The majority of the population have a normal to low arch. Even though the arches appear to be normal most of us suffer from over-pronation during walking, running and standing, due to the hard, flat unnatural surfaces we walk on, combined with wearing unsupportive footwear. With every step we take the arches flatten and the ankles roll inwards. Pronation itself is not wrong because we need to pronate and supinate as part of our natural gait cycle. Pronation (rolling in) acts as a shock-absorbing mechanism and supination (rolling out) helps to propel our feet forward. Over-pronation occurs when the foot pronates too deep and for too long, not allowing the foot to ‘recover’ and supinate. Over-pronation hampers our natural walking pattern. It causes an imbalance and leads to wear and tear in several parts of the body with every step we take.
Abnormal foot biomechanics usually causes over-use type injuries, occurring most frequently in runners. When a neutral foot pronates during walking or running, the lower leg, knee and thigh all rotate internally (medially). When an athlete with an overpronated foot runs, this rotation movement is exaggerated and becomes more marked.
Because overpronation affects the entire lower leg, many injuries and conditions may develop and eventually cause problems not only in the leg and foot, but also the knee, hips and lower back. Pain often begins in the arch of the foot or the ankle. Blisters may develop on the instep, or on the inside edge of the heels. As overpronation continues and problems develop, pain will be felt elsewhere, depending on the injury.
Firstly, look at your feet in standing, have you got a clear arch on the inside of the foot? If there is not an arch and the innermost part of the sole touches the floor, then your feet are over-pronated. Secondly, look at your running shoes. If they are worn on the inside of the sole in particular, then pronation may be a problem for you. Thirdly, try the wet foot test. Wet your feet and walk along a section of paving and look at the footprints you leave. A normal foot will leave a print of the heel, connected to the forefoot by a strip approximately half the width of the foot on the outside of the sole. If you?re feet are pronated there may be little distinction between the rear and forefoot, shown opposite. The best way to determine if you over pronate is to visit a podiatrist or similar who can do a full gait analysis on a treadmill or using forceplates measuring exactly the forces and angles of the foot whilst running. It is not only the amount of over pronation which is important but the timing of it during the gait cycle as well that needs to be assessed.
Non Surgical Treatment
Not all over pronation is treated. Although, when it appears to be a causitive factor that is contributing to pain,or development of structural deformities, there are various degrees of treatment.In some cases specific shoes may be all that is required. In other cases, paddings or strapping, are prescribed and where necessary orthotic therapy. A podiatric assesment would be advised to asses this.
Exercises to strengthen and stretch supporting muscles will help to keep the bones in proper alignment. Duck stance: Stand with your heels together and feet turned out. Tighten the buttock muscles, slightly tilt your pelvis forwards and try to rotate your legs outwards. You should feel your arches rising while you do this exercise. Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall and place hands on it for support. Lean forwards until stretch is felt in the calves. Hold for 30 seconds. Bend at knees and hold for a further 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Golf ball: While drawing your toes upwards towards your shins, roll a golf ball under the foot between 30 and 60 seconds. If you find a painful point, keep rolling the ball on that spot for 10 seconds. Big toe push:
Stand with your ankles in a neutral position (without rolling the foot inwards). Push down with your big toe but do not let the ankle roll inwards or the arch collapse. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Build up to longer times and fewer repetitions. Ankle strengthener: Place a ball between your foot and a wall. Sitting down and keeping your toes pointed upwards, press the outside of the foot against the ball, as though pushing it into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. Arch strengthener: Stand on one foot on the floor. The movements needed to remain balanced will strengthen the arch. When you are able to balance for 30 seconds, start doing this exercise using a wobble board.