The human foot is a masterpiece of biomechanical design. While many of us take foot performance for granted, the movements made by human feet are so highly specialized that they are nearly impossible to replicate with man-made devices!
Each foot’s 26 bones form 33 joints that provide stability while walking and standing while also making possible a range of complex movements such as running, dancing, skipping and swimming. Maintaining proper stability and alignment with tools such as orthotics can be an essential aspect of maximizing performance of the foot during these and other activities.
Basic principles of foot biomechanics
While standing, healthy feet are designed to distribute the body weight primarily between the ball of the large toe and the middle and outer aspects of the heel. While walking, the body weight shifts through these and other pressure points as the feet lift off and reconnect with the ground. A similar distribution of the body weight on the feet occurs while running. The pattern of how the foot connects with the ground during walking or running is referred to as the “foot strike.”
The placement of weight on the feet is affected by the body’s center of gravity. Therefore, activities such as dancing or skating that involve greater alternation of the body’s center of gravity will cause the body weight to balance more heavily at times on other portions of the foot than would occur through repetitive activities such as walking or running.
Pronation and Supination: foot strike gone bad?
While walking or running, the foot should essentially contact the ground heel first and then roll through to the ball of the big toe. This healthy foot strike pattern can commonly be disrupted, however, by excess inward or outward movement of the body weight on the foot. An excess of movement toward the outer edge of the foot is called supination. This movement can increase the risk of a “rolled” or sprained ankle. While some movement of weight over the arch of the foot during foot strike is normal, a process referred to as pronation, excess pronation can cause a multitude of injuries to the foot, ankle and leg.
Correcting excess pronation and supination
The first step to correcting an imbalanced foot strike pattern is a gait analysis performed by a foot specialist. By understanding the nature and extent of the problem, some excess pronation and supination can be mitigated or corrected with exercises and increased body awareness. Oftentimes, however, these movements are so deeply ingrained in the natural gait that real improvement in foot strike pattern requires custom-made shoe inserts or “orthotics.”
Orthotics are designed to prevent excess movement of the foot as needed during walking or running. Numerous studies on the efficacy of orthotics has supported their use for the prevention of injuries and enhancement of sports performance. This should make it no surprise that elite athletes including world-class runners and professional basketball players use orthotics as directed by their team podiatrists.
Fortunately, orthotics are not reserved for use by only top athletes. Anyone who suffers from excess pronation or supination during any activity can benefit from these foot care products. A range of foot and leg conditions that affect athletes and non-athletes alike can often be prevented and treated using orthotics. A few of the foot and leg conditions that benefit from the use of orthotics include heal pain, flat feet, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, fractures and sprains.
Finding your foot specialist
Although intended to provide useful medical information, this article cannot replace professional healthcare services. If you have questions or concerns regarding the use of orthotics or any other issues affecting the lower limb, please contact a qualified healthcare professional near you.
Consider choosing American Leg and Foot Specialists for your orthotics and lower limb healthcare needs. The team at American Leg and Foot Specialists serves the South Atlanta Metro areas including Fulton County, Cobb County, Douglas County, Fayette County, Henry County, and Clayton County. American Leg and Foot Specialists has offices in Fayetteville, Forest Park, Locust Grove and Stockbridge, all of which are open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday thru Friday. Find out today how American Leg and Foot Specialists can get you back on top of your game.
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