Over Pronation (Flat Feet) refers to the biomechanical shock-absorbing motion of the ankle, foot and lower leg. It is the natural inward flexing motion of the lower leg and ankle. Standing, walking, and running cause the ankle joint to pronate which in turn helps the body to absorb shock and allows it to control balance. An ankle joint that is too flexible causes more pronation than desired. This common condition is called Over- Pronation (sometimes referred to as "Flat Feet"). This foot condition places an extreme degree of strain on various connective tissues of the ankle, foot, and knee. If this condition is not addressed foot pain and toe deformities such as bunions and hammer toes (just to name a couple) may develop. Hip and lower back pain may also be residual results from this condition.
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.
Overpronation can negatively affect overall body alignment. The lowering of the longitudinal arch pulls the heel bone in, causing the leg, thigh bone and hip to rotate inwards, and an anterior tilt of the pelvis. Unnecessary strain to the ankles, knees, hips and back can result. Plantar fasciitis and inflammation, metatarsal pain, problems with the Achilles tendon, pain on the inside of the knee, and bursitis in the hip are just some of the conditions commonly associated with pronation.
Firstly, look at your feet in standing, have you got a clear arch on the inside of the foot? If there is not an arch and the innermost part of the sole touches the floor, then your feet are over-pronated. Secondly, look at your running shoes. If they are worn on the inside of the sole in particular, then pronation may be a problem for you. Thirdly, try the wet foot test. Wet your feet and walk along a section of paving and look at the footprints you leave. A normal foot will leave a print of the heel, connected to the forefoot by a strip approximately half the width of the foot on the outside of the sole. If you?re feet are pronated there may be little distinction between the rear and forefoot, shown opposite. The best way to determine if you over pronate is to visit a podiatrist or similar who can do a full gait analysis on a treadmill or using forceplates measuring exactly the forces and angles of the foot whilst running. It is not only the amount of over pronation which is important but the timing of it during the gait cycle as well that needs to be assessed.
Non Surgical Treatment
Supportive orthotics in the shoe is a method commonly implemented to treat many common running injuries associated with pronation. An advantage of orthotics is that they often allow the sufferer to continue to participate in athletic activity and avoid other treatment options that could be potentially costly and time consuming. Seventy-five percent of injured runners are successfully treated with the prescription of orthoses. Orthotics are the most effective treatment for symptoms that develop from unusual biomechanics within the body such as overpronation, resulting in either great improvement or complete healing of the injury in about half the cases.
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.