If you’ve made this far in our series, I just want to congratulate you because you have made it to the good part. I think we made it quite clear in our previous articles, either your feet are prone in orientation, supine or overpronated. Yes, you do get those individuals that technically, have neutral feet posture. But, I am a firm believer that no one is completely neutral in their posture. There are just way too many factors influencing our feet posture, too many things that influence how we walk or run, for you to be 100% perfectly neutral when your feet are on the ground. Therefore, this article is for everyone.
When it comes to rehabilitating your feet it is usually a combination of two things that you need to accomplish:
And I know, stretch my feet? YES, STRETCH YOUR FEET GUYS AND GIRLS! Our feet are made up of an intricate system of levers. Levers made up of muscles, ligaments and tendons all covered in connective tissue fascia. Remember, when we said that most specialists regard the feet as arguably the most complex part of the body to fix? And this is a kind reminder why that is, so stretching and releasing all the connective tissue is a very real and very critical part of rehabilitating your feet.
But how do we know when to stretch and when to strengthen which parts? In most cases the protocol is as follows:
Okay, so we know what to do, now we need to figure out how to do it. And truth be told, there are actually so many ways to approach this form of rehabilitation for both supination and pronation. The presence of social media trainers and all these different platforms that show us all these different and unique exercises that you can do. Yes, those exercises look super cool and complex, but the truth is most of those exercises are for entertainment purposes. Because the “boring”, tried and true exercises aren’t as “cool”.
So if that is what you’re expecting, be prepared to be disappointed. Our philosophy is simple and effective exercises that can be easily understood and duplicated. Because the less complicated it is for you, the higher the chances of you staying consistent and compliant with your rehabilitation.
A simple but super effective exercise. Find a stretch of solid surface such as a rubber gym floor or stretch of turf. Get onto your toes like a ballerina, and walk for 10 m forward and 10 m in reverse. Yes, backward walking, just be vigilant of your surroundings as it takes some practice to get the swing of backwards walking.
The exact same concept like your toe walks, except you will be walking on your heels instead of your toes. This exercise is vitally important for your anterior compartment of your lower leg, specifically for your tibialis anterior muscle, which is a muscle that plays a vital role in healthy gait.
Stiff Leg Hops
This is a more plyometric exercise with a solid functional component. With this exercise you will focus on keeping your legs stiff and hop forward using only your feet. Your feet need to act like a mini set of springs, with them almost slapping the ground in order to propel you forward. Again, solid ground for about 10 m forwards, however no backwards hopping with this exercise. This exercise might seem silly at first but it is such a power tool to establish strength and control in your feet.
Airex Mat or Bosu Ball Sprinters Stances
This exercise is a less common one, but still so simple and effective. Using an airex mat or physio mat, take a mid swing phase stance with one leg flexed and the other firmly on the mat. Now start marching in place, swapping legs and mimicking your running gait. As you get more comfortable you can increase your tempo and power. Repeat this for sets of 45s with about a minutes’ rest for a total of 10 sets. As you get more proficient, swap out the airex mat for a bosu ball.
Again, these are actually meant for your lower limb muscles. But we want to make sure you guys know when to do what with regard to the pronation posture of your feet.
This is like a standard calf stretch, but instead of keeping your leg straight and bending at the ankle joint, you will be bending the knee joint of the leg you’re going to stretch as well during the exercise. This change in form, switches the focus from the gastroc muscles onto the soleus. The soleus muscle is the muscle underneath the gastroc within the deeper compartment of the lower limb. Do this stretch in combination with your standard calf stretch and you are sorted! 3 sets of 60 seconds each please and thank you.
Myofascial Release of the Lower Limb
I know the go to method here is using one of those fancy foam rollers. But the more effective way is actually using something that can really hit and release those trigger points within in the compartments of the lower limb. Our suggestion is using something like a lacrosse ball or baseball. It is way more effective, a lot cheaper than most foam rollers and easy to carry around.
On a gym mat, place the ball in the middle of the calf area of your leg, place your other leg on top of the leg with the ball placed underneath. Go ahead and apply pressure with the top leg while simultaneously rotating the bottom leg in an anticlockwise formation. Moving down and up the calf muscles. Don’t forget to release the anterior (front) part of your lower leg, targeting the tibialis anterior muscle for release as well. To do this, just roll onto your side and place the ball on the front of your lower leg. Repeat both these movements for 60 seconds, 1-2 sets per leg.
Rehab Exercises for Supinating Feet
Standing comfortably on both feet, go ahead and place your feet flat and firmly on the ground. Now drive your big toe into the ground while simultaneously lifting the other four toes off of the ground. Repeat this movement for 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps.
Standing Heel Raises
Standing on a flat surface and on one leg, go ahead and lift your heel off the ground, and slowly lower it to the ground. Repeat this movement for 10 reps for legs. The aim here is control, keeping your opposite leg elevated.
Lunge Calf Raises
Standing in a static lunge position, with your fore foot elevated (we just use a gym plate) go ahead do a classic calf raise while maintaining your lunge position. Repeat this for 3 sets of 6-8 reps on both legs. Heads, this is much more challenging than it sounds.
I personally love jumping rope, not only does it strengthen your lower limbs and feet by mimicking the loading patterns of running; it also builds up your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. Depending on how you go about your jump rope sessions. We recommend doing a combination of endurance jumping, like jumping for 10-15 minutes with minimal if any breaks. And intervals such as a basic 1:1 interval vs rest, starting at 20 second intervals and building it up as you get more accustomed to the exercise.
Stretch and Release Exercises for Supinating Feet
PVC Pipe Roll Outs
Yes, a PVC pipe is such a cool and cost effective piece of equipment. Go down to your local hardware store and get yourself a 60 cm cut of very sturdy PVC piping, try and get one that doesn’t have a short diameter. Aim for a piece of pipe that has a 15cm diameter. So how you go about this exercise is by standing with one foot on the pipe and rolling it back and forth whilst applying pressure with the bottom of your foot. You can do this for about 60s per foot for a total of 3 sets.
Plantar Flexion Stretch
On a gym mat, go down on both knees and sit on the back of your calves/heels. The goal is to place your feet top down on the mat. IE: Plantar flexed position. Placing your weight on your feet/heels you should feel a significant stretch around the area of your ankle joint. Hold this position for 90 - 120 seconds for a total of 2 sets.
What we like most about this stretch is that you’re not only stretching your and releasing the muscles involved in both dorsi and plantar flexion. You are also getting a really good quad stretch done.
Overpronation - A Special Case
I wish that overpronation was as “easily dealt with as pronation and supination, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. People that suffer from overpronated feet will need a more robust approach to their treatment and management. Because strictly speaking, in many cases of overpronation the anatomical deficits are irreversible, hence why maintenance strategies need to be implemented.
Yes, all the exercises and tips for pronated feet do apply for overpronation, but those exercises and stretches in isolation won’t be sufficient to rehabilitate and manage this condition. Therefore, in addition to the exercises, people with overpronated feet can look at the following options to help manage their condition:
Go ahead and implement all the above exercises as your needs arise, but just remember the main aim is consistency. So just doing a few sets of these exercises every other month or so won’t solve your problem. Pronation, supination and overpronation are not acute conditions that occur overnight, they develop over time as a result of different factors influencing your biomechanics. So if it is your aim to correct this, it will take some time and consistency to undo the issues that led to you developing either condition.
Some final thoughts…
So let’s do something interesting. I am going to ask you to do a little exercise. Get up, take your shoes and socks off if you’re wearing some, find a full length mirror (or one of those small rectangular ones’ you find in your local shoe store). Go ahead and stand with your feet side by side, and tell me what you see? Nothing significant right? Now go ahead and march in place like a soldier. Anything specific you notice? Not much, yeah I didn't think so either.
However, to us seasoned professionals we can tell so much about your anatomy and biomechanics by just observing how your feet interact with the ground. We can tell you whether or not you have a leg length discrepancy, we can tell if you have tight calves or hamstrings, we can more or less figure out whether you’re quad dominant or whether you rely mostly on your posterior chain for running. And we could even tell you whether or not you’ve had any significant injuries from the hips down or whether you struggled with weight as a toddler and or young adult. Sounds a bit far-fetched but it is true.
Your feet tell a story, either telling us what has already happened or predicting what might happen; and both instances it is our story that holds true value. And unlocking that value is the secret weapon in any runners’ arsenal.