Walking, Posture, and You
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 control of the process. For example, suppose we attempt to force or direct movement. In that case, we take away our natural walking pattern. As a result, we can impose poor walking posture habits, affecting 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 must first place the hip over the leg and correctly position 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 dorsiflexes (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. The inner thigh muscles follow this as the knee straightens and the heel moves towards touching the ground.
So what’s the big deal about our big toe?
When transitioning from the swing to stance phase of walking, the muscle that curls up the big toe (Flexor Halucis Longus) plays an important role in how weight falls through the foot’s inner arch.
The muscle begins at the back of the lower leg, runs along the inferior inner (medial) border of the foot, and then inserts itself into the base of the big toe.
In addition, Flexor Halucis Longus holds an anatomical relationship with the calcaneus (heel bone) at the sustentaculum tali. This shelf-like groove 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. This bone makes up part of the ankle joint. Also, as the weight falls through the big toe in the last phase of walking, extreme tension and pressure are exerted at the big toe and Flexor Halucis Longus. Just like an archer’s bow that is stretched back to its tautest point. In doing so, Flexor Halucis Longus 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 body’s weight is transmitted down through the lower extremity to the ground.
In the Stance phase, while the opposite leg swings forward, the standing leg stabilizes 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 entirely to the opposite side when walking, affecting overall walking posture.