What is the the windlass mechanism in the foot?
The windlass is that device which are used by the sailors on yachts to wind the rope about in order to make it easier to move the sails. Within the foot there is a mechanism that is known as the windlass mechanism that gets its name from this apparatus used on yachts. There is a ligament like structure beneath the foot known as the plantar fascia which is at one end connected to the bottom 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 ground, the foot moves around the great toe or hallux where this ligament is attached, tightening the plantar fascia as it winds about the windlass of the first metatarsal head. This is the windlass mechanism of the foot. It is a crucial function as the plantar fascia is the thing that supports the arch of the foot, therefore it is required to function adequately and efficiently for normal function. It is the foots own natural arch support system.
There are a number of conditions linked to this windlass mechanism not functioning appropriately. In the event the windlass mechanism does not work, then the arch of the foot will fail from this lack of support and a range of disorders can develop as a consequence of that for example bunions and plantar fasciitis. The cause of the windlass not functioning correctly can be multiple such as the force required to establish it simply being too much, so the body needs to work harder to make the windlass work. If that hard work can make it function, then that is an increased energy cost that could be very fatiguing. Podiatrists use different design characteristics in foot supports to improve the windlass mechanism and also to make walking less difficult and more efficient. If the windlass can be established easily when walking is not going to require so much and the foot will naturally support its own arch.