I’ve always had calluses on the inside of my big toes. I figured this was a normal occurrence for anyone who played a lot of sports. We are constantly pushing and changing directions and wearing cleats and different types of sneakers.
It turns out pinch calluses are not normal. Well, they are normal in the sense that they exist, but they aren’t functional calluses in the sense that they are in a spot where they would normally be found.
Truthfully, I should have realized my logic was faulty since I essentially stopped playing sports after high school, yet the calluses didn’t go away. I could shave them down with a callus file, but they would grow back. I just didn’t know they were caused by aberrant walking (and breathing).
This past April, a PRI certified physical therapist took a look at my feet while I was out in Lincoln, Nebraska for the PRI annual symposium. In no uncertain terms, she told me my feet are screwed up. Those calluses are not the norm, there was an excessive gap between my first and second toes (bi-laterally) and my left ankle and heel were not resting in a neutral position. When she positioned my foot in what should be a neutral position, my weight was being supported laterally, on the outside of my left foot and landed squarely on an insanely painful callus, a callus that wouldn’t be there on a normally functioning foot.
This revelation didn’t actually surprise me. I’ve struggle with my feet for a long time including a four to five year bout with plantar fasciitis in my mid-20s and I also had a pretty horrible left ankle sprain my sophomore year in high school that I never rehabbed. I never realized that the ankle injury could still be affecting me 25 years later.
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My old sneakers, before I made my most significant bodily changes (untwisting my neck, getting glasses, and experimenting with homemade orthotics- all accomplished since January). Notice the areas where the tread is completely worn down. I was all “outside rear-foot” at heel strike and I apparently rolled off the inside of my big toes at push-off. While I’m not an expert at foot mechanics, I believe I was heel striking too supinated and then over-pronating or simply not pronating correctly. Basically I wasn’t walking correctly. This also explains the calluses on my inner big toes that I’ve had as far back as I can remember. This type of altered walking mechanics can have repercussions in seemingly “unrelated” areas of the body like TMJ, neck, and shoulder. When you aren’t properly grounded through your feet, other areas may end up the victim. #posturalrestorationinstitute #posturalrestoration #walking #breathing
Externally Rotated Tibias and Supinated Feet
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Basically my feet were both supinated and both of my tibias were externally rotated. This external rotation of my tibias caused the feet to supinate and my heel to invert or maybe my supinated feet caused my tibias to externally rotate on my femurs. Or my pelvis started the whole thing. Or it could have been the braces that were put on my teeth on top of a neck that wasn’t moving correctly.
Or it could have been a number of factors all coming together to create the perfect storm of an overly aroused sympathetic driven system.
So what’s the big deal about supinated feet?
First, supinated feet are associated with an extended system. In other words, an anteriorly tilted pelvis, externally rotated ribs, increased lumbar lordosis, and potentially flexed neck (forward head posture).
Supinated feet will not go through a full range of motion which means they will likely not pronate completely. Lack of foot movement will prevent full internal rotation of the femurs. Without pronation, you won’t be fully grounded and your ribcage won’t expand (due to its extended state). Diaphragms won’t engage.
Without diaphragms engaging, necks and spinal erectors will often get tight as they start to work overtime as accessory muscles of respiration. Tight neck muscles can begin to restrict jaw movements and alter your occlusion (bite). Your face may become more asymmetrical as your cranial and facial bones get stuck.
All of these things happened to me and I had to un-do them over a period of five years.
So how do you address this situation?
You have to re-sensitize your feet correctly. Since I felt my weight more to the outside of both my feet and wasn’t really getting my arch down on either side, I put lateral heel wedges in my shoes to force me onto my arches. But I also struggled with sensing my arches so I inserted arch pads into my shoes as well. This enabled my PRI exercises to work better, particularly in the way I would feel my glutes. As I did my exercises, I noticed a fascinating phenomena. The more I felt my glutes the more I felt my Tempo-Mandibular joints popping and decompressing.
- Our glutes are important for posterior rotation of the pelvis.
- This posterior rotation enables posterior mediastinum expansion.
- Posterior mediastinum expansion allows our anterior neck muscles to relax.
- and for me, I heard and felt my TMJ (jaw joints) decompressing.
So perhaps it was my tight jaw muscles that weren’t allowing my feet to pronate. Or perhaps it was my ankle injury that limited my pronation and caused my TMJs to tighten.
Again, it’s really a chicken or the egg story.
What causes what? What’s the beginning and the end? Is there a beginning and end? Who knows?
When working with the body we always have to keep in mind the “full body” aspect of human existence.
We are not a collection of parts assembled into a whole. We are a “unified whole” that we artificially divide up into “disparate parts” in order to teach and understand. When the body remains in our consciousness as disparate parts, we lose sight of the reality of the completely unified human body and how it works.
Movement in one area of the body affects movement in all the other areas of the body. All our systems integrate to regulate our movement. Our lives are sensory in nature. Simply “sensing” one area of the body can cause changes in other areas.
It’s all connected way more intimately than we realize.