Pronation is a movement of the foot and ankle to absorb shock and load the muscles of propulsion. While necessary, too much pronation has been associated with increased risk of a number of musculoskeletal injuries including achilles tendinopathy, runner's knee, and low back pain, according to Dr. Peter Brukner, author of Clinical Sports Medicine. Resistance exercise can be used to reduce excessive pronation and reduce the strain on joints.
The Tibialis Posterior
The tibialis posterior is a deep muscle that runs behind the shin bone that serves to slow down pronation by controlling the heel bone. Often weak, resistance exercise can improve its function. Strengthen the tibialis posterior with a tennis ball calf raise, recommends Brukner. Stand facing a wall with your feet together. Squeeze a tennis ball between your heels and rise onto your toes. Under control, lower your heels to the floor with a five-second count. Repeat for three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
The Gluteus Maximus
"I've never seen a foot a hip couldn't fix," says lead physical therapist of Marines Special Operations and Command, Dr. Charlie Weingroff. The gluteus maximus, otherwise known as the "glutes" controls pronation by limiting the amount of motion given up by the hip. Dr. Weingroff recommends utilizing the Romanian Deadlift exercise to shorten the gluteus maximus to resist pronation. Hold a barbell or dumbbells by your sides. Hinge your hips back, allowing your arms to hang, then stand up by pushing your hips forward and squeezing your gluteus maximus. Slowly lower the bar and repeat for three to five sets of three to eight repetitions with a moderately heavy load.
The oblique abdominal muscles -- the muscles along the sides of your torso -- help prevent excessive pronation by stabilizing your pelvis against the torque caused by pronation. Strengthen your oblique abdominals using the side bridge hold exercise, says Dr. Stuart McGill, a biomechanist at the University of Waterloo. Lie on your side with your feet stacked on one another and your forearm under your shoulder. Lift your body so all of your weight is balanced between your feet and forearm. Hold for 10 seconds then return to the floor. Repeat for up to 20 sets of 10 seconds on each side.
While exercise is generally helpful to reduce excessive pronation, some individuals may have structural skeletal pathologies that warrant the use of corrective devices like orthotics. Work with a licensed health care practitioner to determine the best route for you to ensure your safety and to help you achieve the best results possible.
- "Clinical Sports Medicine"; Peter Brukner, MD and Karim Khan, MD; 2005
- "Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance"; Stuart McGill, PhD; 2007