Tons of lifters out there are getting hurt by the deadly morton’s toe. Morton’s toe is not commonly discussed in lifting circles as much as it is in the endurance community.
Just because something is labeled as an “endurance activity”, however, doesn’t mean that we don’t give it our full attention.
Morton’s toe can cause the following problems:
- Burning feet
- Knee pain
- Hip Pain
- Collapsed arches
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Ankle pain
- Heel pain
- Arch Pain
- Hammer Toes
- Calf Pain
- Back Pain
The list can go on and on, but to go into all of the problems caused by morton’s toe is beyond the scope of this post.
In this post, we are going to lay the groundwork and shed some light on what morton’s toe is and how you can treat it.
What Is Morton’s Toe?
Okay, after that fearful introduction, what is morton’s toe exactly?
Well, it is a genetic defect in the foot where the first metatarsal bone is either shorter or more mobile than the second metatarsal bone. It is sometimes referred to as Greek toe.
The metatarsals are the bony structures that support the toes.
They are not the toes themselves, but rather the bone that connects the toes to the structural bones of the foot.
The first metatarsal bone connects to the big toe and the second metatarsal bone connects to the second toe.
So why then does a longer second metatarsal pose a problem to the foot?
Well, because the second metatarsal is not designed to mechanically hold the weight of the entire body.
That is the job of the first metatarsal.
If the second metatarsal is holding the forces of the entire body, then the mechanics of the entire foot get thrown out of balance.
I have mentioned numerous times that the foot is the support structure of the entire body.
There are plenty of lifters out there with knee, hip and shoulder problems that could be getting those problems as a result of a morton’s toe.
How Can Morton’s Toe Destroy Gains?
I can think of no other exercise that is as affected by a morton’s toe than the squat.
In the squat you are loading up your spinal column with a heavy barbell and descending below parallel UNDER CONTROL.
If control and stability are not maintained while descending in the squat, then form will start to break down and injury may be the result.
There are many different weak areas that can lead to form breaking down during the squat. Weak quads, weak glutes, weak abs, ankle mobility, hip mobility and shoulder mobility are some examples to point out. Nobody ever mentions the feet though. For more info on the squat, check out my squat mobility article.
The only reason you can squat in the first place is because you feet anchor you to the ground, if you have a weak anchor, then your base of support will be weak.
With a weak base of support your form will break down regardless of how strong or mobile you are.
Although there are plenty of other exercises out there that can be affected by morton’s toe, including, kettlebell swings, box jumps and deadlifts.
These exercises either require minimal weight and, in the case of the deadlift, load the body in a different way.
I know plenty of people who can deadlift well over 500 lbs with absolutely awful mechanics, just because they can muscle the weight up. Put them underneath a squat bar and it will be a much different story.
Endurance athletes address this problem because ultra-marathoners, triathletes and adventure racers rely on taking extra special care of their feet in order to compete.
Try running with knee pain, blisters or hammer toes.
Besides torturing yourself, you will also be causing an unbelievable amount of unnecessary stress and damage on the body.
Although I am primarily a strength athlete, I think there is some cross sport perspective necessary to address uncommon problems.
How To Address Morton’s Toe
*Disclaimer* Before we continue, I just want to clarify that I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind. This article is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any illness or disorder. This article is for entertainment purposes only. You should always seek the advise of a medical professional anytime you feel you need a diagnosis and never self-diagnose.
There is some good news and some bad news.
The good news is, morton’s toe can be treated and fixed. The bad news is that it can never be cured.
Remember, morton’s toe is a genetic problem, so the only way to eliminate it completely is to get a new mom and a new dad. That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.
The most inexpensive and simple way to eliminate morton’s toe is with the toe pad.
In his book, Why You Really Hurt: It All Starts In The Foot, Dr. Burton S. Schuler explains how to make the toe pad in detail. I make my toe pad a little differently than described in the book.
The toe pad can consist of any type of material you wish as long as it is pliable and at least 4mm thick. Foam Inserts address both of these. Once you have selected your material, you want to cut out small segment of foam (1” X 1”).
Once the toe pads are cut, simply place them on the bony ball underneath your big toe. The pad should be in line with your big toe and also underneath your toe and not actually touching it. Just add a few pieces of tape and you got yourself a toe pad.
Of course, there are other ways to make a toe pad. This video explains more ways to make a toe pad.
Dr. Schuler also explained how to make a sole insert with your toe pad. All you have to do is buy a pair of foam inserts and simply attach your toe pad onto the foam inserts.
If arts and crafts are not your thing, then you can buy orthotics specifically designed to treat morton’s toe. They should be available HERE.
Although morton’s toe can be a huge roadblock on your road to progress, it doesn’t have to be the be all end all of your lifting career.
Just like endurance athletes, we strength athletes need to take care of our feet as well. Failure to do so will only hold you back from your own greatness. Greatness is never given, it is earned.