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KelpFries

Pronation and Flat Feet - To Hell And Back

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I wanted to share the journey i've been on in dealing with my pronation issues. But first a little back story. I'm 46 years old. At 36 on Valentines Day, I suffered a massive heartattack. Smoking and cheeseburgers will do that to you. The fact that I was only 36 terrified me, so young to have a heartattack. So, I pulled through and had 3 stents implanted. I gave up smoking and began to watch what I ate. I dropped 60+ pounds and am happy to say that I am healthy probably for the first time in my life. I've always liked hockey, watch Rangers games religiously and have always thought about what it would be like to actually play, but never had the motivation to actually learn to skate. So 10 years later, i'm exercising, albeit reluctantly because honestly I don't like exercising, I find it very boring, but I do it all the same because I want to make sure I stay healthy so as not to have another heartattack. 8 months ago my 10 year old daughter was taken ice skating by her grandparents and got excited about it. She came to me and asked if she could have skating lessons. Of course I obliged. After 2 months she was doing quite well and kept asking me if I would go skating with her. It's hard for a 10 year old to just go to the rink and have no one to skate with. So, I rented a pair of skates and hung on to the boards for dear life, but at least I was on the ice with her. A couple of sessions and bruises later I began to fall in love with it. I managed to finally get off the boards (only with the help of a walker at first) and was beginning to get the hang of not falling on my ass. Something clicked in me, something set off a trigger. I was hooked. An amazing way to exercise that I like! I immediately bought my first pair of skates. Cheap, only enough money to get a pair that could be baked, but good enough to get me started. I signed up for lessons and began my learning journey. 

Now the hard truth about my story. Over many years i've been on my feet quite a lot, especially the last 10 years what with jogging and walking and exercising. At first I didn't realize it was an issue. But as I gradually, very gradually got my balance I realized I kept skating on my inside edges. It was very difficult for me to get the basics down, gliding on one foot in a straight line, I would always glide in a curve and had a very hard time trying to get balanced. Then when my coach began trying to get me to do half swizzles in preparation for learning crossovers, I would fail miserably. I simply could not get my inside foot on an outside edge. The coach then pointed out what was clear to see, I couldn't get my skates straight at a standstill, they would just lean inwards. She told me I have over pronation. Never heard of this so I looked it up. She was right, I had over pronation and a bad case of it. 

Here's where my skating journey gets frustrating and painful. The beginning of my feeble attempts to try to correct my pronation problem. 

My first attempt to correct: I would tie my skates as tight as I could get them, all the way up to the top eyelet. This created really bad problems. Firstly, it would kill my feet, after 5 minutes my feet would hurt so badly that I would have to come off the ice, loosen the laces, let the circulation back into my feet then tie them up again. Only being able to skate for a few minutes at a time severely hampered my ability to learn. Secondly, because I had to tie my skates all the way up to the top eyelet as tight as possible, it was impossible for me to get any forward ankle bend so I would constantly feel as if I was skating on my heels which was causing me to lean forward to try to compensate, which in turn would throw me off balance and it would be a constant battle of moving forwards and backwards to try to get balance and I was getting absolutely nowhere with my abilities. 

Second attempt: I replaced my standard laces with waxed laces. This way I figured, I wouldn't have to tie the bottom laces so tight, only the top laces that supported my ankle. It helped, but only slightly. I would still have to tie the top 3 or 4 eyelets extremely tight so that my ankle would stop pronating. I was still having circulation problems causing pain in my feet, but instead of after 5 minutes, it was now 10 - 15 minutes, and to top it off, I still had to tie the top eyelet very tight which limited my ability to forward flex and thus continuing my balance issues.

Third attempt: Superfeet insoles. So after a month of dealing with having to tie my skates super tight creating circulation problems and balance issues I began to do some research to see what other remedies if any I could use to try to deal with my pronation. Superfeet insoles came up quite a bit so I dove in and bought myself a set. The result of this was a slight improvement in my pronation and the ability to not have to tie my skates so tight, still tighter than I would have liked though. But the use of the superfeet insoles presented a new problem. It was killing the arches of my feet, KILLING them. But I had read that it takes a few days to get used to them so I kept on. After 3 weeks with the pain not subsiding at all, I gave up on Superfeet.

Fourth attempt: After the disaster that was the failed experiment with Superfeet insoles I came to the conclusion that it was because the Superfeet were just not the right shape for my feet. So off to the podiatrist I went. $600+ later I have myself a custom set of Footmaxx insoles specifically designed for hockey skates. This time I said to myself, before I try these I'm going to get my skates rebaked. Hot out of the oven at the pro shop, I pop in my custom orthotics and sit quietly for 15 minutes. They felt pretty good. But sitting in skates doesn't translate to skating in skates. So after a good 24 hour period I head to the rink, pop on my skates with my custom orthotics, freshly baked and I tie them only snuggly. I hop on the ice and at first it felt good, but after 10 minutes my arches were once again screaming at me to stop, for the love of God, stop. Again, as with the Superfeet, I figured it's going to take a few days to get used to the shape of the insoles so I press on. My feet screaming bloody murder every time I step on the ice. After 3 weeks i'm now unbelievably frustrated and getting to the point of saying enough is enough and giving it all up. But I try to push through the frustration and I keep up the research.

Fifth attempt: I came across an article regarding various ways of lacing. So now, still suffering with my custom orthotics, I begin trying different ways to lace up my skates. Skipping eyelets, over lacing, under lacing, you name it, I tried it. Nothing, and I mean nothing helped.

I was getting nowhere fast and losing patience. I so wanted to be competent enough to be able to start dropping in on open hockey sessions. But I simply was not learning anything and making no progress. I couldn't get anywhere close to a crossover because I either couldn't get an outside edge or couldn't keep my skates on long enough to actually try to learn them. But I was absolutely determined to figure this out. Research, research, research. Then one day I came across an article regarding foot exercises that deal with pronation. Seemed like a bunch of malarky to me, my podiatrist made it very clear that short of surgery there was no way to fix over pronation. A lot of the exercises in the article looked completely useless, but there was one that caught my eye. I had now spent 4 months in agony and gone through plenty of time and money trying desperately to fix my pronation problems. So I began doing the one exercise I thought might help even if just a little. It's where you scrunch up your toes to bring your arch up and hold it there for 5 seconds at a time. So I began doing this exercise and after a few days I was doing it subconsciously. Anytime I would sit down I would scrunch up my toes and hold for 5 seconds, let go for 5 seconds, then scrunch for 5 seconds. Over and over and over. 

The happy conclusion and the point at which I hope some of this might help anyone else who is getting frustrated trying to learn how to skate because of suffering from over pronation. I began doing these exercises 2 months ago. And I do them constantly, as I said pretty much subconsciously now. I don't even realize i'm doing them. After a month of doing these exercises I was at the rink with my daughter, still suffering with pain in my arches because of the orthotics. Well because I wasn't practicing or learning anything and just skating around (slowly) with my daughter, I got fed up, got of the ice, took off my skates, ripped out the orthotics and visciously threw them in my skate bag. I put the original flat footbeds back in my skates, put my skates on and tied them up, again all the way up to the top eyelet. But I didn't tie them tight, just snuggly. I went back on the ice and began to skate around. To my surprise I had no foot pain, none at all. No numbness either. My skates felt really comfortable for the first time in 5 months. So I figured well even though I won't be able to get an outside edge, at least I will be able to skate around with my daughter without my feet screaming in agony. Then something amazing happened. I got an outside edge! I felt it, the first time I had ever felt it. I was only gliding on a curve (because at this point I still hadn't been able to even attempt crossovers) but I felt my inside foot on an outside edge! It threw me off at first, I had never felt an outside edge before. I looked down at my feet and my skates were straight! My feet were not rolling inwards, I was on both edges standing straight. I got off the ice and took off my skates. Now I stood on the floor and looked at my feet and ankles. I realized that my arches were higher and I actually had to force my feet down to get my ankles to pronate. I walked a little and looked at my ankles, I realized that while the natural movement of my foot was to roll and my ankles to pronate, I wasn't pronating as much and found that when I was putting pressure on my feet that my ankles and arches were much stronger than they used to be and were causing my feet to stay straighter. When I would reenact a stroking motion my arches were staying up instead of rolling inwards and this was making my ankles stay straighter. I threw my skates back on and laced them up, but this time I left the top eyelet unlaced. Again, I only laced them up snuggly, not cranking on the laces like I used to have to. I got on the ice and for the first time in this entire journey I didn't feel as if I was skating on my heels just about to fall on my ass. With the top eyelet unlaced I got good ankle bend and most importantly, I GOT AN OUTSIDE EDGE!! A couple of days later I went to my lesson and told my coach I want to learn crossovers. She began with getting me to do the half swizzle around the faceoff circle drill and my inside foot was on the outside edge! I couldn't believe it. After 5 months of pain and suffering, my feet didn't hurt, my toes weren't numb, I wasn't skating to the bench in agony and I was on an outside edge! Over the past month i've learned left and right crossovers and i'm doing backwards crossovers now (still a work in progress). I can glide on one foot, in a straight line! Both backwards and forwards. And i've learned transitions. I've learned more and made so much more progress just over the past month than I did in the first 5 months of trying and suffering. 

The moral of this story is this. Other than surgery, I do not think there is any cure for pronation. However, I've come to realize that most pronation issues in skating can be overcome with strengthening your ankles and arches. My pronation has not gone away. But what has happened is i've made my ankles and more importantly my arches much stronger and this has allowed me to now subconsciously get my ankles where they need to be in order to skate comfortably. So here is what I believed has helped me overcome my issues with pronation:

1) Most importantly I believe, arch exercises. Scrunch your toes to lift the arch which will cause the ankle to move over and get in line with the foot. Hold for 5 seconds then release for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. As much as possible, anytime you're sitting down. On the couch, at the dinner table, at your desk, on the toilet, anytime, anywhere. 

2) I do not have any orthotics in my skates anymore. But I do have orthotics in my shoes and sneakers. Nothing fancy, just Spenco's. In my mind it stops my feet from erasing the arch exercises i've been doing if I keep my arches in an upward position. My thinking on this is that if I continue to use the standard flat footbed that comes in my shoes and sneakers, it will allow my arches to get back into being used to falling. I don't worry about this when skating because of the way i'm using my arch muscles when I skate. I'm still exercising them when skating with the various ways I move my feet. 

3) I purchased a bakeable set of footbeds for my skates. I don't know if this does anything for my pronation, but it has made my skates that much more comfortable to have a footbed that has comformed to the shape of my arches.

My frustration has gone and I am loving how much I am learning and the progress i'm making now that i'm not consumed with my foot pain and pronation. For all those people who are starting out and trying to learn how to skate but who are suffering from pain and frustration because of over pronation, I say this, try the arch exercises and don't waste time and money on custom orthotics that will only cause more pain and suffering. Skating uses muscles that aren't used with walking or running and your arches are used a lot, a hell of a lot, in skating. Be patient and build up the foot muscles, especially the arch muscles and you'll be surprised what a difference it can make.

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26 minutes ago, KelpFries said:

Be patient and build up the foot muscles, especially the arch muscles and you'll be surprised what a difference it can make.

Been there, done that and have been embedded in a University research project for the last few years studying this very subject. To reinforce a couple of your points and some new ones:-

1: Tying your laces as tight as you can / in different patterns, different tightness etc etc does NOT fix your pronation. The foot will still roll / want to roll in the boot REGARDLESS of how you tie the laces.

2: A perfect fitting boot does NOT fix your pronation. The foot will still roll / want to roll in the boot REGARDLESS of how well fitting the boot is. It will straighten your ankles, depending on how stiff the sidewalls of the boot are, but over time that pressure from the inward ankle roll will eventually force the boot to open up.

3: Sorry to say this but orthotics do NOT fix pronation in hockey skates, all they do is empty your wallet faster. This is just simple physics, there is nothing under the foot to allow the orthotic to lever against but hey, a podiatrist isn't going to tell you that when they are trying to sell you a service.

For ambulating on a flat surface, surgery will help but it is very debatable if it will work for hockey skates (and this from 2 consulting podiatrists who specialise in this surgery). Pronation is not just a foot issue, it is also an alignment issue that includes other joints (ankle, knee, hip, back) and surgery (calf muscle release and limiting the inward deflection of the subtalar joint) doesn't fix everything else.

Moving the holder inwards or shimming the holder is one approach to address pronation, I'm surprised your figure skating coach didn't recommend this. However I don't favor this approach and prefer to address pronation as you have done, strengthening the foot / ankle / leg and dropping eyelets. This latter point is key as it also help to strengthen the foot / ankle / leg. Don't just drop one eyelet, keep going (one row at a time) until you can eventually skate with your laces untied (or at least 4 or 5 eyelets down). This forces you to use your foot / ankle / leg muscles to balance you over the top of the blade, now it's not the skate that is holding you up but you. But I do realise this takes a lot of time and practice and for a lot of people they just don't have the time or desire so a holder shift / shim is the preferred option for a quicker fix.

I used to have sever pronation in both feet and had to always tape up my feet to deal with bunions, corns, heel bumps etc etc when skating. Then I took my laces out of my skates and haven't looked back. My pronation is now marginal, within normal foot range. Everyone else involved in the research project (who learnt to skate with no laces) has had similar results. 

 

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I have pronation on my right foot and as a result (because of the rolling inside the boot) it always felt like the right boot never fit as well no matter what brand, even with trues. What helped me were speedplates bc of how hard they are and the arch support.  My pronation isn't horrible and doesn't affect my skating and edge work but more an annoyance but I realize I need to nip it in the bud before it really messed up my overall alignment and biomechanics, which it probably has to some degree bc of all the years 

 

I'm also doing exercises etc to see if I can correct it as best as I can for overall better mechanics in daily living and workouts. 

Edited by Sniper9

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23 hours ago, Vet88 said:

Moving the holder inwards or shimming the holder is one approach to address pronation, I'm surprised your figure skating coach didn't recommend this. 

My coach actually did tell me about this option and it was one of the things I was going to do as a last resort in short order, but I had my epiphany of how strong my ankles and arches had become and my ability to get an outside edge right before I was going to try that. But now that I am finally comfortable and have the ability to gain an outside edge, I don't have to resort to that. It probably would have helped me a lot in the beginning, but then I wonder, what would the long term effect have been, learning to skate being used to a shimmed and adjusted blade holder? Would I have had issues if I went back to a standard placement on the blade holder once my ankles and arches were stronger? As painful and frustrating as my journey was, I'm glad I suffered through it and had the experience I did, because now I know I can get new skates and not have to worry about all the adjustments that would have to be made.

I feel for anyone who has gone through this and who has wasted time and money dealing with banging their head against the wall like I did trying to figure out how to overcome it. Your absolutely right, orthotics are useless in skates. This is the part that aggravates me the most, because instead of completely wasting $600+ on useless pieces of plastic that did nothing but cause pain and empty my wallet, I could have spent that money on better quality skates, hockey equipment, etc.

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23 hours ago, Vet88 said:

Don't just drop one eyelet, keep going (one row at a time) until you can eventually skate with your laces untied (or at least 4 or 5 eyelets down). This forces you to use your foot / ankle / leg muscles to balance you over the top of the blade, now it's not the skate that is holding you up but you.

I am actually going to do this eventually, but first i'm making up for valuable lost time learning to skate now that I actually can learn to skate! Thanks!

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On 7/21/2019 at 8:41 AM, KelpFries said:

 

1) Most importantly I believe, arch exercises. Scrunch your toes to lift the arch which will cause the ankle to move over and get in line with the foot. Hold for 5 seconds then release for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. As much as possible, anytime you're sitting down. On the couch, at the dinner table, at your desk, on the toilet, anytime, anywhere. 

 

This is something the minimalist runners used to do as well.  They would take a rag or towel on the floor and pull it in with their toes, repeat, etc.  

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2 hours ago, BenBreeg said:

This is something the minimalist runners used to do as well.  They would take a rag or towel on the floor and pull it in with their toes, repeat, etc.  

I have to say that the foot exercises I have done and still do are the most significant thing I have done to overcome my pronation issues. I would recommend these foot exercises in a heartbeat to anyone who has pronation problems.

Up the irons!

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On 7/22/2019 at 6:59 PM, KelpFries said:

I have to say that the foot exercises I have done and still do are the most significant thing I have done to overcome my pronation issues. I would recommend these foot exercises in a heartbeat to anyone who has pronation problems.

Up the irons!

Have you done the release techniques with the foam roller or lacrosse balls for your arch shins and calf?  I noticed after doing that it made a huge difference even after four days. The fascia release really does a good job allowing your muscles to reset from it's old bad habits. I noticed I don't have to consciously prevent the pronation from happening so I'm a real believer of fascia release. 

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46 minutes ago, KelpFries said:

No haven't done those. Sounds interesting, you have any info on them?

For the feet, literally go buy a lacrosse ball (they also make sets of various sizes just for this, but the lacrosse ball is cheaper).  For everything else, you can purchase a foam roller.  You roll your muscle over the ball or roller until you feel it encounter a tight spot or knot, then you stop and keep the pressure there.  It can be painful but it is effective on its own or as part of your warm-up before working out or skating.  I do it before I leave the house for the rink or at the gym.  Pretty straightforward.  The only mistake really is people who just roll back and forth.  You need to stop and work on the tight spots when you get to them.

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3 hours ago, KelpFries said:

No haven't done those. Sounds interesting, you have any info on them?

This is an excellent video showing fascia release. The arch and calves were absolutely killer for me lol. I'm doing this every other day and going to progress to every day soon. 

For the arch, I just use a lacrosse ball instead. 

I also don't do the band technique either but use the foam roller on my hip flexor glutes it band quads etc. 

I've been foam rolling for years now especially my hips and upper body but never incorporated the first three in the video until now. 

 

Edited by Sniper9

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