The Big Toe and Dorsiflexion

Enjoy this ski instruction and video lesson. I will reintroduce the movements of Big Toe (and the one next to it) and how using it can lead to an easier turn initiation.

I thought this video was lost forever, but I did find it. I will probably re-record it this summer.

Enjoy this ski instruction and video lesson (Originally published on Jan 9, 2007). I will reintroduce the movements of Big Toe (BT side of the forefoot) and how using it can lead to an easier turn initiation. To make clear, just by moving the BigToe up does very little in itself. It begins with a movement in the forefoot (I’m calling the BigToe), and then moves through the foot, up and in the direction I intend to travel.
I was reading some other forums (EpicSki and PMTS), and a few people had different terminology. A person on PMTS called it, “Prying”. The description works for me… Although, prying seems quite forceful. This move to me is quite easy. Big Toe side up and over.
I look forward to reading your comments and creating a discussion. I have been appreciating the feedback, and differences of opinion. It allows me to think and refine my ideas. I appreciate it. After all, it is only “Written in Snow”.
In the future I will also introduce, perhaps reintroduce the “kinetic chain” of movements this creates. A movement that sets off a number of other movements (compound movement).
I will alter the video and information covered in the video, as well as future video lessons based on the comments and discussions we have.
Also, and instructors who want to use it, feel free to R&D (rob and duplicate).
Jon Lawson

p.s. As I mentioned I am reintroducing this movement. Avid readers of forum, or some lesson takers have heard of this move before. But very few have seen it without boots.
I started using it in ’94. I was hearing and being taught “little toe, big toe” ideas, I had not heard it specified how we did this. Many instructors were saying push down on the little toe. This worked for certain things at the lower levels and a few specific instances in high-end skiing. It was causing my inside ski to slide “ahead’ become divergent with the outside ski. Not what I was after. So, I started playing with it. I found this move brought my foot underneath my hips while still keeping my everything moving forward into the turn. I have never been a fan of pulling my foot back, to get the foot under the hips, as my objective was not to go backward. Have your movements moving forward along the edge of the ski and the direction of intended travel.
One of my ways to learn something is to start teaching it. I started sharing it with instructors and students. I trained a variation of this for my Divisional Trainer exam in ’99.
I hope it works well for you.

21 thoughts on “The Big Toe and Dorsiflexion”

  1. Wow, that was cool and informative. So where can I get socks like those? Then I’ll be finally be ready for the slopes. In all honesty, I enjoyed the lesson and found it accurate to effective skiing. thanks jon!

  2. Thanks guys. I will be improving these too. I will be shooting more skiing footage to show indoor and outdoor exercises. The indoor and outdoor footage may also lead to some good split screen images too. I am just playing with the technology right now. Just trying to tell a better story.
    Matt, the socks are Calvin Klein. Very comfy.

  3. That was awesome. You can really feel that single big toe force your other leg the same direction. As you start lifting, the other leg has no choice by to come along. It forces it on edge and is a much more natural motion.
    My brother Jack still struggles with getting both skis to edge in his turns at the same time. You can really see how the motion works in the video and see how your feet just naturally want to edge and stay parallel when you lift that toe.
    I saw a very similar video with Uma Thurman where she was saying “Wiggle your big toe.” =)

  4. Great video! Short, informative, and easy to understand. I found myself concentrating on my big toe all day today on the slopes! Hope you do many more.

  5. Thanks everybody. I have been working with this move since ’94. When shape skis came around it was a bit of a light bulb.
    This move begins to address the skills of flexing/extending (Pressure Control), and Tipping (Edging).
    I have also been experimenting with mildly Planar Flexing the outside foot when carving. Interesting sensations.

  6. Nice tutorial! If I ever get back on skis I’ll try it! I’d like to see some close-up video of your skis and boots on the snow, using this coming down the hill. I would be able to look for the inside ski to lead into the turn and carve with power. I like the video lesson!

  7. Jon: I had a chance to try it today. We have not had good snow in the East, but today was good. I found I could keep my weight forward better when I though about raising my big toe. I made a lot better curving turns today, so thanks.

  8. Bob,
    thank you very much for the update on using this move. It makes me smile to know that it has improved your skiing.
    As you may have guessed, I didn’t invent this move. I just figured, rarely (if ever) do instructors take off their boots during the middle of the lesson to show what is actually going on inside the boot.
    Thanks again for taking the time to share your results with me. I will be making two more video and put them on the site in the next week. They will build upon this video lesson.
    to your sliding success,

  9. Jon I really enjoyed your video, We had a clinic on railroad tracks the other night and I suggested focusing on lifting big toe. Our ski school uses the Pathway to Parallel teaching system by Roger Kane.
    Anyway while watching your video I could visualize the movement on snow with skis on, carving down a run. I thought what if they could superimpose you skiing while showing your feet doing the move. Or jump from ski video to toe movement and back.
    Also while my skiing is evolving with this I have pulled the inside foot back while lifting the big toe. Which seems to allow me to increase the tipping action thereby reducing the radius of the turn. I know that pulling the foot back will also pull the hip back. But it seems preferable to to much inside foot lead. Any thoughts.
    Thank Miles

  10. Great video. I like what Mikes had to say about superimposing skiing over the “dry land” you have now.
    I watched your video several times and there was something somewhat familiar looking about it. While in a PSIA D-Team event, the leader suggested that rolling across your boot cuffs to initiate the turn would increase edge angles and improve carving. If I think about that concept and watch your video the movements are almost identical. Thank you for showing me this maneuver, I shall add it to my tips toolbox.

  11. Russ,
    I agree with superimposing idea. I am just using MS media maker for basic video. As I learn how to use more robust (and easy to use) software I will be doing that. I do have some very interesting ideas with helmet cams though. That will hopefully be coming soon.
    Regarding the D-Teamer suggestion. I had been doing that move for quite sometime. It can be a good sensation. There are two schools of thought on that one:
    1) Driving forward across the tongue of the boot cuff. Powerful move using leverage to drive into the through the turn (engaging the front of the ski aggressively).
    2) neutral (very light tongue pressure). Relying on an adept sense of pressure control. Very little leverage fore or aft.
    I tend toward the second. I do like the feeling of the movement across the boot cuff however. Just not driving into the cuff. I used to do that, I just find it doesn’t work as well for me in terrain skiing. I like supple movements that I can add power to, rather than Power first. (generally)
    Also, when lifting the big toe. I feel initial cuff pressure on the big toe side of the cuff, not the other side.
    The important thing is that it is working for your skiing, and your desires in skiing.

  12. This is probably the best lesson I never took! I’ve played with it while skiing and it really helps me focus! Thanks!

  13. Thanks Nancy. Love it. Focus and intention are very good things.
    I just received my new computer. I am getting my Firewire tonight and will start putting together some other concept videos.
    Watch as much as you like.
    to your sliding success,

  14. Hi Jon!
    I love your big toe exercise! It works like a charm! I’ve used it in many intermediate level lessons when I’m trying to get the kids to match their skies earlier in the turn. I have them lift the big toe up and in the direction of their turn, and then keep reaching for the sky with all of their toes on that same foot after turn initiation to help steer the ski to match the new downhill ski. Works great!
    I also used this same exercise during my Level II exam this past weekend. (I passed!!) I had to teach steering, edging and pressure. Your tip covers all three! The group and the examiner thought it worked well too!
    Anne E. Mattack

  15. Anne,
    that is awesome! Congrats on Lvl 2. That is a big accomplishment. And it is great to hear how you are incorporating this into your lesson planning.
    Now with you level 2, I’d like to read your stories from your MySnowPro page;-)
    to your continued sliding success,

  16. February 8, 2007 Skiing Breckenridge with Geoff

    The day was beautiful. It started off sunny, but to stay cool we headed for the upper lifts. Around 11:30 the clouds and wind started. No new snow yet.

  17. March 20-21, 2007 – AWD vs FWD vs RWD

    A little spring weather report. A Level 6 lesson overview, and how to go from a Rear-wheel or Front-wheel drive skier to become an All-Wheel Drive skier.

  18. I’ve been struggling with dorsiflex & skiing for a couple years now. With physical therapy I now have normal range of dorsiflex motion. But I couldn’t figure out how to use it now with skiing. I knew it was important but I wasn’t sure why.
    Thank you so very very much for your video. I can now practice prior to skiing to get this new range of motion into autopilot before my ski season. I will be watching & rewatching this video throughout the season.
    Marlene Gonet

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