In this issue we are going to look at some common foot problems that not only affect athletes, but also affect the general population.
The two conditions we are going to concentrate on in this issue are pronation and supination. These two terms refer to a foots natural rolling movement while walking or running. This motion is sometimes called the running gait, and is described at the New Balance web site as...
"A unique set of actions and reactions that your foot performs while in motion to support, cushion and balance your body."
If you suffer from pronation or supination, or are seeking to prevent its occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get you started on a safe and effective stretching routine learn more about The Stretching Handbook and how it can improve your fitness.
What is Pronation?
Pronation refers to the inward roll of the foot during normal motion and occurs as the outer edge of the heel strikes the ground and the foot rolls inward and flattens out. A moderate amount of pronation is required for the foot to function properly, however damage and injury can occur during excessive pronation. When excessive pronation does occur the foot arch flattens out and stretches the muscles, tendons and ligaments underneath the foot.
The picture on the right (used from the steenwyk.com web site) shows a view of the right foot as if looking at it from behind. As you can see in the picture the ankle is over pronating or rolling inwardly.
What is Supination?
Supination is the opposite of pronation and refers to the outward roll of the foot during normal motion. A natural amount of supination occurs during the push-off phase of the running gait as the heel lifts off the ground and the forefoot and toes are used to propel the body forward. However, excessive supination (outward rolling) places a large strain on the muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle, and can lead to the ankle rolling completely over, resulting in an ankle sprain or total ligament rupture.
This time, in the second picture to the right (used from the steenwyk.com web site), the foot is over supinating or rolling outwardly.
Excessive pronation and supination can cause a number of ailments that affect the foot, ankle, knees, hips and back. Some of the more common symptoms of excessive pronation and supination are listed below.
Prevention and Treatment
Pronation and supination are bio-mechanical problems, and are best treated and prevented with orthotic inserts. But before you run out to buy orthotics it makes sense to get the right advice on footwear, and the best advice I can give you, is to go and see a qualified podiatrist for a complete foot-strike and running gait analysis. They will be able to tell you if there are any concerns regarding the way your running gait is functioning.
After your running gait has been analysed, have your podiatrist, or competent sports footwear sales person recommend a number of shoes that suit your requirements. Good quality footwear will go a long way in helping to prevent pronation and supination. And, if needed, invest in a pair of orthotic inserts to further prevent excessive pronation or supination.
Apart from good shoes and orthotic inserts, what else can you do?
Firstly, a thorough and correct warm up will help to prepare the muscles and tendons for any activity or sport. Without a proper warm up the muscles and tendons around your feet, ankles and lower legs will be tight and stiff. There will be limited blood flow to the lower legs, which will result in a lack of oxygen and nutrients for those muscles. Click here for a detailed explanation of how, why and when to perform your warm up.
Secondly, flexible muscles are extremely important in the prevention of most ankle and lower leg injuries. When muscles and tendons are flexible and supple, they are able to move and perform without being over stretched. If however, your muscles and tendons are tight and stiff, it is quite easy for those muscles and tendons to be pushed beyond their natural range of motion. To keep your muscles and tendons flexible and supple, it is important to undertake a structured stretching routine.
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
And thirdly, strengthening and conditioning the muscles of the lower leg will also help to prevent ankle and lower leg injuries.