To better understand how the muscles and tissue structures in the feet, ankles, legs and hips are adversely affected by overpronation, imagine a person on the end of a bungee cord jumping off a bridge. If the bungee cord gets the right amount of tension on it as the person nears the ground, then he or she will be saved from smashing into the earth. However, if the bungee cord does not pull tight because it is twisted or has no elasticity, then the person will impact the ground with dire consequences. The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia of the legs and feet are the body's bungee cords. If these bungee cords work together, they can protect the joints of the feet and ankles from excessive stress, and prevent muscle and tissue damage caused by overpronation. If they do not work properly, a person will be able to see evidence of this in the feet and ankles, particularly in the alignment of the joints.
It is important to identify the cause of overpronation in order to determine the best treatment methods to adopt. Not all treatments and preventative measures will work equally well for everyone, and there may be a little trial and error involved to get the best treatment. A trip to a podiatrist or a sports therapist will help you to establish the cause of overpronation, and they will be able to tell you the best treatments based on your specific degree of overpronation and the cause. Overpronation has many causes, with the most common reasons for excessive pronation listed, low arches, flexible flat feet, fallen arches, gait abnormalities, abnormal bone structure, abnormal musculature, bunions, corns and calluses.
Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all of the muscles and tendons which run from the leg and ankle into the foot will be twisted. In over-pronation, resulting laxity of the soft tissue structures of the foot and loosened joints cause the bones of the feet shift. When this occurs, the muscles which 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. Injuries due to poor biomechanics and twisting of these muscles due to over-pronation include: 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). Foot problems due to over-pronation include: bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen and painful arches, hammer toes, and calluses.
Bunions, calluses and crooked toes may indicate alignment problems. So, it is important to ascertain the condition of a client's toes. Check the big toe to determine if the first joint of the toe is swollen, has a callus or bunion, and/or looks as though it abducts (i.e., hallux valgus) rather than pointing straight ahead. Also, look to see if the lesser toes seem to "curl up" (i.e., the person has hammer or claw toes). This may be indicative of damage to, or inflexibility of the plantar fascia caused by excessive flattening of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
The following exercises help retrain the foot and ankle complex to correct overpronation. Exercises may be performed while wearing shoes, or for an even greater challenge, in bare feet. Duck Stand. This exercise is designed to prepare for the more dynamic BT exercises ahead by waking up the gluteal muscles and teaching clients how the gluteal muscles control the degree of foot pronation. For example, when the glutes contract concentrically, they rotate the leg outward. As the leg rotates outward, the arch of the foot raises (i.e., supinates). Stand beside the BT with both heels together and feet turned outward. (Note: As you progress, perform this exercise while standing on the BT.) Try to rotate legs outward by tightening buttock muscles while tilting pelvis under. As legs rotate outward, arches of the feet raise up out of pronation. Hold position for 30 seconds. Big Toe Pushdowns. This exercise is designed to strengthen the muscle of the big toe that holds up the arch of the foot (i.e., flexor hallucis longus muscle). This stops the foot from overpronating. Stand on top of the BT dome with feet facing forward. Use gluteal muscles to raise the arches of the feet (see previous exercise - "Duck Stand"). Keep arches raised while pushing down big toe into the BT. While pushing down, tension build in the arch on the underside of their foot should be felt. Hold position for 15 seconds.
Pronation forces us to bear most of our weight on the inner border of our feet. Custom-made orthotics gently redistributes the weight so that the entire foot bears its normal share of weight with each step we take. The foot will not twist out at the ankle, but will strike the ground normally when the orthotics is used. This action of the custom-made orthotics will help to prevent shin splints, ankle sprains, knee and hip pain, lower back pain, nerve entrapments, tendonitis, muscle aches, bunions, generalized fatigue, hammer toes, and calluses.