Overpronation is a term which is used more and more frequently by runners and exercisers these days, but what is overpronation and is it bad? Overpronation is excessive pronation of the feet when walking and running, and it can place people at risk of developing foot problems. Knowing the degree to which you pronate is important in order to select the correct footwear and exercise shoes. If you pronate excessively you could be placing an excessive strain on your feet, however overpronators can also place an excessive strain on the ankles, legs, knees, hips and lower back. Runners often claim to be an overpronator or even an underpronator or supinator. These terms may very well be viewed in a negative light when they really are not a problem at all. On the other hand people may be overpronators and not even know about it and could be at a high risk of developing a musculoskeletal problem.
Congenital "Flat Feet" - an individual may be born with feet that lack an appropriately supportive arch thereby predisposing the individual to this foot condition. Excessive Weight (Obesity) Too much weight on the foot from either obesity or pregnancy may be a factor. Repetitive Impact walking on flat, hard surfaces continuously places unnatural stress on the foot arch.
Due to the laxity of the soft tissue structures of the foot, and the fact that the joints are not held together properly, the bones of the feet shift. When this occurs, the muscles that attach to these bones must also shift, or twist, in order to attach to these bones. The strongest and most important muscles that attach to our foot bones come from our lower leg. So, as these muscles course down the leg and across the ankle, they must twist to maintain their proper attachments in the foot. This twisting of these muscles will cause shin splints, Achilles Tendonitis, generalized tendonitis, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, cramps, ankle sprains, and loss of muscular efficiency (reducing walking and running speed and endurance). The problems we see in the feet, which are due to over-pronation include bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen and painful arches, hammertoes, metatarsalgia (ball of foot pain), and calluses.
A quick way to see if you over-pronate is to look for these signs. While standing straight with bare feet on the floor, look so see if the inside of your arch or sole touches the floor. Take a look at your hiking or running shoes; look for wear on the inside of the sole. Wet your feet and walk on a surface that will show the foot mark. If you have a neutral foot you should see your heel connected to the ball of your foot by a mark roughly half of width of your sole. If you over-pronate you will see greater than half and up to the full width of your sole.
Non Surgical Treatment
Over-pronation and the problems that go with it are treated with shoe inserts called arch supports or orthotics. You can buy orthotics at a pharmacy or athletic shoe store or they can be custom made. Make sure the arch supports are firm. If you can easily bend them in half, they may be too flexible.
Custom-made orthotics will reduce the twisting of the leg muscles as they enter the foot, by maintaining a normal alignment of the bones and joints of the foot. If the bones and joints are aligned properly, by reducing the pronation, the muscles can run straight to their attachments in the foot, without twisting to get to these bones. This action of custom-made orthotics will reduce Achilles Tendonitis shin splints; ankle, knee, hip, and lower back pain; and leg cramps. This action will also allow the leg muscles to work more efficiently, thus allowing you to walk and run with less effort.