Not many people think of the feet when they think of good posture. The focus tends to be on the back and shoulders. The classic injunction of standing up straight with your shoulders back leaves out practically half of the body! In order to adopt an ideal posture, you need to engage your whole body. The feet are vitally important to this process.
When talking about the feet and posture, there’s one concept that dominates the conversation: overpronation
Otherwise known as flat feet, overpronation is a condition where the arches of the feet sink and the legs and ankles fall inward.
Overpronation can lead to strain on the toes and instability in the foot. The excessive rotation of the foot leads to more rotation of the tibia, giving people who overpronate a higher risk of developing shin splints and knee pain.
Anyone can overpronate, but particular people are more susceptible. Runners, or any other athlete that plays a sport where the feet repeatedly strike a hard surface, a prone to overpronation. It is also common in people who are overweight or pregnant.
Overpronation can lead to the following conditions:
- Plantar fasciitis: a painful tightening of the connective tissue of the sole of the foot
- Heel spurs: the painful outcroppings of bone developing on the overstressed site
- Metatarsalgia: pain and inflammation of the ball of the foot
- Bunions: swelling and abnormal bone growth on the prominence of the outer foot
- Shin splints: strain and fatigue in the shin muscles
- Posterior tibial tendonitis: an inflammatory condition affecting the tendon near the inner ankle
Think you might be overpronating? Here’s a quick way to tell.
Take a pair of flat boots or shoes that you have been wearing regularly over several months. First, look at the soles on the inside. If you overpronate, you should see more wear on the insides of the sole. Second, place the shoes on a table, with the front-facing away from you, and look at the bottom of the heel of the shoe. If you overpronate, you should see more compression of the sole on the inner part of the shoe.
If you overpronate, it might seem like the end of the world, but it’s actually fairly straightforward to fix. Try the following things to get your arches back.
Turn your feet out when you walk
Overpronation occurs partly because of the inward rotation of the tibia, or shin bone. When this occurs, we instinctively put more weight on the insides of the foot. This contributes to the lowering of the arches.
To fix this, turn your feet out slightly when you walk. This will put more weight on the outside of your feet and will encourage your arches to rise.
Activate your foot muscles
One of the reasons people overpronate is because their foot muscles are underdeveloped. Try doing these exercises and stretches to whip your feet into shape (literally!).
- Toe curls: Curl your toes inward until you feel a stretch. Hold for several seconds, and then release.
- Toe lifts: Stand up with your knees straight and your heels on the ground. Lift your toes off the ground while keeping your heels on the floor and your knees straight. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower slowly.
- Calf raises: Stand up straight, then push through the balls of your feet and raise your heel until you are standing on your toes. Hold for several seconds and then release.
- Marble game: Place 20 marbles on the ground at your feet. One by one, use your toes to pick them up and place them into a cup. Repeat as many times as you would like.
- Duck stand: Stand with your heels together and your feet turned out like a duck. Try your best to move your legs outward using your glute muscles and tilting your pelvis under your body. You may notice as your legs rotate, the arches of your feet come up and out of pronation. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then release.
Lose a bit of weight
The more weight we carry on our bodies and the less developed our muscles are to carry that weight, the more likely we are to overpronate. If we are overweight and overpronate, we are more likely to develop posture deformities like a valgus knee.
Losing a bit of weight will do wonders for your overpronation problems.
Some people who overpronate can benefit from stability or motion control shoes. However, for a sure fix, orthotics are the way to go.
When you overpronate, it’s vital to have a hard orthotic that will shape your foot back into its natural state.
Most orthotics on the market are soft gel orthotics that, while they may be comfortable, do not provide the solid support that you need to realign your feet. After all, if you have an orthotic that gives way to the pressure of your feet, it’s not going to be able to mould it back into place.
Posture isn’t just about your back and shoulders. It’s a process that draws on every part of the body. By incorporating the feet, you’ll ensure that your posture will be as good as it can be.