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What is Overpronation & How Do Orthotics Help?

Overpronation is a term used to describe an excessive inward rolling motion of the foot during walking or running. This is a natural motion that helps absorb shock and distribute weight as you move, but when the foot rolls too far inward, it can cause problems.

This occurs when the arch of the foot collapses and the foot rolls inward excessively, causing the ankle to twist and the foot to flatten out. This puts extra strain on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the foot and ankle, which can lead to a range of problems, including foot pain, ankle pain, knee pain, and even back pain.

The condition can be caused by several factors, including genetics, foot structure, and certain medical conditions. It can also be exacerbated by wearing shoes that do not provide adequate support or cushioning.

What is Overpronation?

What is Overpronation & How Do Orthotics Help?

When you overpronate, your feet move in a way that causes the arch of your foot to collapse and your ankle to roll inward excessively. This causes your foot to flatten and rotate inward as it makes contact with the ground.

This inward movement can continue as you push off with your toes, causing your big toe to do most of the work and putting extra stress on the ball of your foot. As a result, overpronation can alter the way you walk or run, leading to a less efficient gait and increasing the risk of injury.

Overpronation can contribute to foot pain, shin splints, knee pain, and other musculoskeletal problems if left untreated.

What is a Normal Gait?

When walking, the heel of the foot typically hits the ground first, followed by the middle and front of the foot as the weight is transferred forward. This sequence is known as the “heel-to-toe” or “rolling” gait, and it allows for efficient weight distribution and shock absorption as the foot makes contact with the ground.

However, some people may have different walking patterns or gaits depending on factors such as foot shape, leg length, or injury history. For example, in overpronation, the foot rolls inward excessively and continues to rotate inward, causing the arch to flatten and the ankle to roll inward.

This can cause the foot to point outward as you walk or run, which can contribute to instability and pain in the ankle, knee, and hip. Overpronation can also cause the big toe to do most of the work during push-off, which can lead to pain and injury in the ball of the foot.

Over time, this abnormal movement pattern can contribute to chronic musculoskeletal problems and make it more difficult to walk, run, or engage in other physical activities.

Ways to Tell You Overpronate

There are some common symptoms of overpronation such as pain in the arches of the feet, as well as in the ankles, shins, and knees. Overpronation can also cause the foot to roll inward excessively, which can lead to ankle instability and a higher risk of sprains.

Walking or running with an overpronation gait can be tiring, as the muscles have to work harder to maintain proper alignment and absorb shock. Overpronation can also affect your overall posture and alignment, leading to hip and back problems.

Apart from the symptoms above, there are some less noticeable ways to tell you may be overpronating. For example, overpronation can impact your gait and reduce the efficiency of your stride.

This can lead to slower running times and reduced athletic performance. This symptom is not always associated with overpronation and sometimes goes unnoticed.

The wear on the bottoms of your shoes may also be a giveaway on the type of pronation you have. Overpronators may notice that their shoes wear down more quickly on the inside edge, which can signify excessive pronation.

Another way to tell if you overpronate is to do a wet foot test. First, wet the soles of your feet, then step onto a piece of paper or cardboard. Look at the imprint left by your foot. If your foot is flat or nearly flat, and there is no visible curve on the inside of your foot, this may be a sign of overpronation.

You can also observe your gait by watching yourself walk or run in front of a mirror, or by having someone else observe you. If you notice that your foot rolls inward excessively when you walk or run, this may be a sign of overpronation.

Last but not least, a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist or physical therapist, can perform a gait analysis and assess your foot and ankle alignment to determine whether you overpronate. We urge you to seek a professional evaluation if the symptoms of overpronation are extreme or painful.

What Causes Overpronation?

Custom orthotic insoles for overpronation

Overpronation is usually caused by the foot’s structure and the way it functions when walking or running. Some of the common causes of overpronation include:

  • Flat feet or Low Arches: People with flat feet or low arches are more prone to overpronation because their feet do not have the natural arch support that can help to distribute weight evenly.
  • Weak Foot and Ankle Muscles: Weak foot and ankle muscles can also contribute to overpronation because they are unable to provide enough support and stability during movement.
  • Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support or cushioning can also lead to overpronation, as the foot is not properly supported and may roll inward excessively.
  • Trauma or Injury: Trauma or injury to the foot or ankle can also cause overpronation. This is because the injury can alter the foot’s structure and the way it functions, leading to changes in gait and movement patterns.
  • Genetics: Some people may be genetically predisposed to overpronation, meaning that their foot structure and the way their muscles function may make them more susceptible to this condition.
  • Excess Weight: Carrying extra weight can put a strain on the muscles and ligaments in the foot and ankle, making it harder for them to provide adequate support and stability during movement. This can also contribute to overpronation.

The Consequences of Untreated Overpronation

Untreated overpronation can lead to some nasty consequences. Overpronation can cause pain in the arch, heel, and ball of the foot due to the excessive pressure placed on these areas.

There is also an increased risk of shin splints, which are pain and inflammation in the shinbone (tibia) and surrounding muscles. The extra stress on the knee joint can lead to knee pain and misalignment of the knee cap.

Overpronation can also contribute to hip pain, as the abnormal movement pattern can affect the alignment of the hip joint and cause excess stress on the muscles and tendons around the hip.

Another alignment that can be altered by overpronation is that of the spine. This misalignment can lead to lower back pain and discomfort.

Apart from the associated risks of misalignments, untreated overpronation can also lead to several painful conditions due to inflammation, such as plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and Achilles tendinitis.

What Can I Do to Correct Overpronation?

Wearing proper footwear can provide sufficient arch support and stability to help control the inward rolling of the foot. It’s important to look for shoes with a firm heel counter to help keep the heel stable and prevent excessive motion.

Custom-made or over-the-counter orthotics can help support the arch and reduce excessive inward rolling of the foot. Although some over-the-counter insoles will provide some of the support you need to relieve pain from overpronation, custom orthotics are designed with the conditions you suffer from in mind.

In addition to supportive footwear, strengthening the muscles in the feet and legs can help improve foot stability and control overpronation. Exercises such as calf raises, heel drops, and foot arch-strengthening exercises can be helpful.

Tight muscles in the calf, hamstrings, and hips can also contribute to overpronation. Stretching these muscles can help improve foot and leg alignment and reduce overpronation.

Sometimes overpronation is a secondary symptom to other gait issues. For example, if you have a gait abnormality, such as leg length discrepancy, correcting this may help reduce overpronation. Identifying the underlying cause of overpronation is the best to manage the condition effectively.

Although the measures listed above can take to help correct your overpronation at home, if overpronation is causing significant pain or interfering with daily activities, it’s vital to seek professional help from a healthcare provider. A podiatrist or physical therapist can evaluate the underlying cause and provide an individualized treatment plan.

Why is it Essential to Treat Overpronation Promptly?

It is essential to treat overpronation promptly because if left untreated, it can lead to more serious injuries and conditions. Overpronation can cause imbalances in the body, leading to uneven wear and tear on joints, muscles, and bones. This can eventually lead to chronic pain, arthritis, and even permanent damage.

Additionally, overpronation can affect the way the body moves and functions, which can negatively impact athletic performance and overall quality of life. Treating overpronation can help improve body mechanics, prevent injuries, and improve overall physical function.

What are Some Other Treatment Options for Overpronation?

Resting and icing the affected foot can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with overpronation. Avoiding activities that aggravate the condition can also help prevent further injury. During rest, the muscles and ligaments can recover and strengthen, which can help improve overall foot function and reduce the risk of future injury.

In extreme cases, medical interventions such as corticosteroid injections or surgery may be necessary to correct severe overpronation. The Tenex procedure is a minimally invasive surgery that uses ultrasound to identify and remove damaged tissue in the affected area.

In some cases, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary to correct severe overpronation. During this procedure, small incisions are made in the affected foot, and a small camera and surgical instruments are used to make repairs to the affected tissues.

Another possible surgical procedure that would be performed in an extreme case is an osteotomy. An osteotomy involves realigning bones in the foot to correct alignment issues that contribute to overpronation.

These options are typically reserved for cases where conservative treatments have been unsuccessful.

Why Custom Orthotics Are Best

Custom orthotics are an effective treatment for overpronation because they are specifically designed to address the underlying foot mechanics that cause overpronation. Since custom orthotics are specially crafted inserts, unlike over-the-counter insoles, they can help correct your foot alignment and provide support where you need it most.

These orthotics can redistribute pressure on your feet and ankles, making them one of the best treatments for overpronation. Take our free quiz to determine what type of orthotic will be best for you and get started on correcting your overpronation today.