Overpronation: Is Your Gait Great?
By Krista Elliott
If you run, or know a runner, you may have heard of the term "overpronation." The term is used interchangeably with "flat feet," but overpronation tends to be mentioned more when it comes to the foot actually being in motion. It may seem like a harmless condition, but overpronation can affect your entire body.
What is Overpronation?
The normal pronation of the foot is when the foot rolls from the heel to the forefoot while walking, pushing off with the toes. When you overpronate, your foot rolls too far inward. So instead of rolling to the forefoot, the foot rolls inward, toward the big toe. This can be caused by the foot having too low of an arch, or the arch collapsing when weight is put upon it. Weak or uneven hip muscles can even cause a sort of induced pronation by forcing the knees (and as a result, the feet) to angle inward when walking or running.
Is Overpronation Harmful?
Because overpronation is not the biomechanically natural way for your feet to move when walking or running, it can cause strain and muscular imbalances. The feet roll inward, causing strain on the ankles, which then pulls the knees inward, which stresses the muscles of the hips (sing it with me: The knee bone's connected to the ... hip bone!) All of this uneven wear and strain can lead to a wide range of issues:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Heel spurs
- Shin splints
- Tears in the ACL joint or meniscus of the knee
- Hip pain and injury
It makes sense, considering that your gait involves not just your feet, but your entire lower body. So, what can you do to treat overpronation and get back to a healthy gait?
Do I Overpronate?
There are a couple of easy ways to tell if you overpronate. First of all, take a look at the shoes that you wear most often. In a normal gait, the bottom of the forefoot would be worn fairly evenly, and the heel wear would be just slightly outside of center. But, if you overpronate, you'd notice more wear on the outside edge of the heel, and under the ball of the big toe. Another way to tell if you overpronate is to dampen your feet and then walk a few steps on a length of butcher paper. The wider the print between heel and forefoot, the more you pronate.
How To Treat Overpronation
A good first step (sorry) is to get your gait analyzed by a professional. From there, a good combination of treatment is to select shoes with good arch support, and also to perform exercises to strengthen the inner legs and ankles, and stretch tight hips and outer legs. If your pronation is severe, an orthotic may be prescribed.
Overpronation can be a pain, but with the right treatment and footwear, it doesn't have to keep you from your favorite activities. It may take some effort, but you too can have a great gait!