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Old 12-01-2011, 06:35 AM   #1
lbb
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I want monkey toes!

Some people in my dojo are gifted with "monkey toes" -- they're long and veeery flexible. Getting their toes alive in a comfortable position during suwari waza is a breeze for these people. Me...not so much. My toes are short and don't have the flexibility I'd like -- I'm more on the tips than on the pads, which makes suwari waza difficult if I'm trying to stay low and not rise up and defeat the whole purpose. I don't think I'll ever have "monkey toes", but I am sure I could do something to improve my toe flexibility if I work at it. Has anyone ever tried this? Do you have a method that you used, and were you able to get results from it?

(also...please, let's not turn this thread into a debate about whether we should be doing suwari waza at all. If you want to debate that, please start your own thread)
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:31 AM   #2
David Orange
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I am sure I could do something to improve my toe flexibility if I work at it. Has anyone ever tried this? Do you have a method that you used, and were you able to get results from it?
Feldenkrais.

http://www.feldenkraisresources.com/

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"

www.davidorangejr.com
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:54 AM   #3
genin
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Re: I want monkey toes!

I would think the length of your toes is related to height, which is unchangeable.

My toes are so long that someone once nicknamed me "Toes". Sometimes I use my toes as fingers to pick items up off the floor, like clothes, so I don't have to bend over, lol.
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Old 12-01-2011, 09:33 AM   #4
Alex Megann
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Some people in my dojo are gifted with "monkey toes" -- they're long and veeery flexible. Getting their toes alive in a comfortable position during suwari waza is a breeze for these people. Me...not so much. My toes are short and don't have the flexibility I'd like -- I'm more on the tips than on the pads, which makes suwari waza difficult if I'm trying to stay low and not rise up and defeat the whole purpose. I don't think I'll ever have "monkey toes", but I am sure I could do something to improve my toe flexibility if I work at it. Has anyone ever tried this? Do you have a method that you used, and were you able to get results from it?
Mary,

My toes have suffered much abuse over the years, particularly from several stubbing incidents. I have long feet and large big toes, and neither of the latter will now bend beyond about 45 degrees. As a result suwariwaza, which I used to really enjoy, is uncomfortable on tatami which are at all hard, as - like you - I end up moving on the tips of my big toes.

I stretch my toes every morning as part of my daily yoga practice, but unfortunately I think that this only preserves the status quo. If I had a lot more time I could probably make a little more progress, as the soles of my feet are quite stiff.

So I'm afraid I can't offer you any good news!

Alex
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:33 AM   #5
cconstantine
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Have you tried consistently stretching your calves? I believe that strength and flexibility in the calf and ankle, added flexibility to my feet and plantar fascia, that led to much increased freedom of movement in my toes. (i.e., easily 90+ degrees of extension of my toes on the floor in suwari waza)
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:34 AM   #6
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Alex mentioned one crucial thing already - the state of the soles of your feet has a lot of influence on how far you can bend your toes.

Something you can do right away: from time to time, ask your footsoles to soften. Doesn't matter what position you're in or what you're doing, if you keep thinking about softening your footsoles they will with time change somewhat.

kvaak
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:37 AM   #7
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: I want monkey toes!

...and Craig posted at the same time with me and mentioned another important point.

Really the toes are just the furthest point of the whole leg, and the amount of tension or flexibility in your whole leg will influence the flexibility of your toes. Funnily enough even tension on the front of the leg will make it more difficult to bend the toes under.

Pauliina
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Old 12-01-2011, 11:36 AM   #8
mathewjgano
 
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Re: I want monkey toes!

I have toes a little like that and I'm not 100% sure what it's from, but I do practice wiggling and spreading out my toes almost unconsciously and have since I was a kid...it's a little like when I first tried doing the "live long and prosper" vulcan gang sign in that it's more about relaxing the toes/etc. than muscling them into position.
I also massage and stretch my shins and calves quite a bit. The outside of the shins seem to have a big effect on my foot tension. I'm flat-footed and grew up playing soccer and skiing a lot so my feet and legs tend to be relatively tight. A good massage along the outter edge of my shins and I can feel my feet and toes loosen up.
I've been looking for the Shodokan warm up, which also has some basic foot warm up movements, but haven't found them yet. If I can't find them I think I have a book with them in it and will try to scan it for you.
Take care,
Matt

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 12-01-2011, 12:15 PM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: I want monkey toes!

There's lots of good advice here! I would add that I like to gently roll my foot over a rubber ball, lightly stretching and flexing all parts of it.

Janet Rosen
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Old 12-01-2011, 01:28 PM   #10
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Iv'e been noticing that since I started wearing the Vibram Five fingers a lot I am using my toes a lot more and they have gotten more flexible. Yet another great reason to wear the Vibs.
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Old 12-01-2011, 06:52 PM   #11
lbb
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Wow...lots of great ideas! I think y'all are onto something with the idea that it's not (just) the toes, it's all the flexibility down the leg -- yes, my calves are tight, and I've been told I need to work on their flexibility. I think I will focus on that, and also on the suggestions that focus on the foot itself, and see where it gets me. Thanks!

(but I still want monkey toes for Christmas!)
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Old 12-02-2011, 07:52 AM   #12
ninjaqutie
 
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Re: I want monkey toes!

Hey Mary, as you may recall I have a toe issue that is now over a year old and STILL not better. Anywho, my ortho told me that it was critical to stretch my calf muscles daily. I have already been diagnosed with a condition of hyper mobility in my joints and my ligaments are actually over stretchy, but he still encourages me to stretch the calves for the toe issue. My old martial arts instructor (who is a certified Feldenkrais teacher) is also a huge fan of rolling your feet on a tennis ball, so I'd say your onto something there.

Like Roger, I have monkey toes and often pick up things (clothes, pens, dog toys, etc) from the floor either because I am lazy or just to see if I actually can pick it up. My Dad always called me monkey toes because of that and the fact I often curl my toes under my feet when my feet are sitting flat on the floor when I'm in a chair. Best of luck to you!!

Oh, one more thing, I just remembered a dancers stretch that may help you. Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Pull the tops of your feet back as far as you can towards your chest (just using your leg and foot muscles) with your toes extended/relaxed. Then extend the ball of your foot out and down towards the floor as far as you can (your foot should look as if you were standing on just the balls of your feet, like you use to peek up over something too tall). Leaving your feet where they are, now point your toes to the floor. Now pretend your are picking something up with your toes (your toes should curl down and under your feet if you can) and pull the tops of your feet back towards your chest and relax your toes. You are now back where you started. Eventually it becomes a nice fluid motion. I usually just do ten or so once a day, but I'm sure you could do more/less and change the frequency to suit you.

I have NO idea if how I described it is helpful, but it is a fairly common dancer stretch. I would search for a youtube video for you, but I can't look at videos on the work computer. Let me know if you need more clarification.

Last edited by ninjaqutie : 12-02-2011 at 07:55 AM.

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