I would have said a few weeks ago that I value the intrinsic foot muscles as an important part of the global integration of health and performance. But, I've never truly given "foot exercises." So how important did I really value it?
It's not belief it's practice. Without practice do you really truly believe it's that important. Apparently I was fooling myself or hadn't quite realized how to implement. I check on most of the muscles that contribute to big toe function and have patients roll with a golf ball to improve the tissue quality, but just kinda assumed just walking would be enough to strengthen. The foot intrinsic muscles and especially the big toe, triggers reflex's not only in the quads, but also in the hip. They are important.
Things like plantar fasciitis have now been shown to be more of a degeneration then inflammation. Degeneration is things mechanically not working well so they are abused. If we have tendon degeneration we would work on tissue quality and perhaps go into some eccentric strengthening.
So I'm still an advocate for golf balling the muscles of the foot. Part of the process helps reintegrate the proprioception in your foot. Proprioception is just information from your body to the brain. It also helps to free up perhaps one layer of the foot from a deeper layer. Improving the glide function. This part is somewhat controversial, but still improves movement.
After rolling, start with learning to control the big toe in dorsiflexion. The video below is me working on just that for a few days. I was pretty astounded when I first worked this drill and couldn't move the big toe at all. I had zero brain connection to my hallucis muscles. Humbling. The drill is press your toes into the floor and without letting them lose contact with the floor, lift the big toe up. Trust me, you should be able on conscious control to move any part of your anatomy. It took several, several sessions of rolling and just trying to get that toe to move. Now it seems easy. Does this translate into anything amazing? I don't know, but I do know I have more control. We'll see what this produces down the line. Get to work.