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Arturo Garcia 09-20-2010 09:36 AM

Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).

I've had my right foot turned outwards for a long time now. A couple of years ago I tried implementing sprints into my programming and I'd get this horrible pain in my right hammie that'd last for a very long time, which I guess were minor tears or something. Ever since I've read all I could find on this, and have always found advice on stretching the hip musculature, strengthening the glutes (all of them), etc.

But just today I think I've found out what is wrong with me. I had heard before that Louie Simmons (I think) has said that foot turned outwards meant weak hamstrings. Now I know that my right hammie is weak and just today I was thinking of how to strengthen it, because bilateral exercises will continue to keep my left side much stronger.

But what I discovered today is that there can be an imbalance WITHIN the hamstring muscles. I was looking at an anatomy picture and I see that the outer hamstrings (viewed from the back) are also external rotators of the hip! While the inner hamstrings are internal rotators. Now, I usually get more sore on this right hamstring from my workouts than in my left, but guess what, the soreness is in the inner hamstrings, the ones that should be rotating my hip inwards. I think they are much weaker than the other hammies. I had noticed in the past that when I do a single leg hip extension on the GHD machine, that foot turns outwards. When I did an exercise called the "single leg hip thrust" where I only use my heel and not the whole foot, it also feels stronger when it turns out. Obviously the body wants to turn my right foot out in every move that requires hamstring usage and I think this will never fix my imbalances. I am also doing GHD raises lately (SUCK at these!!!) and I feel it turning out too, and I feel the left leg doing more work... I truly need more unilateral work and less bilateral!

Also... I am doing these two unilateral drills every week, on sepparate days: the bulgarian split squat with added ROM (foot on 6" box), and walking lunges. Both holding dumbells. Now on these two, as the feet is flat on the floor I don't think I can turn it out... therefore after these two "leg days" I have this soreness in the inner right hammie... which indeed feel like more than just DOMS, like I'm slightly tearing it every time (it does heal within a few days so can't be major).

I've wanted to solve this issue for a LONG time now. I've wanted to sprint for a very long time, but I don't do it because it's almost guaranteed that I'll injure myself in that right hammie again.

I guess my question is... (hopefully Steven read all this crap! :D) can this be a cause for some people's "duck foot"? I don't think Steven mentions this in his article on Lower Body Dysfunctions (I could be wrong though), so maybe it's not a very common cause, but right now everything looks to me like that's exactly my problem, weakness of the semimembranosus and semitendinosus (correct spelling) compared to the bicep femoris (outer hamstring).

How can I go on about this? Should I quit doing the GHRaises or other very big effort lifts where the right foot will inevitable turn out?

Arturo Garcia 09-20-2010 12:36 PM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
I gotta add this: I used to think that a weak glute was the cause of this. And it might have been, in part. Some unilateral exercises were much easier with my left leg so my first rational thought was: the glute is too weak, so the hamstring is taking all the load on this right side... and in other exercises I even felt the right lower back a little strained. I was sure that my right glute was just weak so the hamstring and low back were working extra.

But after a looooot of glute drills that even today I still include at least one or two in my warm up, I think the glute issue is solved! Both glutes now get equally sore, where I used to get a sore left glute and sore (and even a little tore) right hamstring. So I think the glute fires nicely now, they might not be 100% symmetrical but I think it's not an issue anymore.

Good lord... so much glute drills.. am I now gonna have to be including "hamstring drills" for ever too ??? Man, why can't I just do whatever I want... :D

Now that I think of it.. during a glute drill called "the bird dog", of which there is also an advanced version called "advanced bird dog" where you flex the other knee to where it touches your chest, and you lift your back leg, straight, off the floor... I distinctly remember having a very hard time keeping that back foot pointing down (although I tried!), it rotated outwards on that one, and it gave me quite a sore hamstring on the right side! Again, back then I attributed this to "right glute is weak, so hammie is working too much".. but it may just be an issue of "inner part of right hamstring is just really weak and never worked out, so it'll get sore when you actually use it".

This has turned into just useless rambling, but hopefully Steven or someone will have some thoughts. My first thoughts are that I definitely need to include some low-load drills where I focus on form (feet pointing straight) and strengthen that inner right hamstring of mine.

Man... I wish I never got fat and out of shape during my younger years, it's haunting me now to solve all these issues.

Brian Strump 09-20-2010 01:52 PM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
There is more than one reason for an externally rotated foot. The hamstrings are only part of the puzzle. Dysfunction of the glutes, TFL, among a few others can also be the culprit.

Steven Low 09-20-2010 02:34 PM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
It's a potential reason. It's more likely to see a rotated tibia (compared at the knee) and then that will mess with foot mechanics. (I did include this one in the article).

If you're rotated at the hip, it's usually a flexibility issue than a hamstring issue. (Also included this one).

It is possible to unbalance the hamstrings but thats pretty rare... its more likely to unbalance the quads (hence patellofemoral syndrome)

If you think you finaly got it then throw int he corrections and try to fix it.

Arturo Garcia 09-21-2010 08:28 AM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
Well I do have a smaller Vastus Medialis quad muscle on this weaker right leg, so it might be a quad issue too.

Yes I rotate at the hip, it's much more loose at the hip, this right leg. When I lay in bed it rotates out. A massage therapist told me it was much easier for her to rotate that leg in comparisson to my left one.

I used to play tennis as a child, and I've played a bit as an adult, recently getting back into it. Just recreationally once or twice a week. I took a class with one of the coaches I've known for many years, and since he was throwing so many balls and so fast (something that wont happen when playing with a partner), I actually felt my LEFT leg fatigue, my stronger leg. I mentioned this and he said he'd check me out, and he said he sees me doing all my moves with my left leg. I think he means that wether I'm taking steps to my right side, or my left side, my left leg is always doing the movement while my right leg is always the "trailing" leg. I'm right handed, by the way.

I guess all I wanted to say with all my rant in the original post, is that I wish someone had stated clearly that the FEET must be straight when performing all this glute drills! So maybe while I did so many glute drills in the past year, I would've solved the hamstring imbalance and killed two birds in one stone. But since I kept doing single leg hip extensions with a turned out foot, and Birddog's with a turned out foot, the advanced birddog with a turned out foot, and who knows if I even turned it out during my single leg glute bridges since I only use the heel of the foot and don't plant it flat on the ground.

I feel this is why everytime I do use medial hamstrings (lunges, bulgarian split squats, where my foot is fixed on the floor so I don't rotate it out), I get very sore on that medial hamstring the next few days. Always, even if I do this week after week, it always gets sore. Why? I feel it's because I don't use that muscle in my everyday life.

The temporary fix I'm gonna attempt, is to do some low-load drills like I did the glutes, while really focusing on keeping that foot straight or even a little inward. In fact some of the drills I used to do for the glute left me with a sore medial hamstring for this very reason since they use it a lot (advanced birddog and single leg hip extensions are two that killed that right hamstring of mine). I used to think it was because of a weak glute (therefore overloaded hamstring), but I think I found the true reason now.

Another thing that makes me think I'm in the right path is that whenever I used to stretch my right hamstring, the foot would turn outwards... meaning my medial hamstring is not only weak, but stretched. I always felt I had more flexible hamstrings in this weaker right leg. But the truth is, if I hold my foot straight or even a bit inwards, it feels worse and I can't reach as far. This leads me to believe that my outer hamstring (bicep femoris) is not only much stronger than the medial hamstrings, but tighter. So I'll stretch it everyday too.

Oh well... we'll see in a few weeks. If I improve noticeable I'll report it. I did find one person in an article who mentioned the difference between foot possitions and which hamstring muscle is working more. WFS:

Mike Mallory 09-21-2010 10:24 AM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
Some of the thinking is correct, but hamstrings don't just imbalance themselves for no's always some other mechanism that they're responding to, unless you had some sort of traumatic injury to that spot.

If you've got big muscle-size-imbalances, then that points towards neurology and big compensation mechanisms.

I've seen the one-leg duck footed things a few times, most of 'em being the hamstring compensation for a lack of stability through the midsection. That's still a shot in the dark though if someone doesn't do an analysis of your body and see what actually going on.

Simply strengthening or stretching the muscle usually just undoing the body's compensatory mechanism, which can lead to more of a mess!

Have someone check out your pelvic biomechanics.

Steven Low 09-21-2010 12:40 PM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
^^^ +1 that

Arturo Garcia 09-21-2010 01:22 PM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
Thanks for your input Mike and Steve.

Just to clarify, I don't have "big" muscle-size differences, but there is a tiny difference. This could also be cause of doing bilateral things like squats and deads... I guess if one leg is a little bigger it will stay a little bigger as long as one keeps doing bilateral work, right?

What surprised me was my tennis experience. Recently I played for almost 2 hours and no leg fatigued, but with the coach and all the balls coming at me at both sides randomly, my left leg got tired, the "strong" leg, and not the weak leg. It seems I naturally move using it much more. I definitely need to stick to unilateral movements.

Two years ago they were SO bad, that I just couldn't do them right. Bulgarian split squats, lunges.... I had absolutely no stability whatsoever. I could hardly do single leg romanian deadlifts... unweighed! This all applies to the right leg though, with the left I could do everything, and add weight and it wouldn't be a challenge.

According to some tests, I did have a weak core. Maybe I still do, but I'm using an Ab-wheel and seeing progress. I used to stuff like hanging leg raises but I realized I had very weak abs when my hip was extended (read: body straight). Abs would give in first in ring push-ups, for example, and I can't even do that many push-ups. Pathetic ab strength. I got the ab-wheel and did 5 reps from the knees on the first time. Since the max load is when I'm stretched I feel this is better than timed planks, which were all I had found for the abs in the "body straight" possition. I did 17 reps last week and today I have to do them again, I'm using it on tuesdays, maybe I have progressed a bit, who knows. But your "weak midsection" definitely applied, or applies, to me.

I did go to a phisio therapist once. He had me do x-rays of my pelvis in what he called a "frog" possition and he said I was fine. He measured both legs and said they were equal length as well. He recommended glute strengthening stuff because he said I had weak legs in all the tests he made (to flex the knee, to extend the knee, etc.). But he didn't notice anything abnormal.

But everything is weaker on this right leg, from glutes, to hamstrings, to quads, to foot muscles. But they're all getting better, I even have better balance on that right foot now, I can do lunges and bulgarians and not fail due to balance. I still don't have it as good as in the left leg, but it's improving. Maybe after I loosen the lateral hamstring a bit and strengthen the medial hamstring a bit, it will be even better? these are my hopes. I'm not going to structure a whole routine based on this, just gonna do some low-load drills while focusing on that part of the hamstring and see what it does to me in a period of about a month or two. No big deal. I did this with the glutes and it "woke up" my right glute nicely, although it did take a lot of work!

Don't scare me telling me I'm gonna mess me up! :p:)

Steven Low 09-22-2010 01:42 PM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).
Yeah, just make sure you do everything right.... feet forward... I should probably put that in the shoes and sitting article heh

Paul Shortt 09-23-2010 06:12 AM

Re: Possible cause for foot turned outwards (Steven Low please read).

Originally Posted by Mike Mallory (Post 845912)

I've seen the one-leg duck footed things a few times, most of 'em being the hamstring compensation for a lack of stability through the midsection. That's still a shot in the dark though if someone doesn't do an analysis of your body and see what actually going on.


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