.5x our body weight in energy (heel contact) we actually release 2 – 2.5x our body weight when we push off (forefoot propulsion)!

What this means is that our body is somehow is able to double the energy that it is provided with!   How is this possible?   And why is this even important?

Understanding Fascial Elasticity

The concept I described above is referred to as the catapult effect and truly is the meaning of movement efficiency.   To move efficiently does not meant to just take in energy and release it with little loss of energy.   It actually means to take in energy and double it!

This ability to double potential energy allows a basketball player to slam-dunk a ball or a triple jump jump 50+ feet.  This catapult effect lies within our connective tissue – namely our myofascia.

To effectively understand the catapult effect and the oading response during bipedal locomotion one must first understand what’s referred to as the Muscle Tuning Theory .   This theory was researched and developed by Dr Benno Nigg out of the University of Calgary Canada.

What the Muscle Tuning Theory demonstrates is that in order to effectively damp the impact forces encountered during initial contact we must have sufficient foot and ankle stiffness.   We must contact the ground with enough foot and ankle isometric contractions to allow the rapid loading of impact forces (potential energy) into our connective tissue.

Because our foot and ankle muscles are firing isometrically during the loading response what actually allows the joint movements of deceleration (ankle dorsiflexion, STJ eversion, tibial internal rotation) is the elasticity of our connective tissue (fascia / tendons).

This fascial loading is dependent on the degree of elasticity or rubber band effect in our connective tissue.   However simply having fascial elasticity is not enough.  In order to effectively load our fascia with potential energy we must first achieve sufficient fascial tension.

Fascial Tension = Stability

If I were to say that to have fascial elasticity we must first have fascial tension – this may seem contradictory.   How can our fascia be both elastic and stiff at the same time!

What if I were to word it another way.   In order to effectively load impact forces (potential energy) we must be STABLE!   Let me take it even further with this statement – Stability is the foundation through which power, force and resistance is generated.

In other words to move efficiently and transfer energy we must have sufficient stability.   In the words of Dr Perry Nickelston I think that deserves a BOOM!

This above statement is what I try to achieve in all of my patients.   To help my patients become pain-free I know I must teach them to achieve proper stability.   But not only do we need proper stability – we need deep joint stability.   And not only do we need deep joint stability – we need fast deep joint stability.

This is what I refer to as Local Reflexive Stabilization.   Local – referring to our local stabilizing muscles and reflexive meaning fast or subconscious.

Understanding Local Reflexive Stabilization 

The concept of local vs. global stabilizers was first introduced by Dr Vladamir Janda and then later expanded upon by Shirley Sahrmann.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 12.05.53 AMThe  following image demonstrates some of the biggest differences between local and global stabilizers.   What’s fascinating is that when we consider the Deep Front Fascial Line we can see it is formed by all the local stabilizers.   The foundational concept in EBFA’s Barefoot Training Specialist Certification is to train stiffness and reflexive sequencing between the foot and core.

By intelligently tapping into our local stabilization system we will find ourselves with enhanced stability – and therefore better be able to load impact forces during dynamic movements.

Because it is so easy to slide out of local stabilization and into global stabilization the below 3 exercises should be used as a daily reset or activation for the local reflexive stabilization needed for bipedal locomotion.

3 Way to Enhance Local Reflexive Stabilization

Step 1 – Diaphragmatic Breathing

Step 2 – End Range Expiration (with pelvic floor activation if possible)

Step 3 – Diaphragmatic Breathing / End Range Expiration & Short Foot

To learn more about EBFA’s education and our Barefoot Training Specialist Certification please visit

As always – stay #barefootstrong!

Dr Emily 

Barefoot Science, Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

Myofascial Energy Transfer & Movement Efficiency

When we walk, run, jump or do any dynamic movement there is a fascinating interaction that occurs between the body and the ground.  This interaction may only take a mere milliseconds but it provides the energy source needed for efficient human movement.

Upon ground contact the body encounters impacts forces which are detected by the plantar foot (and sometimes palmar hand) and quickly converted into potential energy.

What happens next is critical to how effectively you take your next step.  Even before your foot contacts the ground the nervous system is preparing for impact.  This preparation is achieved through what’s called stiffness.

Stiffness is a requirement for movement efficiency

The stiffer your foot & ankle are upon contact the quicker you will be able to load and
unload the potential energy contained within these impact forces.   In fact research has shown that it is foot and ankle stiffness that actually translates to running speed.   A 2002 study by Brett et al. found that sprinters who could generate the greatest stiffness had the fastest acceleration.

So how do we create this stiffness needed upon foot contact?

The answer lies within the integrated relationship between our muscles and fascia.

Myofascial Tensioning = Stiffness

picAll of our muscles contain a deep interconnected myofascial web that is continuous with the surrounding tendons and ligaments.  This myofascial web runs from around the muscle as a whole (epimysium) to around the muscle fascicles (perimysium) and finally around the individual muscle fibers (endomysium).

Each of these individual facial layers have muscle fibers inserting onto them making their relationship dynamic – as well as one that is necessary for movement efficiency.

The way our body creates stiffness is through isometric contractions.  Isometric contracts create tension through this myofascial web – especially through the perimysium.    Why the perimysium is important to stiffness and energy transfer is that studies have shown that it is this layer of facia that contains the highest concentration of myofibroblasts.  Myofibroblasts are the cells that contain the contractile potential for elastic energy transfer.

This process of isometric contraction leading to fascial tension is what Dr Nigg refers to as the Muscle Tuning Theory and what EBFA refers to as fascial tensioning.

Fascial Training Beyond Foam Rolling

The health and fitness industries have done a great job at bringing myofascial or trigger point release to the forefront however we cannot stop there.   Our fascia requires attention beyond simply foam rolling.

To achieve optimal movement efficiency our fascia needs to be trained to create tension or stiffness – a stiffness that must actually be pre-activated before our foot contacts the ground.   In addition our fascia needs to be elastic or have a rubber band effect to it.   This can be trained through rhythmic movements such as tai chi, gyrotonics or many of the exercises we do in the BARE® Workout.

To explore the concept of fascial tensioning a little bit more please check out the video HERE

I also encourage you to check out EBFA’s Barefoot Training Specialist® Certification!

Stay #barefootstrong!

Dr Emily



Brett et al.   Leg strength and stiffness as ability factors in 100m sprint running, J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 42(3): 274 – 281. (2002)

Schliep, et al. Active fascial contractility, Structural Integration 2006

Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

The Future of Proprioceptive Training | Small Nerve Stimulation

UnknownWhen you hear the words “proprioceptive training” what comes to mind?

If you do a Google image search for these two words you will get hundreds of pictures demonstrating balance exercises on unstable surfaces.   Despite the popularity of these unstable surfaces how effective are they for improving balance or proprioception?

Surprisingly, not as good as their manufacturers would like us to believe.

In this article I challenge you to question the effectiveness of unstable surfaces in improving joint stability and if perhaps there is a more effective technique for improving proprioceptive awareness.

What is proprioception?

Often confused with kinesthetic awareness, proprioception is our internal messaging which drives our movements.   For example proprioceptors within our joint capsule provide the nervous system information on joint position which is used to control our movements.

Meanwhile kinesthetic awareness refers to our ability to navigate space and an awareness of how we move.   One such example would be if you are doing a box jump. To know how high to jump as to not clip the foot requires kinesthetic awareness.

Rate of Nervous System Responses

When it comes to controlling movements our nervous system plays a role in how fast the stimuli or sensory information comes into the central nervous system – as well as how quickly the motor response is sent back down to the peripheral nervous system.

We will see that the limiting facto in controlling movement is sensory input. This means that the faster the nervous system can sense the stimuli, the faster and more precise our movements will be.

The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)


Since it is our peripheral nerves which respond to the stimuli, understanding how this system is broken down is important to creating the most effective programming.

The PNS can be broken down into sensory nerves and motor nerves.   If we look at the tibial nerve (the nerve that supplies the skin / muscles of the plantar foot) 3x as many branches off of this nerve are sensory vs. motor. Of these sensory nerves 4x as many branches are small nerves vs. large nerve.

Nerve size matters when it comes to rate at which the nerves respond to stimuli.   Research has demonstrated that small nerves create a faster response when detecting inversion ankle moments.   In addition research has shown that these small nerves which are found primarily on the plantar skin play an important role in quiet stance.

The Future of Proprioception Training 

As we consider the future of proprioceptive training we want to remember that response time is very important to the precision of movements.   Many of the unstable surfaces we associate with proprioceptive training are actually examples of large nerve (or slower) proprioceptive training.

Therefore if we consider time we must think small nerve stimulation for faster proprioceptive responses.   To create small nerve proprioceptive programming we must know what tissue contains small nerves and what are the most effective ways to stimulate these small nerves.

Small Nerve Proprioceptive Rich Tissue

For anyone who has ever taken one of my workshops knows that the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are rich in small nerve proprioceptors.   This is one of the greatest reasons why barefoot training is so important for all individuals.

Interestingly there is an even more dense small nerve proprioceptive tissue.   Can you guess what it is?

Your fascia!

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.09.49 PMFascia is a highly proprioceptive rich tissue with current research demonstrating that many of the sensory nerves found in fascia are small nerve and free nerve endings.   This is quite fascinating as it feeds into the speed at which are fascia is able to help control and stabilize for movement.

Another interesting fact about fascia is that it has 10x as many sensory nerves when compared to our muscles.   This means that when we exercise and move we are actually “feeling our fascia” – not “feeling our muscles”.

The baseline tone of our fascia actually allows us to better perceive movements and what is referred to as joint position sense.

Small Nerve Barefoot Fascial Training

This is the foundation to all barefoot movements taught through the EBFA Certifications.     By integrating the barefoot stimulation with foot to core fascial tensioning we are able to more effectively train and rehab our clients.   I believe that fascial tensioning is the future of proprioceptive training!

Want to learn more about our education programs and the science of barefoot stimulation please visit

Barefoot Science, Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

Compartment Pressure | The Secret to Preventing Impact Injuries?

imagesUpon haring the words “compartment pressure” – what comes to mind?

A majority of us may think of exertional compartment syndrome in runners or possibly compressive garments.

Today’s blog is going to explore how our body – particularly the foot and lower leg – uses compartment pressure to efficiently transfer forces. After researching the concepts I am about to discuss with you, my approach to overuse injuries and my Podiatry practice as a whole has changed!   It’s as if I look at injuries through a different lens.

Foundational Concepts

Before we delve deeper into the concept of compartment pressure, we must first review a few key points which lay the foundation to impact and movement efficiency.

I decided to do it in a step-wise fashion to make it easier to understand.

Step 1 – Encounter Impact Forces

With every step we take our body encounters impact forces ranging from 1 – 1.5x our body weight (walking) to 3 – 4x our body weight (running)

These impact forces are designed to provide the kinetic energy to walk, run, dance etc.

Step 2 – Perception of Impact Forcestuningfork

Our body perceives these impact forces as vibrations – vibrations which are initially detected through the skin on the bottom of the foot.   All vibrations (like a tuning fork) is set to different frequencies with walking impact forces being 15 – 20 Hz)

Step 3 – Damp / Load Impact Forces

As impact forces enter the body our soft tissue (muscles) respond to stop or damp the entering vibrations by contracting isometrically.   The concept of loading through isometrics is a new concept so let me give you an analogy to better understand this.

If you imagine a tuning fork vibrating upon impact it will vibrate at a certain frequency. To stop the vibrating tuning fork one must either touch it or put it against something.   Putting pressure against the tuning fork is analogous to the isometric contractions of our lower leg upon impact.

Step 4 – Elastic Energy Stored in Fascia / Tendons

As the muscles contract isometrically the fascia and tendon fibers slide thus allowing the joint range of motion needed for ankle dorsiflexion and STJ eversion.   As the joints flex elastic energy is being stored in the fascia and tendons.

As we shift from late midstance to push-off the fascia and tendons release this stored energy swinging the leg forward into swing phase.

So where does compartment pressure come in?   And what even is a compartment?

UnknownA compartment is a group of muscles that are surrounded by a sleeve of fascia.  Muscles within a specific compartment are often innervated by the same nerve and supplied with the same artery.

In our lower leg we have 4 compartments:  anterior, lateral, superficial posterior and deep posterior.   In our foot we have 9 compartments!

As our muscles contract (especially isometrically) compartment pressure and stiffness begins to increase.  The degree of pressure or stiffness is dependent on the rate at which the muscle fibers contract as well as the number of fibers recruited.

How does this affect the loading response? 

Well all compartments respond to vibrations of different frequencies.  Walking impact force frequency is 15 – 20 Hz which is also the frequency at which the lower leg muscles contract.

The goal upon foot contact – regardless of the movement – is to match the stiffness in the compartments to that of the incoming impact forces.  Any delay in creating stiffness or compartment pressure can result in an increased risk of injury.

I’ve begun to look at overuse injuries – particularly running injuries – with this concept and a clear association exists between delayed or inadequate compartment pressure on foot contact.

How can you begin to apply this concept to prevent impact injuries? 

  1.  Train the foot to detect impact forces faster and more accurately through barefoot training
  2. Condition the lower leg and foot to better create stiffness and compartment pressure through barefoot landing techniques
  3. Control training surfaces knowing that all surfaces vibrate differently with natural surfaces such as wood being the best
  4. Utilize compression sleeves to assist in damping vibrations

To learn more about impact forces and preventing injuries please visit and check out one of our Certifications

Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series

Great Toe Mobility : The Linchpin to Movement Longevity | (Part 3 – Correctives & Client Programming)

Over the past couple days we have been reviewing the anatomy and functional assessment for great toe mobility.   Again I am very happy by the positive response and interest by so many professionals in this topic.   It shows this increasing awareness to the importance of the foot and foot function which makes me so proud!

In Part 3 of 3 of this blog series we will begin to explore the most appropriate programming for these clients and when is surgery really the best option.

I do want to emphasize that the biggest take-away from this blog series should be that great toe mobility is not just a local issue but is globally interconnected to rear foot, core and hip stability.   As we know – everything is integrated!

Structural Limitations in Hallux Dorsiflexion

UnknownHallux Limitus / Rigidus

One of the most important causes for limited hallux dorsiflexion is structural and progressive – arthritis     Often associated with older age great toe arthritis is actually quite common among runners, dancers, athletes or any client who has an unstable foot (over-pronation).

This loss of joint mobility is structural and cannot be corrected with functional training.   Great toe arthritis can be managed or slowed down with correctives but it cannot be reversed.  

To the left is an X-ray of a patient with structure changes to the great toe joint.   Joint space narrowing and spurring or osteophytes can be appreciated both of which greatly reduce the range of motion.

If we look at the lateral X-ray we can see that osteophyte development can become quite Unknownimpressive dorsally – it’s no wonder these clients have no dorsiflexion.

I must emphasize that in these clients doing aggressive manual joint mobilization can fracture these osteophytes leading to bigger issues than they started with.

You must always know the health of the joint before you start manually manipulating a great toe joint.

So what can you do with this client?

Surgery is always an option with the ideal procedure (which of course depends on the health of the joint) is a decompression-type procedure with removal of the osteophytes.   I personally try to avoid joint fusion at all costs if possible but sometimes the condition of the joint requires fusion.

met-head-rockerIf surgery is not an option or desired by the client then I often recommend using a rocker forefoot bar or shoe.

A forefoot rocker is a graphite bar that allows the client to dorsiflex over the shoe improves function and can eliminate pain.  This type of shoe allows the client to achive proper hip extension and propulsion despite having less than 30 degrees DF.  (Think Sketcher Shape-Up shoes).

Functional Limitations in Hallux Dorsiflexion

This is the area where most of you will be able to hep your clients improve their great toe mobility.   Functional means it is driven by a loss of stability elsewehere in the foot (or body).

This type of limitation in hallux dorsiflexion will generally demonstrate good mobility open chain but then lose that range of motion as soon as they enter a closed chain environment.

Where we want to first look for instability would be the first ray.

Loss of first ray stability typically presents in those patients with decreased medial arch, excessive STJ eversion or inversion, navicular drop and under-active glutes.   For the sake of the article not all of these issues will be covered however in all EBFA Certification workshops we cover each in detail.   To find a workshop near you click – HERE

Excessive STJ Eversion 

In Part 2 we briefly demonstrated how STJ eversion can cause 1st ray instability.   To review – this unstable STJ position puts the peroneus longus tendon on slack causing a delay in or insufficient plantarflexion of the 1st metatarsal head realative to the base of the proxmiaml phalynx.   (If you have not read Part 1 – please click HERE)Post Tib Exercise

In this client our goal is to improve STJ positning through posterior tibialis strengthening, short foot activation and glute strengthening.   One of my favorite exercises for this client is the ball between heels exercise (see picture on right).

Excessive STJ Inversion

For the client who has limited hallux dorsiflexion due to an inverted STJ and dorsiflexed 1st metatarsal our goal is to increase foot mobility and neutralize the STJ.

Supinated_1For this client we want to mobilize the platnar foot, tibialis anterior and deep hip rotations.

Combination Structural & Functional Limited Dorsiflexion

Hallux Valgus

Similar to hallux limitus, the client with bunions often presents with joint space narrowing and coral spurring which can begin to block hallux dorsiflexion.

With bunions structure is not the only contributor to limited joint mobility.   Bunion formation is also greatly associated with foot type – specifically eversion / over-pronation and generalized foot instability.

For this client we must consider both structural limitations (need X-ray) as well as our ability to slow the format1426198925_Bunion-Bootie-Before-Afterion of the bunion through corrective exercises.

In addition to the foot and hip strengthieng exercises mentioned above for the STJ eversion, we also want to include a medial stretch to the great toe with either tape or a Bunion Bootie (

This medial pull will mildly stretch the adductor hallucis muscle as well as position the abductor hallucis for better intrinsic activation.

Final Key Tips & Pearls

A few additional paddings and modifications to inserts and shoes which may benefit your client include:

– Reverse Morton’s Extension

– Cluffy Wedge

– LA Pad & Varus Posting

Finally my last tips of advice:

– Please know why you are doing what you are doing.   I am seeing too much of cluffy wedge for everyone! and l don’t think everyone fully understands who and when this is the most appropriate.

– Remember sometimes it’s best to refer out.

– When in doubt get a copy of your client’s X-rays

To continue exploring this topic I encourage you to check out our upcoming FREE educational webinar on Wednesday August 19th at 9pm EST.   All webinars are recorded so if you cannot tune in live you will be sent the recorded version!    Sign up HERE

And finally – as always – remember to say #barefootstrong!

Dr Emily