One of the most common causes of foot and leg discomfort is a condition known as overpronation. Normal pronation, or "turning inward" of the foot is necessary as the foot adapts to the ground. With over pronation, the arch flattens, collapses, and soft tissues stretch. This causes the joint surfaces to function at unnatural angles to each other. When this happens, joints that should be stable now become very loose and flexible. At first, over pronation may cause fatigue. As the problem gets worse, strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot and lower leg can cause permanent problems and deformities.
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.
Common conditions that develop with prolonged overpronation typically include plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, shin splints, posterior tibial stress syndrome and even IT band syndrome. With long term neglect you may see the development of bunyons, foot deformities and early onset of hip and knee arthritis.
The best way to discover whether you have a normal gait, or if you overpronate, is to visit a specialty run shop, an exercise physiologist, a podiatrist or a physical therapist who specializes in working with athletes. A professional can analyze your gait, by watching you either walk or run, preferably on a treadmill. Some facilities can videotape your gait, then analyze the movement of your feet in slow-motion. Another (and less costly) way is to look at the bottom of an older pair of run shoes. Check the wear pattern. A person with a normal gait will generally see wear evenly across the heel and front of the shoe. A person who overpronates will likely see more wear on the OUTside of the heel and more wear on the INside of the forefoot (at the ball). A person who supinates will see wear all along the outer edges of the shoe. You can also learn about your gait by looking at your arches. Look at the shape your wet feet leave on a piece of paper or a flat walking surface.
Non Surgical Treatment
The way a foot orthotic works is by altering the weight-bearing surface of the foot. The simulated foot improvement is only possible when standing still with full weight applied. Orthotics are of little help through most of the actual walking cycle. observationPatients may experience some symptom relief, but the orthotic cannot correct the internal osseous misalignment. Over-the-counter foot orthotics are usually of little help and wear out quickly. Custom-made foot orthotics, obtained through your doctor's office, are generally expensive. Though they last longer and have less chance of ill-effects than OTC brands, they still need to be replaced often. Over a lifetime, an individual can spend several thousands of dollars in total costs associated with orthotics and see little or no results. This is because orthotics only work when you are wearing them and do not treat the cause of the problem. In many cases, the external pressure points created by orthotics can cause more problems than solutions. Blisters, sore feet, sore joints and many other long-term complications can arise as a consequence of wearing orthotics.
Duck stance: Stand with your heels together and feet turned out. Tighten the buttock muscles, slightly tilt your pelvis forwards and try to rotate your legs outwards. You should feel your arches rising while you do this exercise.
Calf stretch:Stand facing a wall and place hands on it for support. Lean forwards until stretch is felt in the calves. Hold for 30 seconds. Bend at knees and hold for a further 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Golf ball:While drawing your toes upwards towards your shins, roll a golf ball under the foot between 30 and 60 seconds. If you find a painful point, keep rolling the ball on that spot for 10 seconds.
Big toe push: Stand with your ankles in a neutral position (without rolling the foot inwards). Push down with your big toe but do not let the ankle roll inwards or the arch collapse. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Build up to longer times and fewer repetitions.
Ankle strengthener: Place a ball between your foot and a wall. Sitting down and keeping your toes pointed upwards, press the outside of the foot against the ball, as though pushing it into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Arch strengthener: Stand on one foot on the floor. The movements needed to remain balanced will strengthen the arch. When you are able to balance for 30 seconds, start doing this exercise using a wobble board.