Background:

Weakness of the toe flexor muscles has been attributed to the development of toe pathologies, and it responds well in the clinic to toe grip exercises. However, it is unknown whether exercising the toe flexor muscles improves the ability to grip and alter function. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of toe flexor exercises on apical plantar pressure, as a measure of grip, while seated and during gait.

Methods:

Twenty-three individuals with no known toe pathologies were recruited. Static peak pressure, time spent at peak pressure, and pressure-time integral while seated, as well as dynamic forefoot maximal force, contact area, and percentage contact time, were recorded before and after exercise. Toe grip exercises with a therapy ball were completed daily for 6 weeks.

Results:

Static peak pressure significantly increased after exercise on the apex of the second and third digits, as did the pressure-time integral. Dynamic peak force and contact area did not alter after exercise around the metatarsals and toes, yet percentage contact time significantly increased for each metatarsal after completing daily toe grip exercises.

Conclusions:

Exercises to improve the grip ability of the toes increased the static peak pressure on the apex of the second and third digits as well as the percentage contact time of the metatarsals during gait. The ability to increase apical peak pressure and contact time after exercises could assist in improving forefoot stability and gait efficiency and in reducing toe pathology progression.

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