One of the main postural deviations that cause pain and injury in the foot and ankle area (and resultant compensations in the rest of the body) is overpronation. Pronation is a normal function that occurs when the foot rolls inward toward the midline of the body. This movement causes the heel to collapse inward and the medial arch of the foot to elongate and flatten. Overpronation, however, is when the foot collapses too far inward for normal function. Consequently, this directly affects the ability of the foot to perform and can disrupt proper functioning through the entire body.
A common cause of pronation is heredity – we can inherit this biomechanical defect. The second most common cause is due to the way our feet were positioned in the uterus while we were developing; this is called a congenital defect. In either instance, the following occurs in our feet during our development.
Over-Pronation may cause pain in the heel of the foot, the foot arch, under the ball of the foot, in the ankle, knee, hip or back. The symptoms may be localized to one particular area of the foot or may be experienced in any number of combinations. Standing for long periods of time, walking and running may become difficult due to the additional stress and/or discomfort accompanied with these activities. Upon Visual Inspection, when standing the heels of the foot lean inward and one or both of the knee caps may turn inward.
The best way to discover whether you have a normal gait, or if you overpronate, is to visit a specialty run shop, an exercise physiologist, a podiatrist or a physical therapist who specializes in working with athletes. A professional can analyze your gait, by watching you either walk or run, preferably on a treadmill. Some facilities can videotape your gait, then analyze the movement of your feet in slow-motion. Another (and less costly) way is to look at the bottom of an older pair of run shoes. Check the wear pattern. A person with a normal gait will generally see wear evenly across the heel and front of the shoe. A person who overpronates will likely see more wear on the OUTside of the heel and more wear on the INside of the forefoot (at the ball). A person who supinates will see wear all along the outer edges of the shoe. You can also learn about your gait by looking at your arches. Look at the shape your wet feet leave on a piece of paper or a flat walking surface.
Non Surgical Treatment
Pronation and supination are bio-mechanical problems, and are best treated and prevented with orthotic inserts. But before you run out to buy orthotics it makes sense to get the right advice on footwear, and the best advice I can give you, is to go and see a qualified podiatrist for a complete foot-strike and running gait analysis. They will be able to tell you if there are any concerns regarding the way your running gait is functioning. After your running gait has been analysed, have your podiatrist, or competent sports footwear sales person recommend a number of shoes that suit your requirements. Good quality footwear will go a long way in helping to prevent pronation and supination. And, if needed, invest in a pair of orthotic inserts to further prevent excessive pronation or supination.
With every step we take, we place at least half of our body weight on each foot (as we walk faster, or run, we can exert more than twice our body weight on each foot). As this amount of weight is applied to each foot there is a significant shock passed on to our body. Custom-made orthotics will absorb some of this shock, helping to protect our feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.