Because they are so little in size, our toes are often neglected to be strengthened for running, which is unfortunate because strong toes contribute to the beautiful complexity of our foot’s function as we run, and walk.
Forefoot Running Gives You Strong Toes
If you have weak toes, then your balance may become impaired when running. When your balance is not sturdy during running, then you are more likely to get an Achilles tendon injury and knee injury.
There are many ways a runner can develop stronger toes, but one sure way is with forefoot running. A fantastic study by Miller et al. 2015 found that a forefoot strike landing when running naturally increases muscle activation in the long and short toes when the center of mass is concentrated over the forefoot during the early stages of stance (when the heel is still lifted off the ground). The purpose of the increased toe muscle activation helps reduce damaging dorsiflexion moments around the MTP Joint (the big toe joint) (Goldman et al. 2013).
The thing is, a forefoot strike runner naturally has greater MTP joint dorsiflexion moments which calls for greater muscle stabilization from the toes as compared with heel strike runners (Perl et al.2012), suggesting that a new forefoot runner can expect complex growths in toe strength.
Stronger toes is just one of the many reasons why you should wear minimalist footwear all the time, especially when you run because they encourage a forefoot strike landing as compared with traditional running shoes.
Here are more examples of why you should go minimal:
Got a Bunion? Barefoot Running Shoes Impacts Bunion Growth, For the Better.
Minimalist Running Shoes Great for Treating Sore Knees.
Minimalist Running Shoes Improves Sensory Processing in the Feet, Especially in Older Runners.
Minimalist Shoes Linked to Less Lower Leg and Back Pain.
Goldman et al. The potential of toe flexor muscles to enhance performance. J Sports Sci, 2013;31:424-33.
Miller et al. The effect of minimal shoes on arch structure and intrinsic foot muscle strength. J Sport Health Sci, 2014, 3, 74-85.
Perl et al. Effects of footwear and strike type on running economy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2012;44:1335-43.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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