Standing . . . 

. . .  No laughing matter . . .

In 1998, reviewing the Ballet Stretches on the Ladder Barrel during my Romana Kryzanowska Teacher Certification program, Juantita Lopez said, “To do the Ballet Stretches, you need to be able to stand.”

I laughed. 

Of course, I can stand.

But this was no laughing matter to her. She was dead serious.

Now, after 25 years, I finally understand what she meant.

When you stand, do you . . . 

  • Hyperextend your knees?
  • Stick your bum out tipping your ASIS forward? or

    • Clench your bum under + shove it forward?
  • Turn your feet out in a “V”?

    • Turn 1 foot out + 1 foot straight?
  • Pigeon toe your toes?

    • One foot more than the other?
  • Can you align your rib cage over your pelvis?

    • Is your manubriosternal joint aligned with the pubic symphysis? MS aligned with PS?
  • Is your head pushed forward instead of centered on your neck?
  • Is your weight centered over the bow of your shoelaces?
  • Is one foot more forward than the other?
  • Is your medial arch pitched up or can it relax into the ground? or

    • Is your medial arch flattened like a pancake to the floor?
  • Does the back of your heel tip in or out?
  • Do your toes grip?
  • Is your weight evenly distributed . . .

    • All 4 corners of each foot: big toe knuckle, pinkie toe knuckle, inner + outer heels?

      • Or do you stand on the outer or inner borders of your feet?
  • Do you stand on each leg equally?

    • On the forefoot + rearfoot equally?
  • Does your big toe hit the ground when you stand? When you walk?
  • Do you have bunions?
  • Do you have pain?
  • Are your shoes worn down on the outer heels? Inner heels?

A good starting place to assess foot health is with the big toe. Big toe placement, mobility, rigidity, deformity or callus formation tells us a lot about how we bear weight or how we stand.

Set Up

  • Stand aligned with the rib cage over the pelvis

    •  MS aligned with PS
  • Hips, legs, feet parallel, hip-width apart
  • Hand on the wall for balance
  • Pressure on the 4 corners of the feet

    •  1st + 5th toe knuckles (metatarsal heads or met heads)

      • Inner + outer heels


  • Without lifting toes 2-5, lift the big toe up off the floor


The test is over when the . . . 

  1. 1st met head lifts or
  2. Other toes lift or
  3. You feel pain or
  4. You wobble your weight to one side of the foot or the other or
  5. You lose your alignment

Look for . . . 

  1. The longitudinal medial arch lifting physically off the floor

    1. The foot shortening

Notice the difference in arch tension between both photos. Many thanks to Aleksandra Saluk for modeling.

Lifting, or extending the big toe, tenses (in a good way) the muscles, tendons + plantar fascia under the foot. This tension is then released when we Toe Off propelling us forward in the next step. Also known as the Windlass Mechanism.

Tons of things! 

If the Big Toe Raise is limited, standing (and movement) will be less than optimal. 

It may also indicate:

  • An externally rotated pelvis with compression in the low, posterior pelvis
  • Your foot may be stuck in a “supinated” position as a result (do you live on the outer edge of your foot?)

    • This will prevent you from loading properly into the foot + will limit the ROM of the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint, or big toe joint)
  • Weak intrinsic foot muscles (extensor hallucis brevis to name one)
  • An inability of the joints to internally rotate as needed in standing + movement

    • This usually results in difficulty assuming a stacked posture, difficulting in aligning the MS with the PS


    1. This may sound crazy but if the rib cage isn’t supple enough to stack over the pelvis, improvements in the foot from foot exercises will never stick

      1. We need to breathe into the rib cage in 360° to create a supple rib cage to be able to align it over the pelvis to create the stack
  1. Repeat the test as an exercise.
  2. Practice with the help of your fingers; sit in a chair, lean over your knees + let your fingers help you keep the 1met head and the other toes down when you lift the big toe

It’s easier to lift all the toes simultaneously than just the big toe. 

Practice lifting all the toes in Elephant BUT make sure to keep the weight on all 4 corners of the feet, 1st met heads DOWN. The squishy-ness of the carriage makes toe extension more difficult. Pressing the heels against the shoulder blocks makes it easier.

Tip: Place a pole under the toes to help the toes extend to increase mobility.

Big toe mobility + control is a window into whole-body range of motion (ROM).

If I can’t lift my big toe, I’m probably not in a good stacked posture with my rib cage over my pelvis. That, in and of itself, will automatically limit my shoulder, hip and ankle flexion ROM.

Joints need to be optionally aligned to move well!