Biomechanics—most simply put, how you move—is at the heart of much of what we do here at our podiatry office. Every foot, every muscle, every skeleton is different. Biomechanical factors influence how you stand, how you walk, how you run, how your weight and other forces are distributed, and what implications those various gait styles have for the health of your feet, ankles, and legs.
When, for example, we prescribe a custom functional orthotic, what we’re really doing is altering the biomechanics of how your feet, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones work together, realigning them so that they can work more harmoniously with one another, reducing pain and preventing future injury.
What Do “Normal” Biomechanics for Foot Look Like?
Walking may look simple at a distance, but there are a lot of complicated processes at work. The normal gait cycle is generally subdivided into the heel strike, mid-stance, heel lift, and swing phase.
When you take a step, your heel lands first—the heel strike. As you shift your weight forward toward the midstance, the foot rolls inward and the arch flattens to provide shock absorption, a process called pronation. Next, the foot rolls back outward (supination) and the arch rises to lift the heel, and the foot swings forward again.
Common Biomechanical Problems—Looking at Pronation
The most common issue with foot biomechanics and the gait cycle, by far, is overpronation. Essentially, after the foot comes in contact with the ground, the foot and ankle roll too far inward at mid-stance, making the toes appear to point outward.
Severe overpronation is often associated with flat feet or collapsed arches, and can negatively affect healthy body alignment. The heel gets pulled too far inward, which begins a chain reaction that causes legs, thighs, and hips to rotate inward as well. Potential consequences include plantar fasciitis, pain in the ball of your feet, Achilles tendon issues, and general pain and soreness all the way up to your lower back.
Others may instead supinate, or under-pronate—that is, the feet do not roll inward enough (or even outward) after heel strike, causing the legs and hips to rotate outward as well and toes to point in. This can significantly reduce the amount of shock absorption your feet provide, increasing impact force to your lower limbs and leading to a greater likelihood of ankle sprains, stress fractures, shin splints, and knee issues.
Other Potential Biomechanical Issues
Pronation and the gait cycle are perhaps the most common talking points when biomechanics are addressed, but in truth anything that causes you to change the way you walk and move can be considered a biomechanical issues, including bunions, hammertoes, neuropathy, sports injuries, and more.
For example, if your foot hurts, you might exhibit what’s known as an antalgic gait—limping to avoid putting weight on an injury, for example, or a shorter-than-usual stride to compensate for reduced push-off strength. You might also exhibit a high-stepping gait with more knee bending to compensate for drop foot, or one of many other abnormal movement patterns.
Treatment for Biomechanical Issues in Coachella Valley
Dr. Harvey Danciger has been studying and treating people like you with foot and ankle issues for decades, and has the experience and skill you need to fix gait and biomechanical problems. Our office prescribes orthotics, custom fit to your exact needs and specifications, that can help control abnormal rolling or rotation, provide extra shock absorption, and realign your joints to help you get back into a healthy walking patterns. We also provide surgical, non-surgical, and laser therapy treatment for a wide range of painful foot and ankle conditions that may be adversely affecting how you move.
To set an appointment with the doctor at our Palm Desert, CA office, you can request a time online or give us a call at 760-568-0108.