Turf Toes and Hip Strain

I’m going to answer 2 questions – one at the top of the leg with a hip injury and another at the foot.  Especially with foot injuries there is such potential for compensation and shifting your weight subtly in order to continue walking and dancing and so I encourage everyone to pay attention to the small tweaks and strains that can occur!

First question….

I have a 12-year old daughter who is very serious about her dance development and who has been concerned about pain in her big toe.  While rehearsing for a show she hit her toe on her leg and has been complaining ever since.  We have been to the doctor and have been given advice (such as Advil) but her pain continues.  I’ve noticed that her toe is moving slightly towards the other toes while her bone remains fixed in its position.  There must be some exercises she can do to strength that area.  

Thank you,  a concerned Mom

It sounds like your daughter has had a ‘turf toe’ injury.  It is common in football players (and dancers) and usually is caused by either stubbing or jamming the toe as your daughter did.  The challenge is in the recovery.  The original injury creates soft tissue inflammation and that is why your doctor suggested doing an anti-inflammatory such as Advil.  The challenge is your daughter has continued to be on her feet, both just walking and dancing, and often the joint doesn’t heal fully enough and is the cause of her continued pain.

You didn’t say how long ago the injury was but if her toe continues to have pain the doctor may choose to put her in a walking boot temporarily in order to give the joint a rest and allow it to heal.  Icing 2 or 3 times a day along with other anti-inflammatory efforts would continue while she is in the boot.

As far as the big toe starting to move towards the other toes – you are right about thinking something needs to be strengthened.  We want to prevent what sounds like the start of a bunion pattern – and you do that by strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the feet.

If you click HERE this will take you to a blog post where I have a short video on how to strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles.  Tell her that if she cramps when she is doing it – it simply means she has found the weak intrinsics and with continued practice they will improve!

The primary concern is that she gets on top of this injury – instead of allowing it to become chronic.  Bottom line – her big toe needs not to hurt!


Three months ago I was doing a heel stretch in one of the classes I assist in and my hip made a big cracking noise.  It started to hurt but not that bad.  But it still hurts today and I don’t know why.  I sit in a straddle stretch and it hurts my hip when I stretch.  Also, when I do a barre stretch or sit in my splits it hurts.  Do you recommend any stretches to help it get back to normal? 

Thanks, Meghan

Meghan, sometimes muscle strains can take a really long time to heal – and I’m not exactly sure what happened when you hear the hip crack or pop three months ago.  It’s possible that you strained either an inner thigh muscle and/or the deep hip flexor (iliopsoas).

I would encourage you to stretch gently and consistently for these two muscle groups.  Instead of sitting in the straddle position which creates discomfort try standing up and placing one leg on a chair and stretch the inner thigh muscles one side at a time.

For the iliopsoas muscle I would have you do one of the stretches outlined in the video clip below.  Remember to breathe and move gentle and easily – listening to your body – stretching should never be painful!

Do your stretching when your muscles are warm – after class is a good time.  Teachers and assistant teachers have to be careful about their demonstrating in class when you aren’t really warmed up!

Hope this helps…. and remember to comment below, especially if you have had similar injuries please share what you did that helped!

Warmest regards,


“Education is the key to injury prevention”


8 replies
  1. Jake
    Jake says:

    Great video on stretching the iliopsoas. I was having some pain in my hip flexor this morning and this is what came into my inbox. I’m going to do the stretch right now.

  2. Ron Lavine
    Ron Lavine says:

    Deborah – I believe that your focus on developing the intrinsic toe flexors is extremely important – and not just for dancers. Plenty of non-dancers have problems with excess pressure on the metatarsal head, sesamoiditis, and plantar fasciitis – all conditions which relate to weak or underutilized intrinsic flexors.

    I viewed your video on how to strengthen these muscles with great interest.

    I’d like to suggest another intrinsic toe flexor exercise – in the seated position, slide your foot out (like you’re doing a tendu, but only by extending from the knee since you’re sitting down.) Once you’ve reached a point at which only the metatarsal heads and toes are in contact with the floor continue lengthening out through the foot, but be sure to utilize a vector of movement along the floor (not allowing the metatarsal heads to pop up in an outward and upward diagonal).

    When done properly, I have trouble doing even a few because I know I’m working the right muscles and those muscles are weak. Many dancers have trouble doing this well, too.

    Once they’ve mastered this action in the sitting position, they can try a regular tendu to the second position.

    I wish I had as clear a video of this as you have of your exercises.

    Thanks for making this all clear.


    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Ron! If you do decide to make a quick clip of the exercise (even on an iphone) send it to me and I’ll share it with the list.

  3. Chanelle
    Chanelle says:

    I’ve also had a problem with turf toes. I did not walk on it for 3 days and my toes is back to normal . I just had minor swelling.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    The hip pain we experience sometimes gets in when we least expect it. Just like in the middle of the exciting dance class or simply doing an exercise. We then realize a little stretching is all we need.


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