Pronation refers to the natural side-to-side movement of the foot as you walk or run. The foot rolls a bit inward with each step, and with the correct gait should begin to roll outward with the toe-off.
But for some people, the ankle rolls too far downward and inward with each step, which is known as over pronation. This can lead to injury but can be corrected with the right shoes, insoles, or orthotics.
Over-pronation is very prominent in people who have flexible, flat feet. The framework of the foot begins to collapse, causing the foot to flatten and adding stress to other parts of the foot. As a result, over-pronation, often leads to Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Metatarsalgia, Post-tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions. There are many causes of flat feet. Obesity, pregnancy or repetitive pounding on a hard surface can weaken the arch leading to over-pronation. Often people with flat feet do not experience discomfort immediately, and some never suffer from any discomfort at all. However, when symptoms develop and become painful, walking becomes awkward and causes increased strain on the feet and calves.
The feet are essential for proper running form and good biomechanics, but they are often neglected by runners. Trying to run with poor foot mechanics is like trying to build a house on unstable foundations: it’ll lead to big problems further down the line. To put it another way, if your foot arch overpronates then it can cause pain in the foot, shins, knee, hip and even the lower back, simply because the leg isn’t aligned correctly.
Treatment and Prevention
Over-Pronation can be treated conservatively (non-surgical treatments) with over-the-counter orthotics. These orthotics should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rearfoot posting to prevent the over-pronation. Footwear should also be examined to ensure there is a proper fit. Footwear with a firm heel counter is often recommended for extra support and stability. Improperly fitting footwear can lead to additional foot problems.
If overpronation is caused by a structural issue then it is difficult to solve. Instead, it is important to prevent the foot from rolling inwards too much during running, so either supportive shoes or orthotics are used. Mild overpronators should use supportive shoes, while excessive overpronation will be better served by motion control shoes. If overpronation is causing pain, then custom made orthotics may be required.
Orthotics provide more control and support for people who overpronate, but are also much more expensive. To get a pair of orthotics professionally fitted can cost hundreds of dollars, but nothing else will provide the same custom fit and level of support. If you’re having problems with your knees, shins or hips, then a visit to a podiatrist who specializes in running injuries may be a good idea.