If your feet and ankles roll inward (pronate), you could be headed over the cliff.
Foot pronation, especially overpronation, can lead to various risks and complications. Overpronation occurs when the arches of the foot collapse excessively inward during the gait cycle, and even when standing still. While some degree of pronation is common, pronation can cause problems.
Here is a partial list of the risks associated with foot pronation. They are common enough, that if you are experiencing any of them, you should have your feet and ankles assessed by a professional. You may only be a new pair of shoes away from relief of symptoms and less stress on your body.
Foot Pain: Pronation can lead to pain in the feet, especially around the arches and heels.
Plantar Fasciitis: Pronation can strain the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This can result in plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain, arch pain, and difficulty walking. Sometimes plantar fasciitis will lead to cramping in the bottoms of the feet.
Achilles Tendonitis: The excessive rolling of the foot can also put added stress on the Achilles tendon, potentially causing inflammation and pain. This added stress comes from an inward arcing of the tendon that among other things leads to abnormal structural friction that causes inflammation, pain and tissue damage.
Shin Splints: Pronation may contribute to the development of shin splints, which are painful microtears in the muscles and tendons around the shinbone. Shin splints can ruin running, prevent participation in athletic events, and seriously compromise performance. The “anterior tibialis” is the muscle most commonly implicated in this preventable condition. “When I used to run in graduate school, I would get shin splints every time. I bought some superfeet inserts, put them in my running shoes, and I never had a shin splint again.” ~Dr. Lou
Knee Pain: Overpronation can lead to poor alignment of the lower limb, affecting the knee joint and potentially causing conditions like patellofemoral pain syndrome, osteoarthritis, abnormal wear and tear on the meniscus of the knee, and a number of other biomechanical stressors that could lead to serious injury if left uncorrected.
Hip Pain: Misalignment resulting from overpronation can extend up to the hips, potentially leading to hip pain or discomfort. When your feet pronate, the ball joint of the hip rolls forward in the socket of the pelvis, leading to abnormal transmission of forces every time you put pressure on the foot and leg. Over time this breaks down the hip, leading to the need for intervention for hip pain that “came out of nowhere”. Except that it didn’t, you just don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late.
Lower Back Pain: Altered posture and gait due to pronation can affect the lower back, potentially causing pain and discomfort in this area. Depending on whether you count the discs as joints or not, the spine has 120 joints. That’s a lot of locations for failure of one of the most important structures in the body. Just like with the ankles, knees, and hips, the joints of the spine take more of a beating when your feet pronate…leading to back problems that you don’t want. Back pain and arthritis of the spine are the two leading causes of disability in the United States.
Reduced Athletic Performance: Athletes who overpronate may experience decreased performance and an increased risk of injury, particularly in activities that involve running or jumping. How important is your game?
Bunions: Overpronation can contribute to the development or worsening of bunions, which are bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe. Bony bumps in joints are also referred to as osteoarthritis.
Hammertoes: Similar to bunions, overpronation can increase the risk of developing hammertoes, a condition where the toes curl downward, making it difficult to walk, stand, and move normally if they get bad enough.
Calluses and Corns: Changes in gait and pressure distribution on the foot can lead to the formation of calluses and corns on the soles of the feet.
Increased Risk of Ankle Sprains: Overpronation can make the ankles less stable, increasing the risk of ankle sprains, temporary or long term disability, or other life altering issues. Having to give up golf because of an immobilized ankle would be a real bummer.
Osteoarthritis: Over time, the misalignment associated with overpronation can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in the feet, knees, hips, lower back and spine. Remember all of your joints are the same age. If arthritis were an “age” issue, every joint would look the same. Arthritis is a wear and tear issue, which is why some joints are affected more than others. Keith Richards has heberden’s nodes and arthritis of the hands from playing guitar his whole life. Runners have arthritis in their ankles, knees, hips and spine from compressing the joints millions of times on the pavement.
Reduced Shock Absorption: Excessive pronation can affect the foot’s ability to absorb shock, potentially leading to stress fractures or other injuries, as well as increased transmission of forces through joints leading to arthritis throughout the weight bearing joints of the body.
Balance Issues: Overpronation can affect balance and stability, increasing the risk of falls and injuries, particularly in older individuals. One of the leading causes of premature death in the elderly is falling and breaking a hip, leading to hospital admission.
……and that is just to name a few.
It is in the interest of honesty to note that not everyone who pronates will experience all of these risks or complications. But everyone will experience an increased physical stress on the joints of their body, possibly leading to changes in the normal function of your joints. The severity of overpronation, individual biomechanics, and lifestyle factors can all influence the likelihood and severity of these issues. If you suspect you have overpronation and are experiencing any of these problems, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional like a chiropractor or a podiatrist for a proper assessment and guidance on treatment and footwear choices. Small changes to your footwear have been proven to make a difference.
For over 21 years, Dr. Lou Jacobs (@mainechiropractor) has been working with people who spend countless hours on their feet. Moms, chefs, musicians, athletes, painters, runners, fishermen and women, flight attendants, baristas, barbers, hair stylists, artists, retailers, and the rest of you too. Dr. Lou has been using video chat to work with people on their feet from all over the world. Consulting with Dr. Lou is available on Fridays each week, and may be scheduled by emailing email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org