We’re all aware how important it is to eat well and exercise regularly, but how much attention do you pay to foot health? I know I have a tendency to overpronate because I had a gait analysis when I started long distance running and needed the right footwear. Switching to motion control trainers and sizing up made a huge difference. It’s important to focus on foot health when you’re clocking up the miles because it can have a knock-on effect elsewhere in the body.
My bunions have been getting worse over the last few years so I have to be really careful about my footwear. Three years ago I had a consultation with a view to having surgery, but it was in the first wave of Covid and I didn’t want to go ahead with it at that time. Instead, I was offered orthotic insoles to manage the pain. They provided support but they also felt really hard on the underside of my toes and caused a build up of hard skin. Instead of the detailed fitting I was expecting, the podiatrist ripped the insole out of one of my trainers and cut around it – that was it! I have since found that other types of overpronation insoles (non NHS ones) are a lot kinder to my sensitive feet. It’s just a case of finding the right ones for you.
When overpronation occurs, the ankle rolls too far downward and inward with each step. It continues to roll when the toes should be starting to push off. As a result, the big and second toes do all of the push-off and the foot twists with each step. That puts strain on muscles, tendons and ligaments that support your arches and increases the risk of injury.
Overpronation is seen more often in people with flat feet (although not everyone with flat feet overpronates). The excessive rotation of the foot leads to more rotation of the tibia in the lower leg. The result is a greater incidence of shin splints (also called medial tibial stress syndrome) and knee pain.
Orthotic insoles for flat feet provide arch support and prevent the feet and ankles from rolling inwards too much. By stabilising the ankle and balancing the foot the pressure is more equally distributed. This provides a stable base and prevents alignment issues. Insoles are brilliant for both comfort and injury prevention, and when you find the right ones for you it’s a good idea to buy several pairs so that you don’t have to keep switching them to different shoes. I would advise choosing insoles that have some cushioning for the toes (gel or foam).
With summer upon us we’re starting to wear sandals more, which makes using insoles difficult. Rather than risk foot problems with cheap flip flops, look for sandals with arch support and cushioning. FitFlops are my go-to for summer, but Vionic and Skechers offer great options too. I wish I’d been more vigilant with my foot health when I was younger; maybe I could have avoided the issues I have now. However, there are always things we can do to alleviate pain and discomfort. Orthotic insoles and supportive, well-fitting shoes are now part of my everyday focus on foot health.
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