Walking and Posture
The act of walking is a complex interrelationship of muscles, joints, and nerve activity that is constantly changing and redefining itself with every step taken. Walking should occur without too much controlling of the process. If we attempt to force or direct movement we take away our natural walking pattern and can impose poor posture habits, which can affect our long-term wellbeing.
When considering how we walk, look at the movement of the pelvis and its relationship to the lower extremity (leg). While the legs offer forward and backward movement in walking, the pelvis has to firstly place the hip over the leg, then provide proper placement for the other leg to move through and forward.
Swing Phase and Stance Phase of walking
Walking is structured around two distinct phases of movement. — The Swing phase and the Stance phase. One leg follows the other through the phases in a neat procession to become the cumulative process we know as walking.
Swing Phase of Walking
The swing phase covers the distance by pushing off the ground and moving through until the heel (Calcaneus) of the foot touches the ground again.
In the Swing phase, the knee and hip flex (or bend), while the foot dorsi flexes (foot and toes move upwards towards the sky). As the lower extremity lifts to move us forward, muscles along the front and back of the leg and the deep lower abdomen work to generate the required movement. Muscles of the inner thigh follow this as t he knee straightens and the heel moves towards touching the ground.
So what’s the big deal about our big toe?
In transitioning from swing to stance phase of walking, the muscle Flexor Halucis Longus (the muscle that curls in the big toe) has a really interesting and unique role in how weight falls through the medial arch of the foot. The muscle begins at the back of the lower leg, runs along the medial inferior border of the foot, and then inserts itself into the base of the big toe. FHL holds an anatomical relationship with the calcaneus (heel bone) at the sustentaculum tali, a shelf like groove, that allows it to provide a supporting structure that props up the ankle.
Indirectly, by lifting the calcaneus, it is also providing support to the Talus, the bone that make up part of the ankle joint. Also, as weight falls through the big toe in the last phase of walking, extreme tension and pressure is exerted at the big toe, and FHL - just like an archers bow that is stretched back to its tautest point. . In doing so FHL plays a role in weight bearing and forward movement by assisting the pushing off from the toes in walking.
Stance Phase of Walking
The stance phase provides the support and weight-bearing ability as the weight of the body is transmitted down through the lower extremity to the ground.
In the Stance phase, while the opposite leg is swinging forward, the standing leg stabilises the pelvis, primarily, with the muscle Gluteus Medius. This acts to stop the opposite side of the pelvis from dropping sideways. If there were weakness or no muscle support at the pelvis the hip would tilt completely to the opposite side when walking.