Everyone supinates -- rolling to the outside of the foot -- to a certain degree as a natural part of walking, but consistently staying on the outside of the feet can cause stress to the joints and muscles of the feet, legs and hip. There is no definitive way to cure or completely prevent over-supination with exercise, but certain stretching exercises can help alleviate stress to the muscles and joints and assist in pulling the lower body back into more optimum alignment.
Supination, the movement of the foot as it rolls outward, is part of the natural gait cycle. Your foot automatically transfers weight to the outside of the foot in order to propel your body forward with each stride. However, over-supination can cause muscle and joint imbalances as the foot rolls too far outward. Over-supination places excessive strain on the muscles of the calf and shin, leading to repeated stress to the ankle, knee and hip joints.
With excessive supination, the smaller toes are forced to do more work as the foot consistently rolls to the outside. Placing your foot on a towel and working to grab the towel with all five toes helps strengthen the larger toes to balance the stress placed on the smaller toes. Towel scrunches also help activate the plantar fascia located along the underside of the foot. Focus on keeping the foot level with a flat surface as you grab with the toes as opposed to allowing the foot to turn inward.
Though the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calf are stressed during over-supination, performing calf raises without rolling to the outside of the foot can help recondition these muscles under proper alignment. With both standing and seated calf raises, think of pressing the large, fleshy part of the ball of your foot into the ground with each lift. This will keep your feet aligned to prevent over-supination while performing calf raises. Developing the calf muscles in proper alignment may help reduce the stress to the outside of the lower leg and ankles.
Rolling to the outside of the feet often tightens muscles on the outside of the leg. The abductor complex at the outside of the upper leg can often become shortened and tight on account of stress to the hip from over-supination. Strengthening the muscles at the inside of the leg can help counter this overuse and assist in pulling the knee and hip back into neutral alignment. The muscles of the inner thigh can be strengthened with medicine ball squeezes, wall squats with a medicine ball between the knees, and resistance band adduction exercises where the leg moves inward against the resistance of the elastic.
Gentle and consistent stretching of the muscles of the outer leg can help alleviate stress to the joints of the ankle, knee and hip caused by excessive supination. The more supple and relaxed these muscles grow with stretching, the less they may pull the corresponding joints out of alignment. Toe touches with your feet crossed target the muscles of the outer leg. Using a foam roller to gently roll over the muscles of the hip and outer thigh helps to loosen these shortened muscles. Consistent stretching in conjunction with strengthening the opposing muscles at the inner thigh can help reduce stress to the muscles and joints affected by over supination.
- Sports Injury Clinic: Supination
- Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Physical Rehabilitation; DA Neumann
- National Academy of Sports Medicine Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training; Michael Clark
- The Iowa Orthopaedic Journal: Rational for Treatment of Hip Abductor Pain Syndrome
- National Academy of Sport Medicine Optimum Performance Training for the Fitness Professional; Michael Clark
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