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.
Although there are many factors that can contribute to the development of these conditions, improper biomechanics of the body plays a large and detrimental role in the process. Of the many biomechanical elements involved, foot and ankle function perhaps contribute the most to these aches and pains.
With over pronation, sufferers are most likely to experience pain through the arch of the foot. A lack of stability is also a common complaint. Over pronation also causes the foot to turn outward during movement at the ankle, causing sufferers to walk along the inner portion of the foot. This not only can deliver serious pain through the heel and ankle, but it can also be the cause of pain in the knees or lower back as well. This condition also causes the arch to sink which places stress on the bones, ligaments, and tendons throughout the foot. This may yield other common conditions of foot pain such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
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
Overpronation is usually corrected with orthotics and/or strengthening exercises for the tibialis posterior. Massage treatment can relieve myofascial trigger points in the tibialis posterior, and other muscles, and address any resulting neuromuscular dysfunction in the leg or foot. Biomechanical correction of overpronation might require orthotics, neuromuscular reeducation, or gait retraining methods, as well. Stretching the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles will reduce hypertonicity in these muscles and also is essential for effective treatment. Because of impacts throughout the remainder of the body, the detrimental effects of overpronation should not be overlooked.
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.