Strengthening the toes - How?

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Zinowor, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. Zinowor

    Zinowor Moved on

    I'm looking for the best way to go about this from a martial arts point of view. What I want out of strengthening my toes is to increase my stability and to be able to change direction even faster. So far I've never considered strengthening my toes, I don't even know how much of an effect it will have on my movement, but I'm quite eager to find out.

    I'm looking forward to your replies.
  2. Grass hopper

    Grass hopper Valued Member

    I don't imagine that toe strength will have a large effect on your movement. But I guess if you just curl your toes a lot while sitting at home or work they would get stronger.
  3. afhuss

    afhuss Valued Member

    Ah, this takes me back! When I was uchi deshi one of my 'homework' assignments was toe conditioning. What I did was constantly grip the toes while on the mat...relaxing them while moving/sliding across the floor, then immediately re-gripping. Man that was tough to keep doing, but I did the best I could. I looked at it like grip strength training in your hand. Also, I've used some of my plantar fasciitis rehab stuff like picking up things with my toes. Stretching is also important if you are going to do strength make sure you do that as well. Good stuff, and I like that you are getting into some 'hard core' training. Get it, bro!
  4. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    it's not your toes that do that. stability is a function of coordination more than strength, so just practice the things you're unstable on over and over again, and direction changes are whole body movements, so strengthen your entire body and, again, practice changing direction (separately from the strength training) over and over again until you get better at it.
  5. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    floor gripping is good stuff, though, and does help with some things, so it's worth doing. walking via toe curling is a pretty good way to do it, and quite amusing as well.
  6. Zinowor

    Zinowor Moved on

    My balance and ability to change direction is already very good. I have always had huge bulky legs and I'm nearly impossible to trip because I fell down too much as a kid. My coordination is pretty good as well because I used to do TKD when I was younger and like the action movie fanatic that I was (am), I practiced all the flying kicks like a maniac.

    It's just that I have always had skinny toes and it feels like they're not keeping up with my legs when I need them for changing direction or stability. So I figured that if I had stronger toes, it would compliment my strong legs. So that the things that I'm already good at, I will become even better at. That's my mindset with this.

    Gripping the floor seems like a good exercise, but isn't there any real strength training you can do with your toes? Like attaching tiny weights to each toe and move them up and down? :hat:
  7. HarryF

    HarryF Malued Vember

    You could try bouldering or climbing, you take most of your weight on your feet, and often the footholds are so small you are holding your weight on your toes. Good for balance and upper body strength too :D
  8. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    but your toes don't do that, they just assist with directing the force interaction between your legs and the ground. tying to strength train them will not do anything for you that calf training won't do, and probably do better, at that. also toes don't grow, because they don't have any muscles. the muscles that move the toes are located in the foot and lower leg.
  9. Zinowor

    Zinowor Moved on

    "they just assist with directing the force interaction between your legs and the ground".... I have absolutely no idea what that means. Especially not when you're trying to use that argument to tell me that my toes aren't doing those things I thought they did. Because if I translate that sentence to my understanding I can still see the toes playing a big enough role.

    Anyway, so then how do I strength train my feet if I can't strength train my toes? Surely there must be some way to get more out of my toes/feet.
  10. Zinowor

    Zinowor Moved on

    I recently discovered my fear of heights, so that's a no go. :p
  11. HarryF

    HarryF Malued Vember

    Ah, shame! You don't go very far away from the ground when bouldering - you're not supposed to need ropes or gear (makes the sport more accessible I guess) I never go more than 1.5-2m away from the ground, and only that high with a crash mat and someone to spot me if I slip or have to jump down... Depends how extreme your fear of heights is.
  12. Zinowor

    Zinowor Moved on

    Ah well in that case it should be fine. Now I just have to find a place to do this. Although if I could be so honest, I'd do it for fun, not to strengthen my toes. So this will be put in the back of my mind if I want to do a different kind of exercise.

    Thanks for your input.
  13. AndrewTheAndroid

    AndrewTheAndroid A hero for fun.

    It's not a fear of heights, it's a fear of hitting the ground. ;)
  14. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    your toes influence your balance, by keeping your feet fixed in place so that they don't flop around every time you move one of your legs, which would result in epic fail as your base of support wobbles out from under you (which is why people who lose toes can't balance as well, in particular when losing the big toe). this has very little to do with the strength of your toe curling unless your lower legs and feet are literally atrophied into near uselessness. even the smallest and weakest fully functional lower leg and foot will have enough strength to cover your balance-related strength needs, because balance is not a function of toe curling strength. training it anyway, as in toe curling walking*, which i mentioned in one of my prior replies, is good for learning to use your toes better for balance, as well as some strength building, and is thus worth doing, but is not a magic pill that will turn you into chen xiaowang.

    as far as stability goes, this implies an external stimulus that would make you lose your balance. a strong lower leg will help here a bit more than a weak lower leg, but it's simpler to just move to a more balanced position, particularly as far as MA go, where you don't want to stay still, because that tends to get people hit. besides, it's still only one variable, and a very minor one at that, where there are others, like overall posture, well developed motor patterns, and experience dealing with whatever is likely to unbalance you, that are orders of magnitude more fundamental that toe curling strength.

    as far as training: i already told you: toe curling walks and calf work. pretty much the best calf work you can do is sprinting and jumping. you said you did jumping kicks and are good at changing direction, so you probably have well developed calves as well. all in all, the answer is the same as in my original reply: focus on skill building with a modicum of accessory work and your feet and lower legs will strengthen themselves simply by the demands of the skill work.

    * (the exercises preceding it are also very good for limbering up the feet, which is pretty important for balance as it enables you to control them better (plantar fasciitis stuff like afhuss mentioned is very nice for this as well).
  15. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    Toes and fingers don't have muscles to make bigger.

    Grip the floor at all possible opportunities.

    If you want an exercise, lean against something and lift your heels up.

    ...but years of gripping is better.
  16. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    Barefoot or near barefoot running which allows you to use the toes for stabilization during the dynamic motion of running. Also you can do tree pose but up on the ball of your foot instead of flat on the floor.
  17. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

  18. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Hmm... you want stronger toes? A few ideas...

    1) regularly walk/run in soft sand

    2) spend more time barefoot (not on concrete though)

    3) Towel scrunchies with your toes
    [ame=""]Toe Home Physical Therapy Exercises - YouTube[/ame]

    Don't try to add weights or any such nonsense. You'll most likely end up with severe toe problems if you do. Robert Schumman the great Romantic Era composer ruined his hands and his music career by messing around with different strengthening devices for his fingers in the quest to have stronger fingers. Nightmare. Don't even go there.

    Additionally... I would approach barefoot running very carefully. It's very in fashion as of late but... most people don't actually do it and it has a very steep learning curve and break in period. There are many shoe manufacturers that are going great guns at the moment with minimalist running shoes... but I can assure you there are just as many people with foot problems because of minimalist shoes. So if you've been a heel-strike runner for most of your life (and most of us have) then all of a sudden switching to barefoot running isn't going to strengthen your toes... but it will give you serious heel plate problems.

    Get more time in with bare feet. Light easy jogs on a foot ball pitch covered in grass. And even at that check the area carefully for anything that will cut/scratch/poke your foot. I've been down the whole road of barefoot training for a long time now and it truly takes a long time to adjust to. Soft sand is best for working the legs and the toes... you don't need strong toes per se... you need good overall conditioning and an understanding of what the limits of your toes are... they aren't invincible and they are very easy to injure and take ages to get back to healthy.

    As for climbing/bouldering strengthening your toes. Yes to an extent it will... but you have to remember while bouldering and climbing you are cramming your shoes into a rock shoe that is about a size smaller than what you normally wear... the position of your feet in rock shoes is that essentially of a ballerinas toe shoe - this is why it feels so good when you pull your feet out to get your toes decompressed. Most of climbing is jamming your toes and you are leveraging your toes off of the rock and they are reinforced by the structure of the shoe - on top of which many shoes have a wooden or polycarbonate last in them - only in the last decade since sport climbing has come on the seen have we seen less rigid sport style shoes. In general people don't do multi-pitch monsters in those type of shoes for a reason. Anyhow - in summary... rock climbing and bouldering is great - it's been a major part of my life for almost 30 years.... but there is little carry over to 'toe strength' that might apply to martial arts. Most of the work the foot does in climbing loading the arches - toes are compressed and not gripping in nature during climbing. If they were... we'd all have been wearing Vibrams 5 Fingers for the last 30 years.... but we haven't. We've used Fiere's or Asolos or 5.10's or Ansazi's or whatever was out there... most were hi-tops.... these days a ton of sport shoes dominate the market.... most of them low cut and entirely flexible. Your arch is getting a workout more than ever... but your toes are still getting hammered into a pressurized point... it's not a gripping movement for the most part.

    Food for thought.

    Food for thought.
  19. HarryF

    HarryF Malued Vember

    I stand slightly corrected! Said the man in the mildly orthopaedic shoes... :D
  20. afhuss

    afhuss Valued Member

    ...but its great for grip strength!

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