An investigation of the dynamic relationship between navicular drop and first metatarsophalangeal joint dorsal excursion

Nicole L. Griffin*, Charlotte Miller, Daniel Schmitt, Kristiaan D'Aout

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The modern human foot is a complex biomechanical structure that must act both as a shock absorber and as a propulsive strut during the stance phase of gait. Understanding the ways in which foot segments interact can illuminate the mechanics of foot function in healthy and pathological humans. It has been proposed that increased values of medial longitudinal arch deformation can limit metatarsophalangeal joint excursion via tension in the plantar aponeurosis. However, this model has not been tested directly in a dynamic setting. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that during the stance phase, subtalar pronation (stretching of the plantar aponeurosis and subsequent lowering of the medial longitudinal arch) will negatively affect the amount of first metatarsophalangeal joint excursion occurring at push-off. Vertical descent of the navicular (a proxy for subtalar pronation) and first metatarsophalangeal joint dorsal excursion were measured during steady locomotion over a flat substrate on a novel sample consisting of asymptomatic adult males and females, many of whom are habitually unshod. Least-squares regression analyses indicated that, contrary to the hypothesis, navicular drop did not explain a significant amount of variation in first metatarsophalangeal joint dorsal excursion. These results suggest that, in an asymptomatic subject, the plantar aponeurosis and the associated foot bones can function effectively within the normal range of subtalar pronation that takes place during walking gait. From a clinical standpoint, this study highlights the need for investigating the in vivo kinematic relationship between subtalar pronation and metatarsophalangeal joint dorsiflexion in symptomatic populations, and also the need to explore other factors that may affect the kinematics of asymptomatic feet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-607
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • dorsiflexion
  • medial longitudinal arch
  • plantar aponeurosis
  • windlass mechanism
  • FOOT


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