Each person is different, from the top of their head to the tips of their toes. Sometimes, this means that our foot biomechanics are different, too. Not everyone takes a step exactly the same way; some people have a normal gait, some people overpronate, and some tend to supinate (or underpronate). A gait analysis can tell you what your unique gait type is, and it can also help prevent a number of injuries that may be caused by an abnormal gait.
Foot Biomechanics: Supination vs. Overpronation
Foot biomechanics refer to the way your foot moves. This includes the way you pronate, or take a step. Many people tend to have a normal footstrike. In other words, their heel hits the ground and then force is distributed evenly throughout the foot until it reaches your toes.
However, others may tend to supinate. Supination, or underpronation, is when the foot does not roll inwardly enough when the foot hits the ground. This can cause excessive stress in the knee and can result in plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. People who have high arches are at a higher risk of being supinators.
On the other hand is overpronation, which is when the foot rolls too far inwardly when the footstrike occurs. You may even notice that when you are simply standing still your feet will tend to tilt inwardly. If you have knock knees or flat feet, you are most likely also an overpronator.
How Can You Remedy This?
It’s important to find out what kind of pronator you are, because both supination and overpronation can lead to serious injuries that can put you out of commission for a while. Supinators may find help by wearing shoes that have curved lasts. This will allow normal pronation to happen instead of hindering it. The more lightweight a shoe is the better in this case because this will create a greater range of motion in the foot. Also, make sure the inner side of the shoe has flexibility. If you tend to supinate you can also do some extra stretching in the calves, hamstrings, quads and iliotibial band.
For all the overpronators out there: make sure you wear shoes with straight or semi-curved lasts to limit range of motion. You want to wear shoes that are made of sturdy material that won’t bend and create more motion than you want. Orthotics or arch supports can also be very beneficial for people who overpronate. Additional stretching of the calves and arches can also be helpful.
What is a Gait Analysis?
Since you’ve now seen what can happen if you have an abnormal gait it’s very important to get a gait analysis done. You can actually get an idea of your foot shape at home by performing the “wet test.” Simply wet your foot, step on a piece of brown paper, and observe what you see. If you see a thin portion of your middle foot you probably have a normal gait, if there is no middle portion you probably tend to supinate, and if your entire footprint can be seen you most likely overpronate. After you do this it’s important to get a professional opinion so that you can also get help before any problems arise.
Getting a Doctor’s Help
If you have questions about foot biomechanics or want to get a gait analysis done call Dr. Mitchell Wachtel at (978) 794-8406 to schedule an appointment in our Lowell, Haverhill, or North Andover offices.