Pronation is the normal movement the foot makes to absorb the impact from walking or running. It occurs once the heel strikes the ground and the foot disperses the impact, stretching and flattening the arch as the foot rolls inward. Supination is the opposite motion of pronation. The foot supinates, or rolls on its outer edge, to help with stability as we walk or run. A reasonable amount of pronation is necessary for the foot to function properly. However, when the foot arch remains flat and the foot rolls inward too much one may have excessive pronation or overpronation. This medical condition can result from continually straining the feet and wearing footwear that lacks sufficient foot arch support.
Excess stress on the inner surface of the foot can cause injury and pain in the foot and ankle. Repeated rotational forces through the shin, knee, thigh and pelvis also place additional strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the lower leg.
Overpronation can be a contributing factor in other lower extremity disorders, such as foot pain, plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), periostitis, stress fractures and myofascial trigger points. Overpronation increases the degree of internal tibial rotation, thereby contributing to various knee disorders such as meniscal injury or ligament sprains. The effects of the postural deviation are exaggerated in athletes due to the increase in foot strikes while running and the greater impact load experienced. When running, three to four times the body weight is experienced with each foot strike.2 If overpronation exists, the shock force is not adequately absorbed by the foot and is transmitted further up the kinetic chain.
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
The following exercises help retrain the foot and ankle complex to correct overpronation. Exercises may be performed while wearing shoes, or for an even greater challenge, in bare feet. Duck Stand. This exercise is designed to prepare for the more dynamic BT exercises ahead by waking up the gluteal muscles and teaching clients how the gluteal muscles control the degree of foot pronation. For example, when the glutes contract concentrically, they rotate the leg outward. As the leg rotates outward, the arch of the foot raises (i.e., supinates). Stand beside the BT with both heels together and feet turned outward. (Note: As you progress, perform this exercise while standing on the BT.) Try to rotate legs outward by tightening buttock muscles while tilting pelvis under. As legs rotate outward, arches of the feet raise up out of pronation. Hold position for 30 seconds. Big Toe Pushdowns. This exercise is designed to strengthen the muscle of the big toe that holds up the arch of the foot (i.e., flexor hallucis longus muscle). This stops the foot from overpronating. Stand on top of the BT dome with feet facing forward. Use gluteal muscles to raise the arches of the feet (see previous exercise – “Duck Stand”). Keep arches raised while pushing down big toe into the BT. While pushing down, tension build in the arch on the underside of their foot should be felt. Hold position for 15 seconds.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your surgeon may recommend one or more treatment options. Ultimately, however, it’s YOUR decision as to which makes the most sense to you. There are many resources available online and elsewhere for you to research the various options and make an informed decision.