How Pronated Feet Affect Lower Legs: Abnormal foot mechanics can create symptoms in your legs
There is a muscle on the inner (medial) side of the lower legs called the “posterior tibial muscle”. It turns into a tendon that attaches to a bone on the inner side of the foot and it acts to pull up the arch.
When the foot pronates, the lowering of the arch and rolling in of the foot results in a strain of the tendon and often this extends up the leg muscle that is attached to that tendon.
Similarly, there is another muscle/tendon complex at the front of the lower legs called the anterior tibial muscle and tendon that can experience similar symptoms.
Pain in the lower legs is a common finding with runners and other athletes who have a foot imbalance.
How Orthotics Help Lower Leg Pain
Orthotics will correct the pronation, and will thereby reduce the strain of the lower leg muscles and tendons. The muscles and tendons of the lower legs will function normally, and once the foot mechanics are controlled, the tendons no longer have to strain with every step.
Some people wonder if the orthotics are like a “crutch” whereby the muscles can weaken after continued use. The answer is no! The tendons and muscles of the lower legs will function normally within their normal ranges of motion, they just won’t be strained to go beyond what they were anatomically intended to do.
How Rigid High Arches Can Create Lower Leg Pain
If you have a high arched foot structure, then a lot of your weight bearing is at the outside or lateral side of the foot. (i.e. “lateral” means: right side of right foot, or left side of left foot). When this happens, the muscles at the lateral side of the lower legs can be strained. These muscles turn into tendons that act on the lateral side of the ankle and foot to create stability and balance. If the foot is tilted too much to the outside, then the tendons and muscles go beyond their normal ranges of motion.
Orthotics will rebalance the foot to lessen the excessive strain of the muscles of the lateral side of the lower legs.
Tips for Those With Lower Leg Pain
While correcting the foot mechanics will address the cause of the problem in most cases, there are some other things you can do. Try to wear soft soled supportive shoes such as walking shoes or running shoes. Avoid sandals and flip flops. Sometimes massage is helpful. Also, you can do some range of motion exercises such as moving your feet around in circles, and pulling your feet and toes up, then pointing them downwards.
Frozen peas are helpful to calm down some inflammation, but diabetics or those with poor circulation shouldn’t use cold packs.
Good flexibility for your calf muscles is helpful. Runners often experience lower leg symptoms because of muscle imbalance where the calf muscles overpower the front lower leg muscles. Or tightness in the calf muscles make the front muscles work harder. Therefore stretching and strengthening exercises help.
To stretch the calf muscles:
Stand facing a wall with one foot forward and one foot back. Be sure that the back foot points straight ahead towards the wall. Bend the forward knee and leave the back leg and knee straight.
You can feel the calf muscle stretch. Do this gently to the point of discomfort, but not beyond that.
To strengthen the front lower leg muscles:
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Pull one foot up and twist in towards the other foot.
This fires the tendons and muscles of that foot. Add some resistance by using your other foot to push down against the foot that is up and in. Hold for 10 seconds and do several repeats.
This helps to create a balance between the anterior (front) lower leg muscles and the calf muscles.
Caution / Advisory for those with lower leg pain
Severe or acute pain in your lower legs should be evaluated by your physician!
Those with varicose veins should be especially careful to have your doctor evaluate any leg symptoms.