In the first part of this article series we covered, wait what? You haven’t read our first installment of this series? Come on guys and girls, what's up with that? Okay, okay we’ll wait for you guys to go get caught up.
As we were saying, in the previous installment of this series we introduced you to our feet, their anatomy and biomechanics. In a nutshell, we took a look at the intrinsic factors that influence how our feet function. We are now going to focus on the extrinsic factors.
Are you Flat Footed or Do you Have a Hop in your Step?
So just to recap, pronating feet are flat feet. Your arches collapse when they make contact with the ground. A supinating foot on the other hand maintains its structure when making contact with the ground. That is why supinating feet remain in their hollowed shape during gait. I.e. Maintain their arched form.
Whether your feet supinate or pronate is determined by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. In the first part of this article we covered the intrinsic factors. These include:
All of these factors are regarded as intrinsic due to the fact that they are determined by anatomical or physiological reasons that are usually out of our control. Extrinsic factors on the other hand are caused by external factors that alter our feet orientation over time.
Extrinsic factors affecting the orientation of our feet include:
Now wait, what about body mass index? Isn’t it an intrinsic factor? Yes, it is as there are cases where obesity or higher body mass indices are caused by an underlying physiological cause that we have no control over. Other times it is due to our habits and lifestyle choices. That is why it can be categorized as both an intrinsic and extrinsic cause of pronation or supination in our feet.
Postural and Training Habits
How we use our body on a daily basis will determine how our body uses us during our lifetime. Yes, you read that correctly. These are words uttered to me by my Biomechanics lecturer many moons ago; somehow it remains still so incredibly true today. In layman’s terms, our body responds to stresses that we place on it. So if you lift heavy weights our body responds with muscular development or growth. The same applies to our posture and by extension the orientation of our feet. A bit complex?
Let’s break it down for you guys into digestible bite size pieces.
Imagine you’re an auditor, seasoned and professionally working in your industry for the last 10-15 years. In your spare time you're a trail running fanatic. Once every other year you would get yourself new gear and do a gait analysis to ensure you get the perfect trainer for your races. However, of late you’ve noticed that your trail running shoes don’t last as long as they used to at the beginning of your career.
So you come and see me for a consultation on your gait; I noticed that your gait has changed. But how could that be? You’ve maintained the exact same schedule and habits for the last 15 years. 15 years of desk work, forensic audits and crazy long days seated in your most comfortable position behind your computer has led to your deep hip flexors shortening, forcing your posterior chain to compensate for the lack of stretch during your swing phase, resulting in your ITB to tighten to assist with toe off. This change in your biomechanics has resulted in your feet developing a significant supination, creating a pain cycle between your ITB and your feet.
Now this might sound like a crazy hypothetical scenario, but trust me, this is far more common than we think. And this is the type of issue that builds up over time and can have significant detrimental effects on your posture. Hence, why we referred to these factors as habits, because they are small repetitive forces that lead to compensatory biomechanical changes that may cause changes in your foot orientation.
Ah, the infamous overpronation. Medically known as pes planus, overpronation is when your foot orientation rolls excessively inwards. This is characterized by an affected foot being a flexible flatfoot, meaning that it has increased mobility at the expense of decreased stability. 3 out of 5 people with prone feet have just that, prone feet. But for some odd reason everyone seems to think that they suffer from overpronation. Why? I really do not know. Because if that were the case, podiatrists and orthopedists would be having a field day, everyday. But I digress, overpronation is a far more serious condition because it alters your biomechanics to the point where it becomes risky and in some cases dangerous for you to be running at all without any meaningful intervention.
Yes, so when it comes to overpronation we tend to treat it quite seriously as it poses far greater risk for short and long term injuries that could, hypothetically, end your running career.
Okay, so that might be a bit of a downer, but the truth is we’re just being honest. We know there are many articles out there discussing the very same topic but with very little context and a slightly altered perspective as they don’t prepare you for the realities of these conditions. It is our prerogative to give you guys the entire picture and present it in such a way that you develop a deeper understanding of your feet and how they work and what affects them in what ways. We want this series to add value to your life.
But until then, let’s have a quick recap of what we have covered thus far:
If you can understand your feet you can fully unlock your running potential. This is not some broad motivational statement, it is the truth. And it was our goal to simplify that process in the hope that this series of articles will equip you with the necessary skills to accept and adapt to what you cannot change; and change what you thought you couldn’t.