Do you really think about the way your foot hits the ground when you are running or walking? This motion is repeated a countless number of times in a day, isn’t it? Well, how you set your foot is actually an important health factor. One of the ways in which you can move your feet is called overpronation.
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In order to understand overpronation, we must first learn about pronation. Pronation is the part of the human body’s natural movement and generally refers to the manner in which a foot rolls inward for the purpose distributing the hit of the foot as it lands. It occurs when the weight is transferred to the forefoot from the heel while you are running or walking. When a person is standing, pronation would occur when the foot rolls in inward and the arch of the foot flattens.
The term is more commonly used to describe someone who has flat feet. Pronation is nothing abnormal or unnatural and is actually a part of the gait cycle that offers shock absorption when the foot hits the ground. To be able to get yourself some comfortable shoes, you would need to understand your pronation type. There are basically three kinds of pronation – Neutral pronation, overpronation and under-pronation (Supination).
What is Overpronation?
Overpronation is when your foot tends to roll inward as you begin to move. If your foot overpronates, your heel’s outer edge would hit the ground first and then your foot would roll inward towards the arch. In this, your feet are overly flattened. Quite a certain amount of it is natural but for some people the foot tends to roll in too much and that causes overpronation.
Causes and Symptoms of Overpronation
For people who have rather flat and flexible foot, are most likely to overpronate. The foot’s framework, over the time, begins to collapse which causes the feet to flatten and stress is added to other parts of the foot. If not taken care of, it can lead to Metatarsalgia, Plantar Fasciitis, Post-tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions and Heel Spurs. There might be several causes of flat feet out of which the most common ones would be obesity, repetitive pounding on hard surfaces or pregnancy.
All these can weaken the foot’s natural arch which eventually causes over-pronation. People who have flat feet do not begin to experience immediately and some people actually might never experience any kind of discomfort at all. But, as the symptoms start to develop and you start to experience pain, walking would become pretty much difficult and awkward and would cause strain on the calves and the feet. The most common signs that you would notice would be heel or arch pain, flat feet/ reduced arches, Hip/knee/back issues, common ankle sprains and shin splints.
Under-pronation, or supination, is basically the insufficient foot’s inward roll when it hits the ground. The outer portion of the heel would, of course, make an initial contact with the ground but then there is less rolling of the foot as compared to those with flat or normal feet. The forces of the impact when a person is running is concentrated on a rather smaller area of the foot and is therefore not distributed evenly. This can lead to several problems.
Determining Your Pronation Type
There are two ways that can help you to determine your pronation type.
Going for a Pronation Test
When you go for a pronation test, the exact type can be detected and accordingly proper care can be taken. There are 2 types of tests.
- Video Gait Analysis – You would be asked to run on a treadmill and a video of that would be taken. The footage would then be slowed viewed in slow motion so as to properly analyze the condition of the foot. The person examining your foot then would be able to tell you your running type so that you can choose the most appropriate pair of shoes for yourself.
- 3D Foot Mapping – This technology is an advanced option and uses micro cameras, lasers, and videos so as to get a detailed image of the person’s feet. With this analysis, your arch height, Achilles alignment with the leg and many such things can be determined easily. This scan would help you in finding the right shoe for yourself and also knowing what actually might be causing injuries.
Wear Patterns on Your Shoe
The other way to know your pronation type is by determining the wear patterns on your shoe. These can provide you with some extra information regarding the impact that is caused to your feet. This will also give you an idea of which exact place in the shoe would you require some extra cushioning and support. For under-pronators, the outside of the running shoe would have most wear while for people with overpronation, the inside of the heel and under the ball of the foot area would show most wear.
Ways to Identify Overpronation
There are actually a few ways that can help you in determining if you overpronate.
- Stand absolutely straight and look at your foot closely. Determine if you have got an arch present on the inside of the foot. If you find out that there isn’t an arch and that the sole’s innermost part is touching the floor, you have overpronation.
- One other way is to try the wet foot test. For this, you would need to wet both your feet and then walk on a section of paving. Take about three four steps and then examine the footprints that you have left. A normal foot would have the print of the heel which would be connected to the forefoot with a strip. This strip would be somewhere about half the width of the foot on the sole’s outside. If you notice a little difference between the forefront and the rear, your foot is overpronated.
- Take a look at your shoes that you most often wear during running. If you notice that they seem a bit worn out on the sole’s inside in particular, then overpronation might be the cause.
- Visit a podiatrist regularly who would do a complete analysis of your gait by using force plates which would help in measuring the exact forces and angles of your foot when you are running or walking.
Overpronation and Running Injuries
Overpronation is, of course, a serious problem and people often do not realize but it can actually lead to a number of injuries. This problem is more common amongst runners and for them, overpronation-related running injuries is a big issue. Some of the most common injuries would be anterior compartment syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, bunions (Hallux valgus), Patellofemoral pain syndrome, Achilles tendonitis and Tarsal tunnel syndrome.
As one of the feet turns inward, it can put the hip and knee out of alignment which can, in turn, cause the back of the person to be rotated. This foot that is overpronated is then corrected with the help of an orthotic device which is actually inserted into the running shoe. This device then regulates the heel’s position and allows the other parts of the foot to fall properly into place.
Preventing Overpronation Injuries
Due to overpronation, tightness and stress are caused by the muscles. When the foot remains in motion most of the times (which is quite common for the runners), it can lead to runner’s knee, calluses, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and bunions. It is therefore essential to indulge in a bit of stretching to prevent overpronation injuries. Listed below are a few tips that would help you to combat overpronation and find the right shoes for yourself.
- Figure out your gait style
- Wear shoes that have semi-curved or straight lasts
- Using appropriate orthotics support
- Find stability or motion-control shoes that have multi-density and firm midsoles
- Look for shoes that have external control features so as to limit pronation
- Find insoles that suit your specific overpronation style
Preventing Underpronation Injuries
Similar to overpronation, under-pronation or supination also causes several problems. People suffering from under-pronation should focus on stretching that would help their calves, quads, iliotibial band and hamstrings. Wearing the right kind of shoe would also aid in preventing any serious injury.
- Find insoles that suit your specific supination style
- Choose lightweight trainers as they would allow your foot to move freely
- When you go to purchase shoes, check the flexibility of the inner part of the shoe
- Wear shoes that have curved lasts as they allow pronation
Choosing the Right Running Shoe
Choosing the right running shoe is absolutely essential to prevent any kind of injuries.
For the Overpronators
People with overpronation require as much support, stability and cushioning to their feet as possible. Stability running shoes are an absolute must. These would help in effectively distributing the impact of landing so as to minimize pronation. These kinds of shoes have firm midsoles that offer arch support to those with flat feet.
For the under-pronators
People with under-pronation require cushioned running shoes which help in absorbing the shock when the feet hit the ground and thereby prevent any stress-related injuries. In these kinds of shoes cushioning is literally present everywhere and that helps distribute the impact evenly.
Exercises and Stretches For Overpronators
There are certain exercises and stretches for overpronators that would help in relieving any kind of discomfort or pain and, if done regularly, can strengthen your arches.
How much you pronate is largely determined by your muscles. The Duck Stand would help you in waking up the extensor muscle of the hip, thereby easing the pain. For the exercise, you would need to stand in a straight position with your heels together, touching each other and your feet turned out like a duck’s feet. After this, try to move your legs outwards by focusing on your glute muscles. The arches of the feet would begin to come up and eventually out of pronation as your legs start to rotate. Stay in this position for 30 minutes and return back to the starting position. Repeat for a few more times.
Short Foot Posture
For this one, stand straight with your feet kept at hip-width apart. Your toes should be in such a way that whole of the weight is distributed to the outer edges of the foot. Raise your arch. Hold this position for about 20 seconds and then come back to the starting position. Repeat this several times a day.
Open Chain Calf Stretch
For this stretch, you would need to be seated on the ground with your legs completely stretched in front. Keep your feet straight and then slowly lean forward, grab your toes and then stretch them backward. This would stretch your calves too. Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat for a few more times.
Closed Chain Calf Stretch
For this exercise, you would need to stand just a few feet away from the wall. Start bending your knee of one leg while the other leg is placed behind so as to stretch the calf muscles. Then rest your hands on the wall in front of you and then slowly and steadily lower your back heel towards the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds and then repeat with the other leg. You might want to do this stretch with your orthotics insert so as to prevent stretching of the wrong muscles.
If you are in a lot of pain due to overpronation, you might want to visit your doctor. Most people tend to ignore the pain until it increases to a large extent. It is very important to ensure that you go for a completely functional and structural evaluation before you opt for any corrective techniques. A qualified doctor would be able to determine your type of pronation as well as why it happened. You might just need to do a simple stretching exercise, add an orthotic or change your workout shoes.
Now that you know how to prevent and treat both, overpronation and under-pronation, do some warm up stretches and run it off!