There are multiple reasons why someone would lose the ability to touch their toes. The two most common are mobility (the ability to move your joints freely throughout a full ROM) and motor control (timing, stabilization and coordination of movement) issues.
That being said the ability to touch your toes is usually NOT a hamstring tightness problem.
Muscles can often have the perception of tightness when poor movement patterns exist, or when there is a lack of stability to an area. In the case of the toe touch, if your body feels unstable while trying to bend forward and touch your toes, it will activate the hamstrings and lumbar extensors to protect and limit the movement. This is when you "feel" that your hamstrings are tight.
Touching our toes is an essential movement that we NEED to be able to do if one plans to be active. Whether it is running, deadlifting, squatting, sports, hiking or anything else in the spectrum of movement. If you can not touch your toes, dysfunction is present.
1) Decreased active straight leg raise (ASLR):
- Will prevent you from touching your toes.
- Impede your ability to hip hinge either bilaterally or unilaterally.
- Affect your running stride
2) Decreased ability to posteriorly weight shift.
3) Decreased ability to flex the spine while bending forward.