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. Overpronation is by far the most common foot type. Pronation is not linked one-to-one with low arches. Although pronation lowers the arches, this does not mean that only those with low arches overpronate. People with high arches can also overpronate! Some of us have always overpronated, for others overpronation develops with age, weight gain, regular standing work or intensive exercise.
During our development, the muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue structures that hold our bones together at the joints become looser than normal. When the bones are not held tightly in place, the joints are not aligned properly, and the foot gradually turns outward at the ankle, causing the inner ankle bone to appear more prominent. The foot moves in this direction because it is the path of least resistance. It is more difficult for the foot to move in the opposite direction (this is called supination). As we develop, the muscles and ligaments accommodate to this abnormal alignment. By the time growth is complete, the pronated foot is: abnormally flexible, flat, and its outer border appears raised so that as you step down you do not come down equally across the entire foot; instead, you come down mostly on the inner border of the foot. Normal aging will produce further laxity of our muscles that causes the pronation to become gradually worse.
If you overpronate, your symptoms may include discomfort in the arch and sole of foot. Your foot may appear to turn outward at the ankle. Your shoes wear down faster on the medial (inner) side of your shoes. Pain in ankle, shins, knees, or hips, especially when walking or running.Unfortunately, overpronation can lead to additional problems with your feet, ankles, and knees. Runners in particular find that overpronation can lead to shin splints, tarsal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, compartment syndrome, achilles tendonitis, bunions (hallux valgus) patello femoral pain syndrome, heel spurs, metatarsalgia. You do not have to be a runner or athlete to suffer from overpronation. Flat feet can be inherited, and many people suffer from pain on a day-to-day basis. Flat feet can also be traumatic in nature and result from tendon damage over time. Wearing shoes that do not offer enough arch support can also contribute to overpronation.
If you cannot afford to get a proper gait analysis completed, having someone observe you on a treadmill from behind will give you an idea if you are an overpronator. It is possible to tell without observing directly whether you are likely to be an overpronator by looking at your foot arches. Check your foot arch height by standing in water and then on a wet floor or piece of paper which will show your footprint. If your footprints show little to no narrowing in the middle, then you have flat feet or fallen arches. This makes it highly likely that you will overpronate to some degree when running. If you have low or fallen arches, you should get your gait checked to see how much you overpronate, and whether you need to take steps to reduce the level to which you overpronate. Another good test is to have a look at the wear pattern on an old pair of trainers. Overpronators will wear out the outside of the heel and the inside of the toe more quickly than other parts of the shoe. If the wear is quite even, you are likely to have a neutral running gait. Wear primarily down the outside edge means that you are a supinator. When you replace your running shoes you may benefit from shoes for overpronation. Motion control or stability running shoes are usually the best bet to deal with overpronation.
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.
Wear supportive shoes. If we’re talking runners you’re going to fall in the camp of needing ‘motion control’ shoes or shoes built for ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ pronators. There are many good brands of shoes out there. Don’t just wear these running, the more often the better. Make slow changes. Sudden changes in your training will aggravate your feet more than typical. Make sure you slowly increase your running/walking distance, speed and even how often you go per week. Strengthen your feet. As part of your running/walking warm up or just as part of a nightly routine try a few simple exercises to strengthen your feet, start with just ten of each and slowly add more sets and intensity. Stand facing a mirror and practice raising your arch higher off the ground without lifting your toes. Sit with a towel under your feet, scrunch your toes and try to pull the towel in under your feet. Sitting again with feet on the ground lift your heels as high as you can, then raise and lower on to toe tips.