Foot Function: The Importance of Proper Mechanics

“Flat feet are bad, high arches are good.” Not quite.
The foot contains 28 bones, 55 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making it one of the most dynamic areas in the body, playing a pivotal role in overall mechanics. If the foot muscles are weak and not functioning properly it will impact motion, and thus stress throughout the body in different ways potentially causing reduction in range of motion, as well as knee, hip, back, and shoulder pain.
It is important to understand that all joints are interrelated and a weakness in muscles surrounding a given joint will have implications at other joints in the body. It is helpful to think of the body like matter- that it can neither be created nor destroyed. If the foot loses the ability of pronate or supinate, dorsi-flex or plantar-flex, invert or evert, we could be potentiating injury, compensation, overuse, pain, and other negative effects. Let’s examine some basic characteristics of pronation and supination:
Characteristics of pronation
  • Shock Absorption
  • Deceleration
  • Internal rotation of tibia and femur
  • Anterior pelvic tilt
  • Rounded shoulders
Characteristics of supination
  • Propulsion of movement
  • External rotation of tibia and femur
  • Posterior pelvic tilt
  • Retraction of shoulders
When looking at the mechanics of walking/ gait, the heel initiates contact with the ground in a supinated position (higher arch). When transitioning from heel strike, as the body places weight on foot, the foot begins to flatten its arch and move into pronation in order to absorb forces. As the body moves forward, the foot then transitions from a pronated (flattened arch) position and begins to concentrically contract pronator muscles to move the body forward.
If you are not able to properly absorb force during gait at the foot, what do you think will happen up the chain in the knees, hips and back? If the foot cannot pronate, or is unable to flatten its arch, the body will have to compensate and displace forces somewhere else (motion can neither be created nor destroyed). For instance, if the foot is unable to pronate and thus internally rotate, we could see excessive valgus knee fault (caving in of the knee), placing adverse stress on the ACL ligament. This will have considerable implications when high impact forces start to come into play (running/ jumping), but during every day walking in can manifest in an array of symptoms and compensation patterns if not corrected, that include but are not limited to:
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ankle sprains
  • Bunions
  • Hammertoes
  • Claw toes
  • Heel spurs
  • Low back pain
  • Knee pain (eg. ACL tear)
  • Shoulder tightness
Referring back to the initial statement, ‘flat feet are bad, high arches are good’, it should be evident that this is not always the case. Pronation (flat arches) or supination (high arches) is neither good or bad, but it is the relationship between the two that are critical in overall function and performance. At the Athletic Training Institute, utilizing Muscle Activation Techniques, along with intelligent exercise programming we ensure that you have proper foot mechanics and an optimally functioning body.
Foot Function: The Importance of Proper Mechanics

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