Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My 'bad' hip: What is wrong, What that causes, and How I am going to fix it.

I mentioned in my last post that I am having some left side tightness and foot pain.  I received a few questions about what exercises I am doing for them, so here is a full explanation of what the problem is, what may have caused it, and what I am doing to fix/prevent it. 

The Past:
My left hip has been a problem for me for years, well actually, decades. I played a lot of field and ice hockey throughout middle school, high school, and college.  Both sports utilize your hips extensively.  In field hockey you are constantly squatting to get in a good ball playing position. In hockey, skating requires a lot of bending at the knees and hips and pushing off from the hip.  Since I've converted to a running focused athlete, my left hip has always been a little finicky.  It frequently gets tight after runs, locks up randomly during the day, or makes a popping noise when I rotate it.  It doesn't really cause me any pain (just tightness), so I've never thought too much of it or worried about it.  I just figured it was from years of wear and tear playing the hockeys.

In March I bought a new pair of running shoes in a brand I had never run in before and a lighter, more minimalist shoe that I have previously worn.  I transitioned into them by alternating runs between my old and new pair.  Sometime towards the end of April I started to get a funny feeling in my foot.  When I would get out of bed in the morning it felt like I was stepping on something sharp with my heel and the go away after being up for a bit.  Classic symptoms of plantar faciitis. I started alternating in my old running shoes again and noticed it was worse on mornings after I ran in my new shoes the day before.  So I stopped using my new shoes and carried on with training. The pain did not increase and became less frequent, but it didn't fully go away either.  Once I started incorporating more outdoor (i.e. hilly) runs because I needed more distance than I could get on the treadmill, I saw some more irritation.

The Present:
Here is what I have figured out:  My left hip is actually very weak which causes tightness is my left leg.  The tightness is increased after strenuous workouts where a weak hip my effect my stride (speed, or my outdoor runs which are very hilly), producing PF symptoms in my left foot.  The new, more minimalist shoes basically brought to light an underlying problem. 

The Future: 
1. Alleviate the foot pain. To do this, I am using the old favorites of icing, taking NSAIDs , stretching, and rolling out my PF.  I've been icing my PF daily and stretching as needed throughout the day.  I've also borrowed repossessed this torture device from my dog, Mia Monster, because it is perfect for rolling out the bottom of your foot.  She is not amused and wants it back.

I am focusing on doing some very targeted stretching every day. This includes hip, hamstring, and calf. Alleviating the tightness helps to reduce the pain I feel in my foot and the strain in my gait.

2. Alter running workouts to minimize further aggravation. This means flat and easy.  The only place to find flat runs in my area is on a treadmill. I've also slowed down my speed workout until my foot is feeling better.

3. Prevent the problem from returning. I am using a combination of strengthening and flexibility exercises.  In addition to my weekly strength training, I've added in daily exercises to strengthen my hips and feet.  I am also working on increasing the flexibility in my ankles by spelling out the alphabet everyday with a tennis ball.

For the 4 hip exercises below, I use a light resistance band attached to the kitchen table or patio chair (it was just too nice out to exercise indoors). Start with the feet shoulder width apart like the first panel of each photo set. Extend the leg as shown, hold for 2 seconds, and return to starting position. Build up to do 3 set of twenty on each leg. 
Hip flexion
Hip extension.
Hip abduction
Hip adduction
To strengthen your foot, place a dishtowel flat on an even surface.  Use your toes to grab the towel and pull it towards you.  Continue until you have scrunched the whole towel up. Repeat with your other foot.
Towel trick

Big Thank you to the Jayhawk for all his help taking photos.

Do you have a known weak part that you consistently work on?  Do you have any simple tricks you use at home to stay strong? 

I am not a doctor and the above information is specific to my pain and what worked for me.  If you have an injury, best to check with a medical professional to see what treatment plan is right for you.


  1. I love that you borrowed your dogs chew toy :). My hubby suffers from PF but doesn't listen to me about stretching it out and wearing what the doctor gave him!

    1. Yeah, she is still a little bitter about it, but she was chewing the knobs off! Tell him it really does help!

  2. Looks like you are doing a great job trying to get rid of this. I used to stretch really faithfully and need to get back to it.

    1. I get lazy about streching and I totally notice a difference. It should definitely be on my New Year's resolution list.

  3. It sounds like you've got a great plan in place. Hope you are pain free in no time!

    1. So far, so good. Already seeing improvements!


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