When I go to our local running store to buy shoes, it isn’t unusual for the staff to ask me if I pronate. I do, and for years I’ve sort of worn that label like some type of merit badge. I wear orthotics and buy running shoes with good arch support, but why should this matter anyway?
First of all, pronation means that you don’t have much of an arch in the inner foot. Sometimes this is referred to as having “flat” feet. It isn’t unusual to see someone who pronates only on one foot, or even pronates (rolls in or flattens) on one foot and supinates (rolls to the outside) on the other. Pronation can impact all of the joints above the foot and generally makes the lower leg and knee roll inward, can make the same side hip droop and sometimes causes elevation of the same side shoulder. When the joints are misaligned due to pronation, walkers and runners can experience shin splints, low back pain, knee pain, plantar fasciitis, pain in the joint of the large toe and tendonitis in the lower extremities. Furthermore, it takes a lot more energy to run or walk when the body is misaligned. If you know or think that you pronate, there are a few simple things besides orthotics that can help correct it. First, you can sit with bare feet on a small towel and scrunch up the towel by curling your toes under until the towel is bunched up under your foot. You can also try picking up marbles with your toes or doing standing heel raises with your toes rotated in (pigeon toed). Pronators can have tight calf muscles so a standing wall stretch might help. Sometimes knees roll in because of weak glutes as opposed to or in addition to pronation and strengthening the glutes might be helpful. You can do so by lying on the floor with your soles down and knees up and heels fairly close to the butt. Your ankles, knees and hips should be in a straight line. Contract your butt muscles and lift your hips off of the ground (bridging) and lower them back to the floor. You can repeat this for 12 to 20 times as long as you can do it pain-free. If you are doing this correctly, you should feel a decent contraction in the glutes (butt). If this is too easy, lift one leg off the floor with the knee flexed and do the bridging exercise with one leg at a time. Whatever you do, please don’t ignore pronation because it can cause pain and dysfunction from the ankles on up.
Takeaway: Got the winter treadmill blues? Try http://jog.fm/ for a playlist that matches your run/walk/jog speed. And if you’re stuck inside because of foul weather, try ramping up the incline to increase resistance on the treadmill so it feels a bit more like running or walking on the ground.