We are regularly asked by customers, if they can do anything themselves to correct their feet.
Considering the wide-ranging injuries that are caused by over-pronation of the feet, it’s easy to understand why so many people want to help themselves. Relying solely on a running shoe for correcting pronation isn’t always the only approach. By strengthening your body you are also making yourself more injury resistant for the future and you may also be able to train yourself to run in less supportive, and therefore lighter running shoes.
So how do you do it?
Strengthen Your Glutes and Control Pronation
The gluteal muscles are composed of the Gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. Most people call them the glutes, or bum! One of the main functions of the glutes, is to stabilise the hip joint and also help to externally rotate the femur (rotate the leg outwards).
Overpronation is the excessive inward and downward rotation of the foot.
Try pronating your foot yourself. You’ll see that it’s very difficult (impossible for some people), to pronate your foot without your knee internally rotating. Now if we consider for a moment, that the glutes are one of the main external rotators of the knee, we can start to understand the link between strengthening the glutes and reducing overpronation.
How to Strengthen the Glutes
When was the last time you did a good workout and felt your glutes aching the next day? The truth is, that with most modern lifestyles, the glutes don’t get worked anywhere near as much as they are designed to be.
There are many ways to improve your gluteal strength, but what we want to focus on is improving the ability of the muscle group to externally rotate the leg as well as stabilise the hip. This is more specific than simply strengthening the entire gluteal group, of course there is no harm in increasing overall gluteal strength. However to achieve our goal of reducing the tendency of the foot to overpronate when running, we need to focus on improving the external rotation movements of the leg.
Lateral Band Walks
These are probably the number one exercise for boosting the type of gluteal strength we are aiming for, they can be performed almost anywhere, with only a resistance band. They’re also a great warm up exercise.
Here is a great video that shows exactly how they’re done:
Single Leg Squat
A more difficult exercise, but a very rewarding one for this objective. You can start with single leg squats, as deep as possible. Then progress onto the full pistol or single leg box squat to maximise range of movement and strength gains. Make sure that your knee doesn’t go forwards beyond the tips of your toes and that your kneecap tracks in line with your 2nd toe (don’t let it collapse inwards).
Here’s another great demo video:
Side Bridge with Abduction
A great exercise for improving static gluteal strength, which will help stabilise the hip and reduce pronation. This one can be performed anywhere with no equipment, so no excuses!
Here is how it’s done:
Of course these are only a few of the specific exercises to focus on, but there is a wide range of general gluteal exercises that will also help. This includes all variants of squats (with and without added weight), lunges, leg presses and deadlifts. The purpose of this article is to discuss the specific exercises that will target the glutes for reducing pronation. Nether-the-less an overall glute strengthening program will also supplement the above program nicely.
Improve Your Flexibility
Strengthening is one side of the coin. Increasing flexibility is equally important and forms the other half of the ‘reducing pronation equation’. The type of flexibility you’ll need to work on is complex, it involves several muscle groups and will take time. However get it right and you could find yourself far stronger and more injury-resistant.
Increasing Ankle Dorsiflexion
Lack of ankle dorsiflexion (bringing the instep of the foot towards the shin) can cause overpronation. Decreased dorsiflexion can be caused by a number of biomechanical factors, but one of the most common reasons is poor calf flexibility. So stretching the calves is very important in correcting pronation and reducing the possibility of pronation-related injury.
Here is a good video tutorial on the main calf stretches:
Hip Adductor Flexibility
The hip adductor group is responsible for bringing the leg towards the mid-line of the body. Pronation involves adduction of the rearfoot, so tight adductors of the hip will directly influence pronation. By improving your hip adductor flexibility, you are taking one of the most important steps in a more efficient and stable running gait.
Here is a video tutorial on how to maximise hip adductor flexibility, the video covers several good stretches:
The peroneal longus is the main pronator of the foot. Pronation will be increased if peroneals are tight, so stretching them can help reduce pronation. While not as important as hip adductor flexibility, this is still worth considering in your overall pronation-reduction strategy.
This video shows the peroneal stretch:
So that is part one in our guide to correcting pronation with exercise.
The Glutes have been our main focus, so check out part two (coming soon), which will cover some additional exercises you can do to correct pronation of the foot when running.