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The power of straight toes!

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  • The power of straight toes!

    Originally posted by Sherry 03-10-2004, 12:38 AM

    I've been thinking about starting this post for several weeks but my schedule keeps getting in the way. Then I noticed that Suzi posted something about the same subject recently so maybe the interest level is higher and the time may be right.

    This is one of those T-Tapp basics that is so incredibly important -- but often just sort of glossed over. It is impossible to achieve the maximum engagement of the lower body muscles without straight feet where required in the various moves. AND ... turning the toes in or out EVEN 1/2 INCH dramatically changes the knee, hip and lower back alignment. Well, it changes things all the way up but at least we can see what happens through the hips.

    Try a little experiment. Stand naked or wearing skin-tight pants in front of a mirror. Make sure the toes are absolutely straight and hip width apart. If possible, line the feet up on a straight edge. We are so used to turning the toes out that many don't even realize when the feet are not straight. Note that point! You may need help from your spouse or a friend to tell you if your feet are 100% straight.

    Once straight, watch your hip bone (right above the thigh) in the mirror. Turn the toes of one foot out an inch. WOW! Look what happened in the joint and surrounding area. Everything changed. The iliac crest changed, the pelvic floor shifts as well. This means the muscles must engage or relax differently than when the feet are straight.

    Many people (at least in the U.S.) walk with at least one ... often both ... feet turned out. Just think about how much that changes the body alignment based on what you just saw in your own mirror. No wonder we have so many knee and lower back problems!

    And what about inch loss? Do straight feet matter? You bet!

    Lets use the in/out sequence of the arms during plies as a comparison. In some of the tapes, Teresa demonstrates the difference when the elbows are shoulder level ... versus when they drop. You can do the same with your mirror.

    Assume the plie or KLT stance. Shoulders back and down. Raise the arms for the in/out sequence with the palms facing the head (not the mirror!) and really tighten the arms. Now, pull to the center of the chest but pull as if you are squeezing Sommer's thigh master the entire time. Open wide but as if you are working the thigh master in the opposite direction. RESIST! Feel the engagement?

    Now drop your elbows a couple of inches and try to do the same thing. You can't, right? It is impossible to pull the muscles as completely when the body is out of alignment. (This is also why shoulder alignment is so important.)

    Well, the same thing happens when our feet are not straight during T-Tapp or daily life. BUT, it is harder to have the same degree of kinetic (muscular) awareness with the feet as you just experienced with the elbows dropping. But trust Teresa on this point ... the very same thing is happening. If the feet are not straight, you've reduced the impact and value of any related move just like you felt when you dropped the elbows.

    There are certain things I get really witchy about in clinics. NO wimpy arms is one. Straight toes is another ... both during exercise, during breaks, and leaving the clinic. So many really hard core Tappers still walk through life with the toes out. As Suzi pointed out earlier, you can change that now, increase your muscle toning, help avoid future ankle, knee, hip and back pain.

    One of the BEST places to up the intensity and efficiency of your workout with straight toes is in hoe downs. By efficiency, I mean getting the most benefit from what you are doing. If the toes are out in key moves... or the elbows drop, the body is out of alignment and it is impossible to go to your max.

    The base foot in hoe downs must be straight. This is a super challenge because the momentum of the move, especially the side lifts, want to pull the base heel IN meaning the toes turn out. But, when that happens, it is just like dropping the elbows.

    So, s l o w it down and work on keeping the base foot absolutely staight. Put a piece of tape on the floor and line up your foot against that tape. STOP if needed and reset. This will greatly increase the benefit especially if you follow other key form tips:

    Shoulders back and down

    Tush tucked AND tuck harder at each peak

    Glutes are TIGHT with the base leg naturally squeezed more; belly button in and up; squeezing the glutes will help you tighten the tummy more

    Base knee bent deeply and turned out

    Lift the knee at least waist high and chest high if possible... chest high is the long-term goal

    But the glue that holds all the above together is so often skipped over ... straight toes!

    T-Tappin' best from Houston,Texas
    Sherry, T-Tapp Trainer
    Last edited by Forum Angel; 05-10-2016, 01:23 PM.

  • #2
    02-04-2008, 11:36 AM

    This was one big lightbulb moment for me at Michelle's clinic yesterday near Pittsburgh (thanks, Michelle! great clinic!). Not sure how many others know that straight toes means line up the outside -- not the inside! -- of the foot on a straight line. All this time I've been looking down to make sure the inside of my foot is straight ahead, but Michelle said it's the outside of the foot that needs to be straight.

    Maybe my feet are unusually shaped -- they really do look a bit duck-like, with a narrow heel and wide front/toe area. My right foot is especially wide at the front; looks that way anyway. And this is the foot, and the leg, where I feel this small correction the most. When I make sure the outside of the right foot is straight, it does feel like that leg and foot are turned in, but I can also feel all the muscles in that leg engaging also.

    I hadn't seen this detail anywhere else before so I thought it was worth mentioning.


    05-27-2008, 07:51 PM

    Wait, is this TRUE? The OUTER line of the foot is supposed to be straight? that would make me pigeon-toed!

    05-27-2008, 09:23 PM

    quote:Originally posted by klc14

    Wait, is this TRUE? The OUTER line of the foot is supposed to be straight? that would make me pigeon-toed!

    Me too! So, what gives? Can anyone answer about straight toes??
    Thx! = Paym

    05-28-2008, 10:02 PM

    Talk about lightbulbs! I read through this thread thinking, yeah, I'm almost completely there with the straight feet thing; the right foot is tracking nicely and now the left needs to come in somewhat.

    But after reading about Michelle's clinic, I still have a ways to go!

    Since reading this I've been working on REALLY straightening my feet and I can FEEL it in the outsides of my thighs. Too bad it's the insides of my thighs that need it. As a short torso I don't have the unfortunate saddlebag problem, just the non-existant waistline deal.


    5-29-2008, 12:02 PM

    Great post! Thanks for the reminder.

    One thing that irritates me is that I can't seem to keep my feet straight when going up and down steps. I broke a kneecap a few years ago, and while I thank God for good surgeons it will never be quite the same. I can tell when my foot isn't straight because it torques my knee, especially on steps. That's not all bad--makes me more aware of keeping my feet straight. The problem is that our steps at home (and many others) don't have wide enough treads to have a stable step while keeping feet straight. My toes hang over the edge, which feels a little scary. (okay, I know I'm paranoid, but I have good reason after many months of rehab!) And steps are one the MOST important times to keep your feet straight, because it puts a lot of stress on your knees!

    My feet are NOT that huge (size 8) but if I put my foot straight going downstairs, I risk overbalancing. Anyone else notice that? Can we lobby for wider treads on all stairways??


    05-29-2008, 05:56 PM

    I've noticed my right knee on stairs as well, and I've found by tucking and focusing on alignment of shoulders with hips, I take the pressure off my knees. And yes, this means I'm not looking down at my feet or the stairs. I think I pretty much know what straight toes feels like now and can feel from my knees and my legs when they're not straight. I really have to focus more going down than I do going up stairs. I also try to take them more slowly. If I go too fast, I lose focus and alignment.

    Focusing on alignment, I'm also able to feel the muscles in my butt and thighs more too. So straight toes and shoulder-hip alignment seem to be helping equalize any muscle imbalance I've developed over the years.


    Editing to add that my sister-in-law is a graphic designer for some interior designers and she always specifies stairs with a deeper tread and shorter rise -- she says they're easier to climb (she would know since she has bad knees) and more graceful or elegant or something. I think it's kind of an expensive retrofit though. Still, I would love to do this in our house.

    06-01-2008, 02:53 AM

    Straight toes is a progressive phenomenon. At first I felt the awkward pigeon-toe feeling like I was pointing my feet toward each other, but was actually not.

    Today I was looking in a full-length mirror and noticed that when I lined up the outsides of my feet with bathroom tiles, that my knees were actually in straight alignment instead of pointing outward (not KLT). I thought they were straight before with the insides of the feet straight, but now they are truly in correct alignment as I've been put straight (ha!) by this thread.

    Since I've posted, I've been making every effort to keep my feet straight, and now I'm feeling it not only in the outer thighs, but then the glutes, and now the front of the middle of my thighs! Wow! Perhaps it will go all the way to my flabby inner thighs! (Sorry if that's TMI[:I]). And I've really felt the difference in my T-Tapp form with this as my left knee doesn't complain about KLT anymore! I'm looking forward to what this new alignment will mean for my lower body and upward.

    Thank you, Teresa and trainers, for keeping us in line![:X]


    Nighean Ruadh
    06-02-2008, 08:34 AM

    I needed the posts about going down stairs. I injured my right knee years ago when a horse jumped out from under me, and it has been bothering my recently when I've been descending the stairs at my house. I've tried doing KLT, but my toes always seem to turn out when I do that, so I've been watching my feet, which would pull my shoulders out of alignment. I'll try doing it by feel and see if it helps my knee.

    ~ Karen ~

    06-06-2008, 08:33 AM

    Hey I learned a lot from this thread. I was looking in the mirror the other day, and when I line my outer foot up to be straight, my knees kind of feel like they go inward? I was watching in the mirror and they do go in slightly, but and this is the crux for me. My right foot particularly seems to be differently shaped than my left. So when that foot is straight at the outer my whole foot seems curved? Am starting to think I might be an alien? Has this happened to anyone else?
    Last edited by Forum Angel; 03-20-2016, 09:15 PM.


    • #3
      08-13-2011, 07:45 AM

      And here are some bits and pieces that were cut off but which I find very interesting. So happy I have them saved

      There may be a skeletal issue here and there but mostly, I think it is a matter of habit to turn the toes out. Once that starts, then the body starts to develop a muscular imbalance that will indeed promote an ongoing duck-foot walk.

      Sometimes, it may start as a way to compensate for another injury. My karate son always walked with relatively straight toes ... naturally. Then, he completely shredded his right ACL while practicing for a demo karate team. Since the replacement surgery, that foot now turns out ... and very significantly. I think this has happened because this helps compensate or make him feel more secure with balance. Even though I've tried to explain and demo why this turn-out could increase the probability of further injury ... well, I'm 'mom' so it doesn't count.

      Personally, I think there are very very few people who can't walk and stand with the toes straight if they choose to do so. Yes, it may FEEL pigeon-toed but it isn't -- or shouldn't be.

      So what about the small minority that truly can't get the toes straight for some reason? I think it is like everything else in T-Tapp. Some people can't get the arms straight, some can't raise the arms overhead due to shoulder problems, etc. Just go to your max and push it so that your range of motion improves over time. But, I have to say again that most people can indeed get the toes straight with a little concentration. And, getting the toes straight is required to maximize muscle engagement in the lower body during some T-Tapp moves.


      Q: have been really impressed with the importance of straight toes and so I really tried walking that way yesterday. I have posted before that I have a bad problem with the arch of my right foot that before T-Tapp really made it hard for me to exercise. What happens is that the arch collapses (this is from an earlier injury) and the lower leg bones pinch against other bones in my foot and pinch the tendons and nerves.

      Yesterday when I was trying on a 10 min walk to keep my toes straight (I was wearing orthotics)I felt a huge amount of muscle working through my calves and thighs. Later on I was terrifically sore and had pain in my ankle that goes with the problem.

      This morning I debated about it and did SATI in my Metatreks (no orthotics) It seemed to help a lot.

      Do you think I was doing it wrong? Did the orthotics put me off balance? I'm sure the muscle soreness is because I turn that foot out a lot. Do the Metatreks help keep your toes forward. It seemed easier in them.

      Thanks for all your great posts. I have a lot of them saved.

      First about Metatreks. There are several reasons you may have felt better wearing them. These include:

      1) The additional support around the ankle
      2) The extra thick padding in the sole which may have diminished the impact on the foot
      3) The slight drop in the heel realigns everything which may have felt better.

      I'm not sure why you would be so sore from walking with the toes straight while wearing orthotics. I can posture a couple of guesses but you would need to discuss this with your doctor or someone with appropriate training.

      For me, getting the toes straight feels like the arches pull up ever so slightly. The T-Tapp KLT position REALLY works on the arches and will rebuild otherwise normal foot muscles. (I'm not sure how much rebuilding is possible with your injury.) While the KLT stance is major at rebuilding the feet, toes straight contributes.

      See if you can feel it. Sit tall on the edge of a hard chair with both feet flat on the floor. Turn the toes on one foot 1 to 2 inches out. I immediately feel the arch of that foot sort of fall to the floor.

      Now turn the toes back in until the foot is perfectly straight. I feel the arch pull up.

      This is not a HUGE difference but it is noticeable.

      So the things I would wonder about relative to your soreness include:

      Are the orthotics expecting a turned-out foot position and resulting arch structure?

      Did the change in the foot position aggravate some corresponding weakness in the ankle?

      Finally, since we've been talking about arches in this thread, adding No Big Toe really gives a super kick to the working the muscles in the feet and rebuilding the muscles.

      Straight toes during PBS, TT Twist, BALANCE (!!!), airplanes, hoe downs and more will absolutely impact inch loss in the hips and upper thighs. I am so glad you left the clinic with this ingrained!

      Q: I'm not sure I agree that there's anything wrong with the alignment I've learned through many years of ballet. I certainly enjoy when people ask me if I'm a dancer because I walk like one. Certainly the core strength that keeps the ribcage lifted, tummy tight and lifted and butt tucked under. I don't have any back, hip, knee or ankle problems as long as I keep the core strong and tight. Of course I don't walk around with my toes pointed out to the side, but with toes straight forward it feels so awkward and ungraceful. Doesn't anyone else find this awkward?

      I'm not sure I can help much either but I'll pass along a couple of thoughts. I'll also see if Lani can respond. I believe she has more experience with dance theory.

      For me, toes straight feels extremely balanced. When I first started T-Tapp it felt a bit pigeon toed on the right foot. That is a common reaction when anyone starts with straight toes. I can definitely feel a difference in the arches when the feet are straight compared to a slight turn-out ... and I can also feel it in the hips and abs.

      I suspect your reaction is just that you are holding your body differently than you are accustomed to doing so it feels awkward. There aren't many T-Tapp police running around so if this particular aspect doesn't jive with your personal experience then handle as you see best.

      A good analogy is in shoulder alignment. As a dancer, you know how to keep your shoulders back and down. For those of us that had to learn later in life, this really feels like the chest area is ...well ... vaROOM out there. Yes, it feels awkward in the beginning. Before long, shoulder alignment and a lifted chest becomes second nature.

      Relative to straight toes, I have heard Teresa repeatedly say that straight feet, combined with at least a neutral back and shoulder alignment for everyday posture (or hard tuck during the workout) are critical to maximizing engagement of the thigh, tush, and ab muscles.

      She has been emphasizing the straight feet aspect much, much more in her more recent tapes such as Tempo Lower Body and SATI. As for me, I can definitely tell a difference in effort when the feet are straight.

      LANI: Hey Stacy, I like you had loads of dance training, though my work has been primarily in modern with a bit of ballet training. I have found that this foundation has been invaluable to me in movement, body carriage, and teaching - my original dance teacher had been a student of Martha Graham's and EVERYthing originated from the center. It taught me how to move from the belly and the heart and elevate ribcage from hip - a natural precursor to T-Tapp torso work! Also, with dance we lead with the upper body; in T-Tapp with the bend and the tuck and the forward toe, the lower body tends to lead.

      Yet both have their place. Keep in mind that T-Tapp is physical therapy, using alignment to counter the effects of gravitational pull on the joints, muscles, and even soft tissue. This means that we necessarily have to do some retracking to build muscle balance for functional fitness. Yes, it feels really funky to turn the toes straight ahead to walk at first! Yet any physical therapy is not necessarily a natural feel or comfortable fit, the way I see it. Though practice of same rebuilds balanced bodies.

      I am interested to read your comment about knees touching, and trying to figure out how this would happen. It may be that you can watch that you aren't placing one foot right in front of the other as you walk; otherwise it would imply that you have a very severe pronation at your knee which I think would cause you pain which it doesn't sound like you have.

      At any rate, the way I see it is that the workout retracks functional movement which transfers to insight into how to rebuild the body through how we move all day. When we have training in specific movement patterns, it will always feel like strange to try a new stance. I found that with a little practice to walking with toes forward, my shoulders just wanted to more carefully fall into correct position for building a strong back, the belly tightened up and the lower back is relieved of undue pressure because everything else just slides better into place. Then, should you dance, I'm betting you'll have better strength to carry through with whatever form is demanded.