If you suffer from knee, hip or lower back pain, you may be surprised to hear that your feet could be the underlying cause of your pain. It makes sense if you think about it. Your feet form the base of the kinetic chain that is your body. In the same way that the foundation of a building helps determine the stability of the structure above, the alignment of the foot determines the alignment of the knee, hip and lower back.
Understanding Foot Posture
There are three basic postures of the foot.
- “Supinated” feet look like they’re tipping to the outside of the foot.
- “Neutral” feet are perfectly aligned.
- “Pronated” feet tip or roll to the inside.
Standing in stockings or bare feet, most people can roll their foot to the outside to a supinated alignment. When the foot is rolled all the way to the inside it’s pronated. The neutral foot is between the supinated and pronated positions and looks like a “normally” aligned foot.
How Foot Posture Affect The Joints In Your Legs
To understand foot posture, you need to understand bone structure. There are two bones that connect the knee to the foot. The larger bone is the tibia. This is the main shin bone in the front of the leg. The bottom of the tibia forms the inside ankle bone. The smaller lower leg bone is the fibula. The base of the fibula forms the outside ankle bone. The ankle joint hinges on the lower foot like the hinge on a door; it doesn’t rotate, it hinges directly in line with the foot.
Back to the stocking foot exercise. If the foot is positioned in neutral and the knee is bent, the knee will track forward over the foot, as it is intended to track. When the foot is pronated (tipped or rolled to the inside) the shaft of the lower leg will rotate inward. When the knee is bent the knee will track in an inward, misaligned, direction.
Moving up the leg above the knee, a pronated foot causes the leg to rotate inward which means that the thigh (femur) rotates inward which affects the hip socket. The pelvis then has to tip to allow the hip socket to rotate which in turn misaligns the lower back.
Notice the chain reaction? It starts with a misaligned foot posture and affects every joint all the way up to the lower back.
80% of the human population has pronated feet and the average person takes 10,000 steps a day. That means that lots of people are going through life with misaligned knees, hips and lower back!
How Orthotics Help
Orthotics support a misaligned foot, helping it maintain a neutral position. This helps the knee, hip and lower back achieve proper alignment. Once these joints are in proper alignment, the body can function as it is intended to and the pain dissipates.