You Don't Need Orthopedic Shoes. Do This Instead.

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If you’ve experienced foot pain, chances are someone has suggested you try orthotics. While these custom inserts can be very helpful for some diagnoses, they don’t correct the underlying cause of your foot pain, and they can cost as much as $800. If you’d prefer an alternate route, there are ways you can correct the problems in your feet — like over-pronation and over-supination — without spending a month's rent in the process.

A normal gait should include both pronation (rolling inward) and supination (rolling outward). Pronation and supination are both vital to the foot’s healthy shock absorption and alignment. Problems begin to occur when your foot becomes stuck in either a pronated or supinated position thanks to muscle imbalances in the foot and up the kinetic chain.

You can test your own foot positioning just by standing on it. If you feel more weight placed through the outside of your foot, that's probably over supination. If you stand on one leg and your arch, and even your knee, collapses in, it’s a sign of over pronation. Over time, positioning in either extreme can cause overuse in the ankle, leg, and hip muscles and eventually cause pain not only in your feet, ankles, and shins, but also in your knees, hips, and back.

To avoid getting your body in a place where you think you'll need some orthopedic remedy, let’s look at some exercises that can help get your feet back in the optimal position naturally.

Dorsiflexor Release

  • Find a stable, firm surface roughly knee height.
  • Place a lacrosse ball under the front of the shin and kneel onto it.
  • Slowly allow more body weight to sink into the ball while your knee continues to bend.
  • Pump foot up and down until the discomfort in that area decreases.
  • Move ball around to multiple sore spots along the muscle to target the entire muscle.
  • Perform on both legs for three to five minutes.

Plantar Fascia Release

  • Place a lacrosse ball or golf ball on the bottom of your foot.
  • With weight placed through your leg, gently roll the ball under your foot. Once you find a spot that is tender, stop and point your toes up and down.
  • Roll on the ball for one to two minutes.

Dorsiflexor Mob with Band

  • Anchor a band close to the floor. Wrap band around the front of your ankle.
  • Get into a semi lunge position, keeping your front foot on the surface of the floor.
  • Rock forward, slightly bending your front knee. Return to starting position. Repeat.

Toe Taps

  • Put all of your weight in one leg, through the heel, and with slack in your knee.
  • Move your free leg to the side, then the back.
  • Twist your leg sideways, then to the back again. Repeat.
  • Make sure to touch your toe to the floor at the peak of each movement.

4 Way Lunges with Band

Using a band, perform each of these lunges:

Forward-Reaching Lunges

  • Start in a split stance with one foot in front of you and the other behind you.
  • Bring back knee toward the floor so both legs form two 90-degree angles, hips slightly higher than knees, weight through the heel of the front foot.
  • Hold stance, hinge from hips and bend forward as if you are reaching for something in front of you on the floor.
  • Keep back flat.
  • Repeat.

Side-to-Side Lunges

  • Get in your lunge position.
  • Hold stance, side-bend from your torso to the right and left.
  • Repeat.
  • Rotational Lunges
  • Get in your lunge position.
  • Hold this stance and then twist your torso to the right and left.
  • Repeat.

Up-and-Down Lunges

  • Get in your lunge position.
  • Bring back knee toward the floor so both legs form two 90-degree angles with your hips going straight down to the ground.
  • The front knee should move forward as little as possible and should never pass the toes.
  • Drive hips straight back up to come out of the lunge.
  • Repeat.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

  • Stand with your weight on one leg, slack in the knee, weight through the heel.
  • As you kick your opposite leg behind you, simultaneously bring chest toward the ground like a see-saw. Hold and repeat.
  • Do not rotate hips, keep back flat. No arching and no rounding.

3-Way Calf Raises

  • Stand with chest against a stability ball, rested on a wall, legs straight out behind you until your heel isn’t touching the floor.
  • Shift your weight all to one leg with the other leg resting on the back of the working leg. Slightly bend your knee.
  • Go up on your toes, then come all the way back down until heel touches the floor.
  • Repeat the motion with working leg straight.
  • Perform exercise with foot pointing straight and foot turned outward. If this is too difficult, you can perform with both feet on the ground.