Pronation is the natural way that our feet absorb shock: when our feet strike the ground the arches flex down and in to disperse the impact. Everyone pronates! Contrary to popular misconception it is healthy and normal. The problem begins when one or both of our feet pronate too much. When the arches flex too far inward or stay collapsed for too long pronation is considered excessive. We call this overpronation. The amount of overpronation can vary from mild to severe. In severe overpronation the feet and ankles can rotate too far inward just during standing.
In adults, the most common reason for the onset of Over-Pronation is a condition known as Post Tibial Tendonitis. This condition develops from repetitive stress on the main supporting tendon (Posterior Tibial Tendon) of the foot arch. As the body ages, ligaments and muscles can weaken. When this occurs the job of providing the majority of the support required by the foot arch is placed upon this tendon. Unfortunately, this tendon cannot bear the weight of this burden for too long. Eventually it fatigues under the added strain and in doing so the foot arch becomes progressively lower over a period of time.
Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all of the muscles and tendons which run from the leg and ankle into the foot will be twisted. In over-pronation, resulting laxity of the soft tissue structures of the foot and loosened joints cause the bones of the feet shift. When this occurs, the muscles which attach to these bones must also shift, or twist, in order to attach to these bones. The strongest and most important muscles that attach to our foot bones come from our lower leg. So, as these muscles course down the leg and across the ankle, they must twist to maintain their proper attachments in the foot. Injuries due to poor biomechanics and twisting of these muscles due to over-pronation include: shin splints, Achilles Tendonitis, generalized tendonitis, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, cramps, ankle sprains, and loss of muscular efficiency (reducing walking and running speed and endurance). Foot problems due to over-pronation include: bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen and painful arches, hammer toes, and calluses.
If you have flat feet or low arches, chances are you overpronate. Although not always the case, the lower your arches the greater the overpronate. Stand on a hard surface (in front of a mirror if you need to) and look at your feet, flat feet or low arches are easy to spot. If your feet look flatter than a pancake, have a look at your ankles and see if they seem collapsed or straight. If they are, you’re overpronating.
Non Surgical Treatment
When you see the doctor, he or she will likely perform a complete examination of your feet and watch you walk. The doctor will need to take x-rays to determine the cause of your flat feet. In some cases, further imaging may be needed, especially if your symptoms are severe and sudden in nature. Once you are properly diagnosed, your doctor will create an appropriate treatment plan. There are several options to correct overpronation, such as orthotics. In many cases, overpronation can be treated with non-surgical methods and over-the-counter orthotics. In severe cases, however, custom-made orthotics may work better. Orthotics provide arch support and therefore prevent collapse of the arch with weight bearing. They are made of materials such as spongy rubber or hard plastic. Your doctor will also want to examine your footwear to ensure they fit properly and offer enough medial support. Extra support and stability can be achieved with footwear that has a firm heel counter. If you are experiencing pain, you should be able to use over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen to relieve symptoms.
Firstly, a thorough and correct warm up will help to prepare the muscles and tendons for any activity or sport. Without a proper warm up the muscles and tendons around your feet, ankles and lower legs will be tight and stiff. There will be limited blood flow to the lower legs, which will result in a lack of oxygen and nutrients for those muscles. Click here for a detailed explanation of how, why and when to perform your warm up. Secondly, flexible muscles are extremely important in the prevention of most ankle and lower leg injuries. When muscles and tendons are flexible and supple, they are able to move and perform without being over stretched. If however, your muscles and tendons are tight and stiff, it is quite easy for those muscles and tendons to be pushed beyond their natural range of motion. To keep your muscles and tendons flexible and supple, it is important to undertake a structured stretching routine.