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.
There are many possible causes for overpronation, but researchers have not yet determined one underlying cause. Hintermann states, Compensatory overpronation may occur for anatomical reasons, such as a tibia vara of 10 degrees or more, forefoot varus, leg length discrepancy, ligamentous laxity, or because of muscular weakness or tightness in the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Pronation can be influenced by sources outside of the body as well. Shoes have been shown to significantly influence pronation. Hintermann states that the same person can have different amounts of pronation just by using different running shoes. It is easily possible that the maximal ankle joint eversion movement is 31 degrees for one and 12 degrees for another running shoe.
Overpronation causes alterations in proper muscle recruitment patterns leading to tightness in the outside of the ankle (lateral gastrocnemius, soleus, and peroneals). This tightness can lead to weakness in the opposing muscles such as the medial gastrocnemius, anterior tibialis, and posterior tibialis. If these muscles are weak, they will not be able to keep the knee in proper alignment, causing the valgus position. All this tightness and weakness can cause pain within the ankle, calf, and knee region. And it can send imbalance and pain all the way up to the upper back, if deep core strength is lacking and can’t hold the pelvis in neutral.
Pronounced wear on the instep side of shoe heels can indicate overpronation, however it’s best to get an accurate assessment. Footbalance retailers offer a free foot analysis to check for overpronation and help you learn more about your feet.
Non Surgical Treatment
Get a gait analysis of your running style, this will highlight if you overpronate, oversupinate or have a neutral gait. Most podiatrists, physio’s and sports therapists will offer this service, as do some specialist sports shops. Find a clinic. If you overpronate, get orthotics with extra medial support. Many running shoes have a harder material on the inside of the midsole (the thick hard foam part of the running shoe). This means the inside of the shoe will be compressed less under load and support the inside of the foot preventing it from rolling in or flattening. For people with considerable overpronation, another option is to have an orthotic device fitted. Orthotic insoles come in many types and prices. Some are pre-molded and can be bought off the shelf. These are ok for the majority of problem feet. However some cases may require specially casted orthotics from a relevant sports injury therapist or podiatrist.
Custom-made orthotics supports not only the arch as a whole, but also each individual bone and joint that forms the arch. It is not enough to use an over-the-counter arch support, as these generic devices will not provide the proper support to each specific structure of the arch and foot. Each pronated foot?s arch collapses differently and to different degrees. The only way to provide the support that you may need is with a custom-made device. This action of the custom-made orthotic will help to prevent heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, calluses, arch pain, and weakness of the entire foot.