Flat Feet & Overpronation: The Impact on Your Health and Functioning
Flat feet (“pes planus” or fallen arches) is a postural deformity in which the arch of the foot collapses, causing the entire sole of the foot to come into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. Pronation is a term used to describe the natural way that our feet absorb shock. Pronation is the rolling in of the foot and the collapse of the arch. When you take a step, your foot strikes the ground on the outer portion of the heel, then the arches flex down and in to disperse and absorb the shock. Every person pronates to some extent and this is a necessary moment in the normal walking cycle as it allows the forefoot to make complete contact with the ground.
Overpronation is the most common abnormality found in the foot, and for this reason, is the most studied. In overpronation, the arches flex excessively causing the feet and ankles to rotate too far inward. Overpronation is when a person pronates too much and for too long. This places excess stress on the tendons and ligaments in the foot and lower extremity.
A foot that overpronates acts like a loose bag of bones during the walking cycle. This makes this type of foot very flexible but inefficient. The foot has to work much harder to propel the body, fatiguing easily and placing mechanical stresses on the lower body. Some of us have always overpronated, for others overpronation develops with age, weight gain, regular standing work or intensive exercise.
Overpronation can negatively affect overall body alignment. The lowering of the arch pulls the heel bone in, causing the leg, thigh bone and hip to rotate inwards, and an anterior (forward) tilt of the pelvis. Unnecessary strain to the ankles, knees, hips and back can result, causing pain and dysfunction. Overpronation can also contribute to osteoarthritis, sprains and strains, plantar fasciitis, inflammation, metatarsal pain, problems with the Achilles tendon, pain on the inside of the knee, and bursitis in the hip.
How can you know if you overpronate?
Overpronation can be observed by posture, walking patterns and the wear on the bottom of your shoes. Overpronation is suspected with excessive wear on the instep side of shoe heels and with foot arches that “collapse” excessively when you walk. However, the best method to determine if you have overpronation is to have a thorough physical assessment by a trained health professional (i.e. chiropractor, podiatrist, etc).
What can I do about overpronation?
Studies have shown custom foot orthotics to be a great help for overpronation. Orthotics are inserts for your shoes that are designed to align the foot and ankle into the most anatomically efficient position. Custom orthotics look like shoe insoles, but are specific plastic medical devices that are custom made to correct imbalances and biomechanical misalignment. Custom orthotics improve skeletal alignment, reduce stress and strain on your body, and improve function of your feet and lower limbs. Consequently, orthotics improve one’s biomechanics and reduce discomfort throughout the lower kinetic chain, including the feet, ankles, knees, hips, pelvis and low back.
Custom orthotics are made from precise imprints of your feet and they can be used to treat a variety of conditions including:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Flat Feet (Per Planus)
- High Arches (Pes Cavus)
- High Arches
- Bunions, Calluses and Corns
- Morton’s Neuroma
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Ankle Sprains
- Shin Splints
- Knee Pain
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Hip Pain
- Low Back Pain
- Diabetic Feet
- Sports Performance
In addition, there are specific exercises that should be prescribed by an experienced health professional to strengthen the muscles of the foot and its arches.
The important message here is to identify the presence of overpronation and manage this early on to prevent health implications down the road.
Contact Dr. Levi for more information regarding foot assessments, orthotics and exercises for optimal foot health. Don’t hesitate to ask!