Many sports injuries that involve the foot, ankle, and spine can be alleviated with podiatry. Traditionally, podiatrists have prescribed custom orthotics, or shoe inserts, to control excessive foot motion.
For women in particular, excess pronation can occur with running. This means that the rearfoot tends to turn inwards, causing painful sports injuries like Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and anterior knee pain.
Orthotics can help by angling to rearfoot outwards so that it won’t turn inwards and cause painful sports injuries. However, orthotics don’t always help—the success rate is about 70 to 80%.
For the other 20-30% of sports injuries, podiatrists are increasingly turning to biomechanical examinations. This means looking at the mechanics of how the body moves, both properly and improperly.
The podiatrist looks at the patient in a standing position to see how their foot and lower leg are aligned during weight bearing. They also look at the patient’s posture, stability and flexibility in the back, hips and legs.
Tight calf muscles are usually found to relate to over-pronation as the foot compensates for a tight range of motion by rolling inwards. The podiatrist will also test the foot and ankle with the patient lying down while the podiatrist looks at the rearfoot and forefoot alignments. In particular, he looks at the amount of flexion in the ankle.
If the patient’s pelvis is tilted forwards, this causes the knees to rotate inwardly which rotates the tibia (shinbone) and that causes ankle pronation, or turning inwards.
One culprit is often weak ankle muscles, particularly in the ankle evertor muscles that control pronation. If these muscles are too weak, then the ankles will pronate, or roll inwards, which sets the patient up for sports injuries. The cure is proper rehabilitation and strengthening exercises prescribed by a podiatrist.