The foot and ankle complex needs to pronate to make the muscles of the hips and legs work correctly. Many muscles that originate from the pelvis attach to both the upper and lower leg. For example, the gluteus maximus and tensor fascia latae (TFL) attach to the outside of the lower leg via the iliotibial band, while the abductors attach to the outside of the femur. When the foot pronates, the whole leg rotates inward toward the center line of the body. This inward rotation pulls the attachment of the glutes, TFL and abductors away from the origin of these muscles up on the pelvis which creates tension. Similarly, the muscles of the lower leg such as the peroneals, tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior originate on the lower leg and attach to the underside of the foot. When the foot flattens out, as it does in pronation, this pulls the insertion of these muscles away from their origin on the tibia. This action also creates tension in the muscles.
There may be several possible causes of over pronation. The condition may begin as early as birth. However, there are several more common explanations for the condition. First, wear and tear on the muscles throughout the foot, either from aging or repetitive strain, causes the muscles to weaken, thereby causing the foot to turn excessively inward. Also, standing or walking on high heels for an extended period of time also places strain and pressure on the foot which can weaken the tissue. Lastly, shoes play a very common factor in the development of over pronation. Shoes that fail to provide adequate support through the arch commonly lead to over pronation.
With over pronation, sufferers are most likely to experience pain through the arch of the foot. A lack of stability is also a common complaint. Over pronation also causes the foot to turn outward during movement at the ankle, causing sufferers to walk along the inner portion of the foot. This not only can deliver serious pain through the heel and ankle, but it can also be the cause of pain in the knees or lower back as well. This condition also causes the arch to sink which places stress on the bones, ligaments, and tendons throughout the foot. This may yield other common conditions of foot pain such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
Look at your soles of your footwear: Your sneaker/shoes will display heavy wear marks on the outside portion of the heel and the inside portion above the arch up to the top of the big toe on the sole. The "wet-foot" test is another assessment. Dip the bottom of your foot in water and step on to a piece of paper (brown paper bag works well). Look at the shape of your foot. If you have a lot of trouble creating an arch, you likely overpronate. An evaluation from a professional could verify your foot type.
Non Surgical Treatment
Over-pronation and the problems that go with it are treated with shoe inserts called arch supports or orthotics. You can buy orthotics at a pharmacy or athletic shoe store or they can be custom made. Make sure the arch supports are firm. If you can easily bend them in half, they may be too flexible.
Massage and stretch the calves to increase dorsiflexion at the foot/ankle. Dorsiflexion is the bending at the ankle. By improving the dorsiflexion, one will have more flexibility at the ankle, which will allow the foot to over-pronate less. Massage the IT Band with a foam roller or tennis ball to quiet down the tightness throughout this part of the leg. The IT Band attaches from the glute maximus and runs down the side of the leg into the knee area. When the IT Band is tight it will accelerate the force of the leg moving inward, which will cause the foot to move inward as well. It is often that tightness through the IT Band that promotes over-pronation. Decreasing over-pronation, which is very prominent in runners, will help add endurance, speed and efficiency to your run and ultimately place less stress on your body.