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Rolling Yoga Mat

The Toe Gizmo and Foot Corrector

by Jan McGrath,
Certified Pilates Instructor,
Pilates Whole Body

It was 6:30 in the morning, and I laced up my tennis shoes ready for another early run. I
began my jog and started noticing a radiating pain coming from the top of my left foot.
It was my bone spur, once small, now becoming irritatingly large; and it was rubbing up
against the top of my shoe. Loosening my laces, while trying to balance a secure fit, I
continued to run until the pain was so excruciating that I abruptly stopped. I could not
take another step except to step into my podiatrist's office.

This was not my first time visiting a podiatrist. A few years prior, my four bunions by
my big and pinky toe on both feet were all removed. I was born with
poor foot structure, and I surgically had my top left foot bone spur removed.
My bunions were a result of heredity, and my flat feet resulted from infancy; because my
arch never developed. High impact physical activities exacerbated my bone spur and the development of my once small bunions to larger ones . I needed to change my foot life
to improve my foot health. First change, I replaced my routine of high impact exercises
with low impact exercises, namely walking and Pilates. Second change, I discovered the
Toe Gizmo and the Foot Corrector, both exercise devices specifically developed for
improving foot and ankle health.

The Toe Gizmo and the Foot Corrector are two pieces of Pilates equipment.
Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates exercise method and inventor of the Universal
Reformer, designed and sought patents for the Toe Gizmo and Foot Corrector in 1922
and 1923 respectively. It was Joe who recognized that problem feet were an all-too-
common occurrence. His two exercise devices reduced foot discomfort and restored
proper foot function. The Toe Gizmo and Foot Corrector were Joseph Pilates’s earliest
invented apparatuses, preceding the invention of the Universal Reformer designed in

Pilates Foot Corrector

So, let’s take a look at the types of foot exercises you can do using the Toe Gizmo and
Foot Corrector, plus how you, as a Pilates Instructor, can design a program to strengthen
the intrinsic muscles of the feet to help alleviate some common foot ailments.

To begin, we need to understand the makeup of our foot is comprised of 26 bones, four
arches, and many muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We have two ankle joints, and their
role is to provide mobility in flexion and extension, or plantar flexion and dorsiflexion
plus move us in pronation and supination.


Our four arches absorb shock and provide us propulsion. Our intrinsic foot muscles are
very deep and provide structure for the arch and movement for the toes. As Pilates
instructors, our ability to teach the importance of full body alignment can also be applied to the foot and the ankle. Foot and ankle alignment exercises will help our
clients alleviate foot pain and correct any misalignments that cause common foot

ailments, such as bunions, bone spurs, and flat feet.

Before beginning any foot and ankle exercises, first always check that your client is in
talar neutral or proper ankle alignment. Talar or subtalar neutral is the position in which the talus ankle bone sits properly aligned on the heal bone, the calcaneus.

To find talar neutral, I have my client stand shoulder width apart without shoes, and I
ask my client to rotate their trunk to the left and right. This will naturally produce
pronation in one ankle and supination in the other. I then place my thumb and first
finger on my client’s talus (ankle bone) feeling for horizontal symmetry in the talar
anteriorly (in the front) as I help to rock the client’s calcaneus into what would be
“ballpark” subtalar neutral (see photo above). This simple tactile feedback has proven
effective for my Pilates studio and does not necessitate much time.

With practice and consistent cueing, whether verbal or tactile, I can help progress a
client from doing low grade resistance Pilates exercise or stretch (wall sit or lunge) to a
more weight bearing resistance Pilates exercise such as squats, all while maintaining
subtalar neutral.


While in talar neutral, you can start foot exercises with the Toe Gizmo. You can use this exercise device to strengthen the inherent toe flexor muscles. Starting with your big toe, begin by placing the leather band around the thickest section of your toe and then extend the strap vertically to provide spring resistance for this exercise. Then you will use your big toe flexor muscles to press down against the spring resistance. This is a great exercise because it separates and spaces out each toe. You will proceed down to the next toes individually. Reduce the resistance as you proceed onward to each successive toe.


The Toe Gizmo can also be an effective stretch for the toes. Wrapping the leather band around the big toe, you will pull out horizontally using the spring resistance to provide a stretch for the adductor hallucis, the muscle that pulls the big toe laterally towards the other four toes. If the adductor hallucis is tight, over time, a bunion forms. Moving the
toe laterally resisting the spring load is an effective stretch exercise.

Another foot specific exercise device is the Foot Corrector. Like the Toe Gizmo, it too
can help strengthen the inherent foot muscles and help alleviate some of the common
external (non-hereditary) foot ailments.

Starting from talar neutral, place your heel at one end of the foot corrector and then
wrap your toes gently around the saddle. Rock the saddle back and forth while trying
not to apply any downward pressure on to the saddle. This initial exercise gently
strengthens your toe joints. Next, curling your toes, you will move the toes from the top
of the saddle and place the ball of your foot on the saddle. This time, you will engage
your toes to press downward while keeping your heel down.


Continue the downward press exercise by placing the metatarsals on the saddle. The
metatarsals are the group of five long bones in the midfoot. Maintaining your toe curls
and keeping your heel down on the base of the foot corrector, push down on the saddle.
You want to keep your anterior tibialis as quiet as possible. The anterior tibialis is a
small muscle from the lower part of the tibia. Finally, have your client place their heel
on the top of the saddle and have them push down.


Both the Toe Gizmo and the Foot Corrector can be especially useful when designing a
program to help your client strengthen their foot muscles and to help alleviate some of
the common foot ailments such as bunions, flat feet, and plantar fasciitis.


1. Steel, John Howard. Caged Lion, 2020.
2. Iiams, Amanda. Healthy Feet Webinar. Pilates Instructor Academy, 2020.

Jan McGrath.jpeg

Jan McGrath is a Certified Pilates Instructor running her at-home Pilates  studio in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Jan discovered Pilates over 18  years ago, loving the low-impact exercise, seeing it as a great carry over  exercise for young and old. She is a wife and mom to two teen sons and,  when not practicing or teaching Pilates, enjoys playing the piano. 

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