Pronation, Plantar Fasciitis and Footwear

There was a lot of interest at last night’s Gait Analysis talk in Melksham around the associated issues of Pronation, Plantar Fasciitis (especially amongst new runners) and Training Shoes.  The Plantar Fascia is the thick strap which runs along the base of your foot, absorbing energy as your foot hits the ground, and assisting in the spring as you drive off again.

For new runners, it is very important that running is built up slowly.  Although muscles can adapt surprising quickly, fascia (along with tendons) take many months to strengthen up.  So the fitness of new recruits can easily overtake the foot’s ability to cope with the load.

In our talks, we always show some dramatic footage of feet over-pronating (rolling in).  In fact, the same aggravating forces which push the ankle inwards also put a lot of stress on the plantar fascia.  Although pronation does not cause plantar fasciitis, they are different outcomes from similar ‘foot abuse’.  Factors such as the line of feet crossing over, the foot being planted outwards, and a heavy heel-strike can all contribute to putting a high load on the inside and base of the foot.  In our talk we discuss how these gaits come about, and suggest ways of improving them.

‘Anti-pronation’ training shoes (and indeed appropriate orthotics) are the traditional first line of defence against both pronation and plantar fasciitis.  By holding the foot in the correct position, and proving support against rolling, the strain across the foot is greatly reduced.  However, both shoes and orthotics change the mechanics of how your foot moves (including the big toe, see below), so it is important to get good advice.  And while some people find the extra support essential, others don’t get on with the more rigid ‘anti-pronation’ structure, and actually find a more flexible shoe helps them.  If you have a good local running shoe shop, do support it, they’ll be pleased to help (rather than finding a cheap deal on something fashionable on the interweb).  And don’t forget that, given the forces involved, shoes can lose their support in as little as 500 miles (orthotics also need regular refurbishing).

Finally, with the plantar fascia being tensioned in part by the Achilles tendon (and hence the calf muscle), it is important to remember to stretch these regularly.  At the other end of your foot, attachments at the base of the big toe mean that if that is stiff (or even if the toe is badly aligned), the plantar fascia receives more than its fair share of tension as you run.  In this case, a good physio is probably your best first port of call.