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To better understand how the muscles and tissue structures in the feet, ankles, legs and hips are adversely affected by overpronation, imagine a person on the end of a bungee cord jumping off a bridge. If the bungee cord gets the right amount of tension on it as the person nears the ground, then he or she will be saved from smashing into the earth. However, if the bungee cord does not pull tight because it is twisted or has no elasticity, then the person will impact the ground with dire consequences. The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia of the legs and feet are the body’s bungee cords. If these bungee cords work together, they can protect the joints of the feet and ankles from excessive stress, and prevent muscle and tissue damage caused by overpronation. If they do not work properly, a person will be able to see evidence of this in the feet and ankles, particularly in the alignment of the joints.
There are many biomechanical issues that can contribute to excessive pronation, including weak foot intrinsic muscles, limited ankle dorsiflexion mobility and calf flexibility, weak ankle invertor muscles (e.g. posterior tibialis), weak forefoot evertor muscles (peroneus longus), poor hip strength and control, Anterior pelvic tilting, heel InversionIn a person who overpronates, the heel bone goes into an everted position meaning that it turns out away from the midline of the body. The opposite motion of eversion is inversion. Inversion is a motion that needs to be controlled to prevent the foot from excessively pronating.
Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all of the muscles and tendons which run from the leg and ankle into the foot will be twisted. In over-pronation, resulting laxity of the soft tissue structures of the foot and loosened joints cause the bones of the feet shift. When this occurs, the muscles which attach to these bones must also shift, or twist, in order to attach to these bones. The strongest and most important muscles that attach to our foot bones come from our lower leg. So, as these muscles course down the leg and across the ankle, they must twist to maintain their proper attachments in the foot. Injuries due to poor biomechanics and twisting of these muscles due to over-pronation include: shin splints, Achilles Tendonitis, generalized tendonitis, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, cramps, ankle sprains, and loss of muscular efficiency (reducing walking and running speed and endurance). Foot problems due to over-pronation include: bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen and painful arches, hammer toes, and calluses.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and activities and examine your feet. Your provider may watch you walk or run. Check the motion of your feet when they strike the ground. Look at your athletic shoes to see if they show an abnormal pattern of wear.
Non Surgical Treatment
When you see the doctor, he or she will likely perform a complete examination of your feet and watch you walk. The doctor will need to take x-rays to determine the cause of your flat feet. In some cases, further imaging may be needed, especially if your symptoms are severe and sudden in nature. Once you are properly diagnosed, your doctor will create an appropriate treatment plan. There are several options to correct overpronation, such as orthotics. In many cases, overpronation can be treated with non-surgical methods and over-the-counter orthotics. In severe cases, however, custom-made orthotics may work better. Orthotics provide arch support and therefore prevent collapse of the arch with weight bearing. They are made of materials such as spongy rubber or hard plastic. Your doctor will also want to examine your footwear to ensure they fit properly and offer enough medial support. Extra support and stability can be achieved with footwear that has a firm heel counter. If you are experiencing pain, you should be able to use over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen to relieve symptoms.
Calcaneal “Slide” (Sliding Calcaneal Osteotomy) A wedge is cut into the heel bone (calcaneus) and a fixation device (screws, plate) is used to hold the bone in its new position. This is an aggressive option with a prolonged period of non-weightbearing, long recovery times and many potential complications. However, it can and has provided for successful patient outcomes.