Barefoot Science, Great Toe Mobility

How To Help Your Bunion Booty With Bunion Bootie

It’s Saturday morning and you are on your way to your favorite instructor “Toning Tony”‘s killer body conditioning class.   Famous for his squat series at the end of class you continue to endure this weekly punishment as you are committed to get the “glutes of your 20s” back.

toningYou are in the middle of the squat series trying to keep up with Toning Tony’s cues when suddenly Toning Tony comes up to you and enthusiastically asks “do you feel the burn in your glutes”?

You take a moment and soon realize – no.    No, you don’t feel “the burn”.

If fact you aren’t feeling much of anything happening in the glutes when squatting!

How is this possible?!

Perplexed that aren’t feeling anything in the glutes when doing squats you quickly kiss goodbye the glutes of your 20s.

But wait…..don’t give up just yet.   I may have a solution for you.

Having taught fitness for the last 16 years, competed in fitness competitions and being a practicing Functional Podiatrist, I have a keen eye for the integrated function of the human foot with the glutes.

First off, did you know that women in general have a harder time engaging their glutes Squats Workoutsthen men?    So not fair!

If you are a woman reading this blog and continuously feel squats in your quads and not in your glutes – you are not alone!

I just need the ladies to pay special attention to the below information and soon you’ll be feeling “the burn” in your glutes.

Secondly, did you know that there is a direct relationship between the stability of the foot and the stability of the pelvis?   We’ll go into this relationship much more in future blogs but for now just trust me on this association.

The impact of this foot / pelvis relationship means that if the foot is not stable – as in the case of flat feet and / or bunions! – the hip and pelvis unlock – making it difficult for the glutes to contract!


What I am about to describe is what I call a “Bunion Booty”

A Bunion Booty is a lazy butt.   A Bunion Booty has difficulty engaging and building the strength to climb stairs without stressing the knees.

A Bunion Booty has difficulty stabilizing the SI joint during walking or running, causing pain when moving.   And a Bunion Booty definitely likes to bunt its work to the hamstrings making them work harder than they need should be, and increasing the risk of hamstring strains.

Do you have a Bunion Booty?     Take our quick quiz below!

  1.  Do you notice a bunion or deviation of the big toe in one or both of your feet?
  2. Do you have flat feet or notice that your arches have fallen?
  3. Do your feet easily fatigue and / or you get arch pain after standing short periods?
  4.  Do you have knee pain when doing squats or going up or down stairs?
  5. Have you been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis?
  6. Do you have SI joint pain or low back pain?
  7. Do you notice your glutes don’t have the shape of your younger years?
  8. Do you feel a sense of “laziness” in your glutes when walking, climbing, squatting?

If you answered yes to 4 or more of the above questions – you, my friend, may have a Bunion Booty!

So how exactly does a bunion make the glutes weak?

There is a deep connection between the muscles that stabilize the big toe (namely the abductor hallucis) and the deep muscles of the core.

If you look at the picture to the right take note of the abductor hallucis muscle Abductor-hallucis-e1380568713548running the length of the medial arch.    This muscle not only acts as an important stabilizer of the medial arch but also helps maintain alignment of the big toe joint.

Now in the case of flat feet, weak feet or feet that have spent years in tight shoes, this muscle can weaken.   As the abductor hallucis muscle starts to weaken a bunion begins to form.

As the bunion progresses the tendon of the abductor hallucis starts to shift into a position that makes the foot even weaker.   It actually shifts from the side of the big toe to under the big toe!   (We’ll discuss this in more detail in a future blog)

Essentially the bigger the bunion, the more the abductor hallucis tendon shifts and the weaker the foot.   The weaker the foot, the weaker the glutes.

So what can be done?

This is where I turn to my go-to product for patients with bunions – the Bunion Bootie!

Introducing the Bunion Bootie.    A smart but simple product that is sleek in design and extremely functional.   The unique design of the Bunion Bootie allows you to wear it while walking, working out, barefoot or in shoes.


When you slide the Bunion Bootie over the big toe and around the back of the foot you can see an immediate re-alignment of the big toe (see picture to the right).

The result?

The abductor hallucis gets pulled into the position it needs to be in order to engage, activate and connect back to your glutes.

Please note that results may vary based on size and severity of the bunion, however one thing that is for certain is that by begin to place the big toe in a more proper alignment you are making the foot more stable.

A stable foot over time can lead to a more stable pelvis.

Want to take this one step further, I encourage all of my patients with bunions to learn how to consciously engage the muscles of their feet to further stabilize their pelvis.

Through an exercise called Short Foot you can learn to re-strengthen the foot and connect it back to the core.   To learn more about Short Foot please see the video below.

You can learn more about my approach to patients with flat feet and bunions in my book Barefoot Strong, available on Amazon.

As you begin to integrate Bunion Bootie and foot strengthening into your routine I recommend gradually adjusting to both concepts.   Start by using the Bunion Bootie for 30 minutes a day, at night.   Begin to notice how you feel when walking around your home with the Bunion Bootie on.   Increase your time in the Bunion Bootie and supplement it with Short Foot exercise.

To learn more about Bunion Bootie or to purchase this product please go to: 

To learn more about integrating barefoot exercise to rebuild your foot / core connection please go to : 

As always – stay barefoot strong!

Dr Emily Splichal, DPM , MS




Anatomy Trains, Foot Function & Fascial Lines Series, Great Toe Mobility

Foot Function and Fascial Lines: The 1st MPJ

Fascia.   A term that just a few years ago had little meaning in the performance and fitness industry.   The days of foam rollers collecting dust in the corner have been replaced with courses specializing in fascial dissection, trigger point release and rehab programming related to fascial lines.

As we enter this paradigm shift in the way we look at human movement, corrective exercise and performance I have seen an increase in the appreciation for the foot & the ankle.   With almost every fascial line passing through the bottom of the foot, professionals worldwide can appreciate how integrated the foot and the ankle really is with the rest of the body.

In this article series we are going to take the concept of foot function and fascia further than any course or textbook on the market.  This first article is dedicated to taking a closer look at how the fascial lines influence great toe range of motion.

Let’s take the importance of fascia and foot function one step further and look at propulsion!

Propulsive Phase of Gait

Big toe

Whether we are walking, running or jumping – push-off or propulsion is characterized by dorsiflexion of our digits at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ).   The joint that takes a majority of the forces during push-off and is responsible for the release of elastic energy is the 1st MPJ.

As much as dorsiflexion of the 1st MPJ may seem like a simple biomechanical movement, it is actually quite complex – requiring timed control and activation of our fascial slings.

Let’s take a closer look at the 1st MPJ.

The First Metatarsophalangeal Joint


The 1st MPJ is formed by the base of the proximal phalynx and the head of the 1st metatarsal.   Sitting directly under the head of the 1st metatarsal and lying within the tendons of the flexor hallucis brevis are the sesamoids.   Inserting on the medial aspect of the proximal phalynx is the abductor hallucis which is opposed laterally by the adductor hallucis.

As we begin to transition onto the forefoot and into propulsion, what dictates the range of motion of the 1st MPJ is first metatarsal position in the sagittal plane.     The image below illustrates how an elevation of the first metatarsal in the sagittal plane can block the dorsiflexion or gliding the proximal phalynx over the head of the first metatarsal.


So what dictates the position of the first metatarsal in the sagittal plane thereby playing a role in 1st MPJ dorsiflexion at propulsion?

If you guess the Spiral Line you are correct!

The Spiral Line – Expanded Version

In Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains he describes the lower part of the Spiral Line as the tibialis anterior as it joins the peroneus longus at the level of the base of the 1st metatarsal.


Often referred by Myers at the “stirrup” of the foot, I want to expand upon this concept a little further and demonstrate how the Spiral Line plays a bigger role in propulsion than you may think!

The tibialis anterior muscle runs down the anterior aspect of the lower leg to insert on the medial aspect of the foot on the medial cuneiform (90%) and the base of the 1st metatarsal (10%).   Joining plantarly is the peroneus longus tendon which runs along the lateral aspect of the lower leg, behind the lateral malleolus and under the cuboid to insert on the base of the 1st metatarsal (90%) and medial cuneiform (10%).

With 90% of it’s insertion on the base of the 1st metatarsal, the peroneus longus plays an important role in plantarflexion of the 1st metatarsal allowing dorsiflexion of the 1st MPJ during propulsion.

So does this mean that for optimal propulsion and dorsiflexion of the 1st MPJ all we need to do is ensure proper activation of the peroneus longus muscle or the Spiral Line?

Unfortunately it isn’t that easy!   Proper activation of the Spiral Line is actually integrated with another fascial line – the Deep Frontal Line.

The Deep Front Line

For the Deep Front Line again we return to Myers Anatomy Trains.

In the plantar foot the Deep Front Line consists of the deep posterior leg compartment including the posterior tibialis, flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum longus.   For the purpose of this article we are going to focus soley on the posterior tibialis.

Running posterior to the medial malleolus and along the medial aspect of the foot, the Posterior Tibialis inserts onto the navicular.   After attaching to the navicular the Posterior Tibialis fans out and has 9 osseous and fascial attachments which includes:

–       every tarsal bone (except the talus)

–       every metatarsal (except the 1st)

–       peroneus longus tendon

–       flexor hallucis brevis muscle

Anatomy Foot

This fascial attachment between the posterior tibialis and the peroneus longus joins the Deep Front Line to the Spiral Line allowing for more integrated foot biomechanics.

EMG studies have shown that the posterior tibiailis activates prior to the peroneus longs during the gait cycle which means this fascial integration between the PT and PL prepares the foot for propulsion.

With the posterior tibialis as a driver of subtalar joint supination or inversion just prior to heel lift, a reflexive activation of the Spiral Line leads to stabilization of the 1st metatarsal by the peroneus longs –  allowing for dorsiflexion of the 1st MPJ and propulsion.

Client & Athlete Application

When assessing optimal propulsion in our clients and athletes remember the function of the Spiral Line and Deep Front Line on 1st MPJ dorsiflexion.   A limitation in 1st MPJ dorsiflexion or power at propulsion may be related to an impairment in posterior tibialis strength.

To optimize posterior tibialis strength in clients and athletes integrate barefoot exercises such as short foot which picks up the navicular bone and stimulates the Deep Front Line.   In addition single leg exercises can used the strength the posterior tibialis and it’s co-activation patterns with the gluteus medius and maximus.

Take a look at our webinar for related information: Optimizing Power at Push Off | High Gear vs Low Gear Position with Dr Emily Splichal

To learn more about about foot function and barefoot strengthening please visit:

Are you barefoot strong?