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The true GOAT – The Greatest Of All Toes

Even the greats can’t be great without their great toe.

In Super Bowl LV, Patrick Mahomes seemed to be the heir apparent to becoming a perennial Super Bowl Champ and MVP.  After winning it all the year before, with his mobility and ability to throw the deep ball, he had led the Kansas City Chiefs to a 14-2 record and a chance to take on six time superbowl champ and four time super bowl MVP Tom Brady.  Mahomes dazzling play making ability made his team the favorite 

Feb 7, 2021, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV (55). The Chiefs, attempting to win back to back super bowls boasting a 14-2 regular season record lead by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes take on a strong Bucs team lead by 6 time super bowl champion and 4 time superbowl MVP Tom Brady. Super Bowl LV was billed as a matchup between the greatest quarterback of all time (Tom Brady), and the best current quarterback in the league (Patrick Mahomes). Despite his young career, many hail Patrick Mahomes as one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and a lock for the hall of fame, as Mahomes is the fastest QB to reach 100 career touchdowns and currently holds the records for most touchdowns in a single season with 50 and most passing yards in a season with 5,097. 

Despite the anticipated excitement that Mahomes was to deliver, the young star could never really get his feet underneath him. The result, the Buccaneers routed the Chiefs 31-9 as the Chiefs went down without a fight, unable to score a single touchdown.  Although many football analysts and sport show hosts pointed to the offensive line play as the reason for the loss. What these so-called experts failed to realize was that the real culprit for the loss was in fact Mahome’s great toe. Yes, the function (or lack thereof) of Mahmoe’s great toe I believe was fully responsible for the out of character sputtering play of Mahomes that night.

Before Super Bowl LV, during the divisional playoffs against the Cleveland Browns, Patrick Mahomes incurred a toe injury when sliding on a play known as turf toe. This seemingly harmless sounding injury is actually quite the opposite, turf toe is a simple way to say that you sprained the knuckle of your big toe. The main issue with turf toe is that it greatly affects the ability to bend your big toe back (A.K.A toe extension) without pain. Again, doesn’t sound too bad for a strong and tough football player, but extending your big toe is vital for anyone who needs to run or even walk normally, and Patrick Mahomes needed to run A LOT during Super Bowl 55. Next gen stats recorded that patrick mahomes ran for ~ 497 yards before throwing a pass, being pressured on over half of his drop backs ultimately being sacked 3 times. Normally, Mahomes is known to have a knack for evading defenders and delivering a strike for a score. However following a seemingly innocuous toe injury, he could not, leading to the worst offensive performance of the young stars career, showing us that even the greats can’t be great without their great toes.

Now, what does this mean for you? Well, you may not be a superstar quarterback, or have pain in your big toe when you walk/run, but the ability for your great toe to extend when performing activities is absolutely crucial for proper use of your foot and subsequently efficient use of your entire leg during your gait cycle. This is because great toe extension is the key to locking your foot for a stable foundation to push off from. This occurs through something known as the windlass mechanism (shown below). As the great toe extends when walking or running, the arch of the foot is increased allowing for the joints of the foot to lock so that we can push off from a rigid lever. When we walk or run without extending our big toes, whether it be from stiffness in the great toes, bunions (more on bunions coming soon), or even “high tech” shoes that locks your toes in place, we fail to create this rigid structure leading to pushing off through what’s known as a “loose bag of bones”, pushing off from an UNstable structure. This causes leaks in power or force production ultimately leading to either a compensatory pattern when walking( I.E. walking another way that deviates from a normal gait cycle) or making up that power we lost from somewhere else potentially causing an overuse injury somewhere else in the body. No matter what happens, the gait pattern assumed following loss of great toe motion will ultimately lead to break down somewhere in the kinetic chain of movement. Whether that be local to the foot and ankle causing pathologies such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, or achilles tendonitis, pain at the knee or hip, or even going up as far as causing low back.

So what do we do about it? For starters, you should assess how well you can bend your toe backwards (Great toe extension). Normal great toe extension is between ~ 65-70 degrees. If you’re having trouble eyeing this out yourself, having a Doctor of Physical Therapy evaluate your foot can help assess and address any potential issues that may be occurring in your feet. If you’re going it alone, once you’ve figured out if you have a  limitation it gets pretty simple, GET MOVING! Simple stretches and exercises like the ones shown below can help, and then all you have to do after that is walk! (or run if thats your thing)… Making sure you’re bending over your big toes of course.

Take hold of your great toe, distract and pull upwards 3×10


Assuming a staggered stance shown, stretching the back toe by keeping the ball of the great toe on the floor while pushing into the wall, hold for 30s and perform 3 in a row. 


A rolled-up towel allows for great toe range of motion with this heel raise variation. With the balls of the toes on the ground and toes on the towel, perform a heel raise focusing on pushing through the balls of the great toes. 

Tom Brady may not be fast, but it seems that he takes care of his feet better than Mahomes.  Greats like Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes know that success comes from working on all of the little things that add up to be a lot.  I hope that now you know and will remember how much power you can gain just by taking a little extra time working on those two little guys, YOUR GREAT TOES! 

If you want to be as great as Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady, work on your great toe mobility and get to work! Speak With One Of Our Experts By Going To :


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