We often neglect our feet and ankles by wearing inappropriate footwear and failing to provide our feet with proper care and rest. This is a very bad idea because feet are literally the foundation of the body. Your feet must balance and support your weight and absorb the impact of every step you take.
Unfortunately, for many people years of abuse and neglect cause feet to experience a wide variety of problems. One of the most common is overpronation. In this article, we will describe this condition and recommend some simple exercises you can do every day to help mitigate this problem. Read on to learn more.
What is overpronation?
When you walk, your foot naturally rolls inward. This is pronation. It helps distribute your weight evenly and supports the proper functioning of the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments of your hips and legs, so it’s a good thing.
If your foot rolls in too much, it can cause the collapse of your medial arch and your heel. This is overpronation, and it’s not so good. It can be very painful and can actually lead to misalignment problems throughout your musculoskeletal system.
Overpronation can cause injury and pain in your feet, ankles, legs, hips and lower back. If left untreated, permanent damage can result.
How can you tell if you overpronate?
Some symptoms are a dead-give-away when it comes to overpronation. Here are some signs and symptoms that should tip you off:
- Overlapping toes
- Inflexible arches
- Painful arches
- Hammer toes
- Curled toes
- Claw toes
- Flat feet
Exercises for overpronation of the foot
Exercising the feet can help retrain them and provide some relief. Here are a few simple exercises you can do every day. These exercises can be performed while wearing properly supportive workout shoes for overpronation, but barefoot is actually better and more challenging.
If it hurts your feet to stand on a flat, hard surface you can use a cushioned mat or invest in a workout tool, such as an inflatable balance trainer to cushion your feet and challenge your balance.
Note that as you perform these exercises with your feet, you should be aware and in control of the muscles in your hips. The movement of your feet should originate with your gluteus maximus muscles and work through your legs to your feet.
Some exercises call for you to reach across your body with one arm while bearing weight on the opposite foot. This helps engage the gluteus muscles and exercises the entire system rather than simply manipulating the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the feet.
1. Stand like a duck
Stand on a flat surface with your heels together with toes facing out, like a duck! In this position, gradually roll your feet outward to raise your arches. Simultaneously, squeeze your glutes and tilt your pelvis. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
2. Strengthen your great toe muscles
With feet aligned a couple of inches apart and toes facing forward, raise your arches with effort originating in the gluteus maximus. Simultaneously, push down with your big toes. This tension will help strengthen the muscles surrounding the great toes. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
3. One legged squats
Stand on a step or other stable, raised surface with one foot. Let the other foot hang free (but you can touch it to the ground as needed to prevent loss of balance). Perform 5 shallow, one-legged squats taking care to press down with the big toe of the weight-bearing foot.
As you squat, reach across your body with the arm opposite the weight-bearing foot. This helps exercise the entire system. Perform this exercise 5 times on one side and then 5 times on the other.
Note that if you feel uncomfortable standing on a step, you can do one legged squats on a non-elevated surface. Just tuck your unengaged foot behind the calf of the engaged leg. You can also steady yourself by holding the back of a chair with your unengaged hand if you wish.
Repeat 5 times on each leg.
4. Reach & lunge
Lunge forward with one leg and reach across your body with the opposite arm. Reaching across the body with the opposite arm engages the gluteus muscles and benefits the entire system. As you lunge, press down with the big toe of the forward foot to strengthen the muscles surrounding the big toe. Repeat 5 times and switch to exercise both sides.
5. Towel lift & curl
This is an exercise you can do while watching the telly. Lay a hand towel flat on the floor in front of your chair. Use the toes of both feet to pull it toward you a bit at a time until it is crumpled up before you. Lift the towel off the floor using the toes of one foot and then the other by turns.
This is a lot harder than it sounds, but eventually your toes and feet will become stronger. When this exercise becomes easy, try putting a dumbbell or weight plate on the towel to add some challenge.
6. Golf ball massage & roll
Here’s another one you can do in your easy chair. Just keep a couple of golf balls close at hand. Set them on the floor in front of your chair and roll your bare feet over them for at least a minute. You will probably want to do it longer than that, though. It feels very good and relaxes and strengthens to muscles of your feet and your shins.
Easy ankle exercises
You can perform these exercises seated or standing. If seated, you can do both feet at the same time. If standing, naturally you will do them one at a time!
- Ankle rotation: Rotate your feet clockwise and then anti-clockwise, ten times each direction to loosen and strengthen your ankles.
- Point & flex: Flex your feet up and point your toes up (toward your head) and then flex your feet down and curl your toes. Repeat ten times for each foot.
- Windshield wipers: Whisk your feet from side-to-side ten times like a set of windshield wipers.
You can always get stronger
Proper pronation is a necessary part of good overall health. Unfortunately, years of poor care can seriously impair this important function. Luckily, it’s never too late to make improvements and grow stronger.
Exercising your feet, ankles, legs and hips every day does not have to be an arduous task. Most of the exercises presented here can be performed while sitting at your desk, standing in queue or watching telly. Perform these exercises five or ten times each a couple of times a day. You will soon experience relief of pain along with greater strength and flexibility.