Pronation, or the inside of the foot rolling closer towards the ground, is a necessary part of the normal gait cycle, but when the foot rolls inwards too much, it can cause problems. Flat feet or collapsed arches, terms commonly used to describe this foot dysfunction, can often be helped once you recognize your muscle imbalances.
Too much pronation or pronation too early can result in problems such as achilles tendinopathies, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, hip malalignment and lower back issues to name just a few.
There are many things that can cause this. Wearing high heels, standing for long periods of time on a hard floor, pregnancy, obesity, age and even a persons genetic makeup may predispose them to having this issue. Oftentimes, tight or weak muscles can be contributing to this as well and it is these issues that we have the easiest control over.
Tight or weak muscles will bring your body out of its proper alignment. Improper alignment allows muscle imbalances to develop. This results in too much stress across various joints such as your foot and ankle, knee, hip or low back. Although orthotics may be in your future, what else can you do to help this issue?
Tight muscles need to be stretched.
Weak muscles need to be strengthened.
Awareness and engagement of proper alignment needs to be practiced.
Calf muscles that are tight will not allow full and proper movement at the ankle and foot joints resulting in a collapse of the midfoot into early pronation. When stretching the calf muscles, make sure you stretch both the soleus (using a bent knee) and the gastrocnemius (using a straight knee).
When the muscles on the sides and back of the hip are not strong, the upper leg bone and the lower leg bone may both roll inwards too much. Strengthening the glutes and external rotator muscles at the hip will help to keep this from happening. Exercises such as the clam and standing hip extension will help.
Awareness of proper knee tracking will help keep the knee from falling inwards contributing to early pronation at the foot. When doing squats and lunges, make sure that your kneecap is in line with the 2nd toe (the toe right next to the big one). If necessary, place a ball between your thighs when doing squats to help facilitate this. When standing on one leg for balance exercises, make sure that you are standing up tall with your hip right over your ankle and evenly weightbear through both feet. Utilize those strong hip muscles to keep your femur from rolling in and don’t allow your kneecap to point inwards.
How do you know if you are a pronator?
Look at the soles of your shoes. If there is alot of wear along the inside edge of the shoe or alot of wear near where your big toe sits, you may be overpronating. If your left shoe’s wear pattern is very different from the right, buying a pair of the “same shoes” will not suit feet that are very different. Orthotics may be necessary. Look for calluses, a sure sign of too much wear, along the inside edge of your heel or big toe.
If your flat feet are still causing you a problem, check in with your health practitioner for more help.