What is overpronation?
You may not put much thought into how your foot hits the ground when you walk or run. After all, it feels automatic. You make the motion countless times throughout the day.
How you step actually does matter for your health, especially if you participate in sports, like running.
One way your foot can move when you step is called overpronation. Overpronation means that your foot rolls inward as you move. If you overpronate, the outer edge of your heel hits the ground first, and then your foot rolls inward onto the arch. Pronation refers to the flattening of your feet. So, if you overpronate, you overly flatten your feet.
As your arch flattens and stretches, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are strained. You may be at a higher risk of developing certain injuries.
- ankle sprains
- shin splints
- achilles tendinitis
- heel spurs
- plantar fasciitis
Learn more: Plantar fasciitis stretches to soothe heal pain »
How can I tell if I overpronate?
A quick and easy way to see if you overpronate is to look at the bottom of your shoes for signs of wear and tear. If most of the wear is on the inside sole near the ball of the foot and near the big toe, there’s a good possibility that you overpronate. You may even notice that your shoes tilt inward if you look at them on a flat surface.
Now take a look at your bare feet. Do you have low arches or flat feet? This may be another sign.
People who overpronate also experience a number of symptoms, including:
- heel or arch pain
- flat feet
- corns or calluses
- knee, hip, or back pain
- hammer toes
Another way to tell if you overpronate is to look at your shins. Try following the line of your bone from your knee all the way to your ankle. If this line leads toward the inside portion of your foot, you may be overpronating. Ideally, you want the line of your bone to lead to the first or second toe.
Beyond self-diagnosis, you may want to visit a podiatrist, physical therapist, or another doctor to have what’s called a video gait analysis. During this test, a video is taken of you running or walking on a treadmill. This footage is then slowed down and looked at by your doctor. When your gait, or how you walk, is looked at in slow motion, your doctor can determine if you overpronate.
You can also ask your doctor about 3D foot mapping. You step on a special mat with or without your shoes on. This mat has lots of sensors that feed information to a computer about how your foot strikes the ground when you walk. To test for overpronation, your doctor would likely see that much of the pressure of your step is toward the arch of your foot.
Some running shops, like ASICS in London, also offer these types of tests. If you’re experiencing symptoms or injuries, though, it may be best to head see your doctor.
You may get some relief by choosing different shoes or adding inserts to your shoes. These inserts are called orthotics. You can get them over the counter or by prescription, and in some cases, your health insurance may even cover part of the cost. Orthotics support your arch and can improve the way your foot hits the ground. They may ease the pain you are experiencing and reduce your pronation during activities.
Prescription orthotics are custom made for you using the information from your gait analysis. Non-prescription orthotics are made by more general sizes and shapes. You place these devices in your shoes before walking or engaging in other activities.
Orthotics are a passive form of supporting your arches and correcting movement. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy or even chiropractic work to actively change your gait over time.
Shoes for overpronation
Finding good shoes can also help:
- Consider visiting a podiatrist or running shop that offers some form of gait analysis before you buy. By watching how your foot hits the ground in slow motion, you can make the best choice based on your unique motion.
- Have both of your feet measured to make sure you’re choosing the best size that will fit both feel properly. You’ll want to pay attention to the width and length of your feet.
- Consider heading to the store later in the day if possible. Your feet swell throughout the day, so a shoe that fits perfectly in the morning may not feel so great in the evening.
- When you’re trying on any shoes, bring the type of socks you typically wear. Some people wear thinner socks, other people wear thicker socks. That can help you find the most comfortable fit.
- Don’t count on shoes stretching or wearing in with time. If they feel tight, go the next size up.
Shoes that may work best for overpronators include stability shoes. This type generally helps to distribute the impact of your gait to lessen the pronation. These shoes may also be labeled as “motion control” and have extra arch support for flat feet and extra cushioning. Some athletic shoes are also targeted towards overpronators. Ask a store associate if they have a section of shoes for overpronation.
Exercises and stretches for overpronators
Some exercises and stretches may help relieve pain or discomfort, or retrain your gait by raising and strengthening your arches to correct the alignment of the ankles and the knees.
Short foot posture
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To try this move, simply:
- Take off your shoes and stand with your feet at hip-width apart.
- Keeping your toes on the floor, distribute your weight to the outer edges of your feet, raising the arch.
- Hold for a few seconds and then return to your starting position.
- You should eventually work up to holding this posture during your daily activities.
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A duck stand may also help you by “waking up” your glutes. These muscles play a role in how much you pronate.
- Stand with your heels together and your feet turned out like a duck.
- Try your best to move your legs outward using your glute muscles and tilting your pelvis under your body. You may notice that as your legs rotate, the arches of your feet come up and out of pronation.
- You may hold this position for 30 seconds.
Closed chain calf stretch
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This stretch is also sometimes called a wall stretch. You may want to do this stretch while in your orthotics to make sure you aren’t stretching the wrong muscles or tendons.
- Stand a few feet away from a wall.
- Bend your front knee as you place one of your feet behind you to stretch your calf muscle.
- Rest your hands on the wall in front of you.
- If you haven’t already, try to slowly lower your back heel to the ground.
- Hold this position for up to 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.
Open chain calf stretch
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An open chain calf stretch is a seated stretch.
- Sit on the ground with your legs stretched in front of you.
- Keep your feet in as neutral a position as possible.
- Lean forward slightly and grab your toes to stretch them back, which will stretch your calves.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds and release. Repeat this stretch a few times.
If you’re experiencing pain or injury as a result of overpronation, visit your doctor. There are many ways you can work toward getting relief. It may be as simple as changing your workout shoes or adding a custom orthotic. Certain exercises with the guidance from a doctor or physical therapist may also help by actively stretching and strengthening your legs and feet.