Home exercises and pronated foot exercises can help promote optimal foot and ankle strength and flexibility can help prevent or manage symptoms that crop up from abnormal foot pronation. Pronation is a normal and necessary function of the foot that helps with proper weight acceptance and forward propulsion with activities like walking and running. Since the feet are a vital foundation for all weight-bearing moves, too much or too little pronation can lead to imbalances throughout the body. Keep reading to learn more about exercises for pronation.
Underpronation, meaning the foot doesn’t pronate enough during the landing phase of walking, typically causes inflexibility and high stiff arches. With these exercises, focus on improving foot and ankle mobility.
Dorsiflexion (bending) of the ankle is often minimal in a stiff ankle and can influence the foot’s ability to adequately pronate. Focus on stretching the joint tissues directly rather than the surrounding muscles that influence that area.
Stiffness of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon are also very common with ankle/foot inflexibility issues. This stiffness strains the foot and affects its normal mechanics. Choosing one or two effective calf stretches can help your foot and ankle feel less stiff and better able to effectively accept weight.
If you’d prefer to stretch your calves in a different position, there are other great options for stretching the calf muscles too. These include using a standing calf stretcher (single or dual), standing with your toes on the edge of a step, or sitting with a stretch strap.
The thick band of tissue along the bottom of the foot (including local ligaments and muscles) is known as the plantar fascia. This area requires the right balance of stiffness and flexibility for optimal efficiency and arch support with weight bearing activities. Otherwise, pain and inflammation (otherwise known as plantar fasciitis) is more likely to occur. Keeping the local tissues mobile with appropriate stretching can reduce the risk of stiffness or onset of pain.
Other great moves for the plantar fascia to promote tissue health include ankle pumps (simply bending and straightening the ankles repetitively) or a gentle rhythmic motion between toe curls and extension.
Common factors associated with overpronation include hypermobility, too much general flexibility, and flat feet. However, some stiffness may still be evident due to onset of pain or overcorrection from surrounding muscles. Focus on building adequate strength and coordination within the foot and ankle complex. From there, you should move to more global foot and ankle strengthening exercises listed in the next section below.
If you have flat feet, the connective tissues in the foot that usually support the arch are too flexible and have a tendency to overpronate. Thus, it’s important to build strength and stability in the muscles that help control the arch and hold good foot posture.
Being able to lift the heels and push off properly from the ball of the foot is a very functional move when it comes to walking and running. Be sure to start within a range of motion that you can tolerate without pain or ankle instability and then build from there.
This is a great arch and toe strengthening exercise as well that can help build foot stability for functional activities. If you don’t have a towel, you can also try picking up items like marbles or rocks with your feet.
This exercise works for both overpronation and underpronation.
The ankle moves in four primary directions: inversion, eversion, dorsiflexion, and plantarflexion. Multidirectional strength and stability of the ankle is key for good walking and running mechanics. The video referenced below doesn’t show dorsiflexion.
You can practice optimal coordination for weight-bearing activities with single-leg balance exercises. Depending on the strength and pain in your foot, you can choose an appropriate level of difficulty to get started.
Once you have improved your foot and ankle flexibility and strength, it’s time to make sure it is carrying over to the actual movements you are doing throughout your day. If you can’t make functional improvements with your exercises, you will most likely continue to suffer from symptoms of pain in the foot. Thus, this is a very crucial last step in your recovery process.
Practice walking with optimal mechanics both barefoot and in properly fitting shoes
You can use a mirror or record yourself on video to assess how you’re moving and what your feet look like with each step (if you have no idea what you’re looking for- talk to your physical therapist for professional feedback!)
With each step, you take, focus on preventing abnormal pronation (this will depend on your specific deficits)
Over time and with practice, you should be able to walk while keeping good form without having to think about it- the ultimate goal!
After reviewing the exercises above, it should be relatively clear what the goal and benefits are of stretching and strengthening. Let’s quickly review what you can gain from consistent foot exercises:
Prescribed movement is ultimately dependent on your unique deficits. Overall, it’s best to avoid any movement that aggravates your symptoms. From there, you can make your best judgement or talk to your doctor about which exercises to do and avoid for your feet and ankles. No matter what you choose, always ensure:
Want to get the bang for your buck with your exercise program? Follow these tips:
Start at a level of exercise that you can control; find a balance between good form and challenging the foot and ankle
Use your symptoms to gauge the effectiveness of your exercises; modify or progress when you’re ready
Make sure that you are practicing good mechanics with walking and running after completing your program to ensure proper carryover and get the most out of your exercises
Consider a round of physical therapy for personalized recommendations and biomechanical feedback that can expedite your recovery
Pair your exercise program with these other treatment modalities to maximize your recovery
It’s important to note that any of the exercises listed (in any category) above can be beneficial for any type of ankle or foot dysfunction- the key is finding the right balance of exercise that fits your unique dysfunctions
Ankle pronation is an essential part of your body’s biomechanics with weight-bearing activity. Dealing with underpronation or overpronation can be frustrating when it affects your ability to walk or run and leads to pain. Staying on top of your foot and ankle health with a good exercise program and other treatment modalities can help you put your best foot forward, literally. If abnormal pronation is affecting your quality of life or your symptoms are getting worse, it’s time to get medical advice from your doctor or physical therapist.
Sources:Shop Pronation Products
Next Pages:Running with Pronation
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