What is the windlass mechanism in the foot?

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The windlass is that gadget which are used by the sailors on yachts to wind the rope about to make it less difficult to move the boom. In the foot there exists a mechanism that is known as the windlass mechanism that gets its name from this equipment used on boats. There is a ligament like structure underneath the foot known as the plantar fascia which is at one end connected to the underside of the heel bone and at the other end to the great toe or hallux. When we're walking and the rearfoot comes off the floor, the foot rotates around the big toe where this ligament is attached, tightening the plantar fascia as it winds about the windlass of the first metatarsal bone. This is the windlass mechanism of the foot. It is a crucial functionality as the plantar fascia is the thing that supports the arch of the foot, so it really should function properly and quickly for normal function. This is the foots own natural arch support mechanism.

There are a variety of conditions associated with this windlass mechanism not working adequately. When the windlass doesn't work, then the arch of the foot will fail from this lack of support and a number of disorders can develop as a result of that for example bunions and heel pain. The reason for the windlass not working correctly can be multiple such as the force necessary to establish it simply being too high, so the body needs to work harder to help make the windlass function. If that hard work does make it work, then that is an increased energy cost that can be very fatiguing. Clinicians use different design characteristics in foot supports to improve the windlass mechanism and to make walking less difficult and more efficient. In the event the windlass can be established easily when walking won't need so much effort and the foot will naturally support its own arch.

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