Sickled Feet: Quick Fixes, Causes, Symptoms, Correction, Prevention and Tips

Updated on February 23, 2019
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently pursuing lab sciences. She loves researching and sharing information on various health topics.

Sickling of the Feet: Symptoms and Causes
Sickling of the Feet: Symptoms and Causes | Source

Sickled feet are considered as the bane in any form of dancing. It is also a problem of many athletes as well. Well there is that and rolling, which make two of the biggest issues out there. However, it should be noted that sickling of the feet when performing is a bit harder to get rid of.

These issues can be due to the fact that a dancer or athlete may have been training incorrectly, especially if you have been doing it for a long time. Remember that bad habits are very hard to correct.

That is why dance instructors and fitness coaches should rather address these issues when they are spotted as early as possible. Remember that memory muscles tend to just repeat movements involuntarily. That is also one reason why it is very hard to get rid of sickled feet once the habit has been set.

Sickled Feet Defined

The sickling of the dancer's feet or simply sickled feet refers to the shape that the foot makes when a dancer points it during a routine. In sickling, instead of just creating a straight line the lower leg of, your foot tends to scoop downwards and your heel going too far back.

How you describe it will depend on the angle in which you see it. It's called “sickling” simply because the foot starts to form a sickle shape or looks like a sickle. Let's get a bit slightly technical about it—just slightly.

Sickling is also known as supination. Supination is actually due to the action of your foot's tarsus. The tarsus is that group of your bones on your ankles and in your feet. These bones are the ones that you use to roll your ankles around in circles.

So, when your feet are sickling, you are actually standing on the outside of your foot. In this position, the outer ankle bones of your feet are placed in actual misalignment, which can be quite dangerous whenever you are on the floor dancing. You lose alignment with mid line of your body, which makes the dancing form hideous.

It should be noted that human feet tend to naturally curve inwards. Your foot naturally tends to veer inward. In many cases, and even amongst professionals and expert dancers, one still needs to concentrate on the alignment of their legs and feet in order to avoid sickling or supination.

Note that there are several causes of supination or sickled feet and not just bad habits that one forms over time. Some of the other issues include genetics, incorrect footwear, body misalignment, and prior injuries among others.

Pronation
Supination
Neutral
Flat footed
High arches
Doesn't pronate
Foot + ankle roll inward
Cushion is lost when foot strikes the ground
Doesn't supinate
Creates stress in ankles
Foot doesn't flatten on impact
Least amount of injuries
Inside soles wear out
Outward roll which can cause sprains, plantar fasciitis, and other injuries
Effective foot strikes

Two conditions that we need to cover and contrast include both pronation and supination (sickled feet). Note that both of these terms refer to the natural rolling motion of your feet - specifically at your ankles, but with a subtle difference.

These are serious issues since they affect the way your run and walk. The motions of your feet are also called the running gait. We are specifically referring to the unique movement that your feet does in order to balance your body, cushion the impact of your weight, and provide support as you move.

Let us contrast pronation and supination so you will have a clear understanding of these two conditions. Let's start with pronation.

Pronation
When we say pronation we are actually referring to the inward rolling of the feet. This occurs during your foot's normal motion. Pronation happens when the foot's outer edge (i.e. the edge of the heel) hits the ground.

What happens is the foot will then roll inward and then it will flatten out. Note that a moderate amount of this motion is required so that your foot will function properly.

However, when there is excessive pronation then it may lead to injury. During excessive pronation, the arch of the foot will also flatten out but in a manner that stretches the ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the feet. And that is where the injury is caused.

Supination
Supination, also known as sickled feet, is also known as under pronation. It's basically the opposite of what has been described above. It refers to the outward roll of your feet—this is when the arch of your foot gets higher instead of the flattening out motion that occurs during pronation.

Just like pronation, there is a natural and minimal amount of supination that occurs on the feet when we run, walk, or even dance. This slight sickling of the feet occurs when our feet push off during take-off or when we run.

Our heels lift off the ground naturally. After that we use our toes and forefeet to propel ourselves either forward or upward. This is some kind of spring action.

However, what is wrong is excessive supination or excessive sickling. That means there is an outward rolling that occurs in the bones that belong to the tarsus.

Too much sickling strains not only the bones and tendons of the ankle. Doing so also puts a lot of unusual strain on the muscles involved. It can also cause the ankle to roll over completely.

When an excessive rolling over of the ankles occurs then that may result in an injury. At the very least you may suffer from a sprained ankle. The worst case scenario is that of total ligament rupture, which will require a trip to the hospital and an operation.

Sickling of the Feet: Symptoms and Causes

In this section we'll go over some of the critical symptoms of over sickling of the feet. We will also touch on the possible causes of this condition.

Symptoms of Sickled Feet
Too much sickling of the feet will affect a number of crucial body parts that you use for walking and also balancing. Obviously, it will affect different bones and tissues on the ankles and the feet.

However, you should also know that this physical condition will also affect the back, the hips, and the knees. The following are some of the most common symptoms that are related to supination or the sickling of the feet:

  • Back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Shin splints
  • Ankle sprains
  • Corns and calluses
  • Flat feet
  • Heel pain
  • Arch pain

Of course, you can't conclusively say that these symptoms are actually caused by or related to the sickling of your feet. You need to consult with your doctor in order to rule out other possible symptoms and causes.

Possible Causes

There are several possible causes of the sickling of the feet. Sometimes it is inherited. However, there are also other external factors that contributes to over supination. Some of them might even surprise you.

The following are the most common causes.

1. Hereditary Causes

One common cause of the over sickling of the feet is genetics. The structure of the bones of your feet, their traits, and the mechanics behind them can be inherited. Examples of genetic or inherited features that affect supination or sickling of the feet include the following:

  • The stability of the ankles
  • The width of one's foot
  • Length of the legs and feet-this may also include the possible differences in leg length (i.e. one leg would be longer than the other)

This means that the shape in the way your foot arches may also be inherited. This has a huge impact on the risk of your foot from sickling. For example, runners who naturally have higher foot arches tend to be more prone to supination than other athletes. The same is true for dancers as well.

2. Sickling of the Feet Caused by Incorrect Footwear

The design of your shoes can make or break your foot's overall performance. A well-design shoe for instance can provide sufficient support for the soft tissues of your feet.

Shoes specifically designed for certain activities like running, climbing, walking, or dancing can provide that much needed support for your foot's arch. Specialized shoes also help protect your foot from every impact on hard flat surfaces. Remember that your feet weren't designed to be exactly flat-they have a certain curvature.

How can you know if you are wearing the wrong type of shoe? You can tell that by the way the shoes feel on your feet. If they are too tight on your toes or when they feel kind of rigid, then those are signs that there must be something wrong with them. Go ahead and try new ones if you have to.

Wearing the wrong kind of shoe or a poorly designed shoe for that matter can cause a number of foot problems. And yes they can also cause an over sickling of the feet as well. Worn out shoes or shoes that have no arch support can also cause you a world of other problems too.

3. Misalignment of the Body

Sometimes when a dancer performs a routine or when an athlete executes a movement that involves the motion of the ankles, the body can get misaligned. That is all a matter of technique and its execution.

Improper movement or poor technique can cause the body to get incorrectly aligned. Note that there are motions and actions that require certain parts of the body to work together.

Examples of which include walking, running, jumping, and others. When some parts of the body are misaligned the other parts that are involved are forced to work harder to maintain balance and provide proper posture.

When that happens some muscles and bones work harder or in other words they over compensate. And that may lead to injury or even over sickling of the feet.

4. Prior Injuries

When you have old injuries they can also contribute to weakness in the bones and also instability. Sometimes the body's soft tissues can also be affected.

Such injuries can also lead to supination or an over sickling of the feet. People who have had Achilles tendonitis or are still recovering from this condition are highly at risk for over supination of the ankles and feet.

5. Other Possible Causes

Of course, there are other possible causes and contributors to this condition, which includes the following:

  • Over exercising/over training
  • Arthritis
  • Stiffness due to aging
  • Standing day after day for long periods of time
  • Restricting the feet's range of motion
  • The feet having constant impact on hard surfaces
  • A sedentary lifestyle

Possible Complications of Having Sickled Feet and Choosing the Right Shoes
Possible Complications of Having Sickled Feet and Choosing the Right Shoes | Source

Possible Complications

Dancers, runners, and other athletes who tend to sickle their feet too much and for longer periods of time are at risk for certain complications. They may develop the following symptoms and conditions when over supinating their feet:

  • Weakness on the ankle or even on the entire foot. This tends to get worse over time. You will feel this when you're standing up, walking, or running. People who stand for long periods of time can also experience this weakness on their feet.
  • Swollen foot and/or ankle
  • Stress fractures on the legs and feet (needs a checkup to confirm)
  • Shin splints
  • plantar fasciitis
  • pain that you can feel in the balls of your feet
  • iliotibial band pain syndrome
  • Clawed toes or hammertoes
  • Bunions
  • Calluses on the outer edge of one's feet
  • Frequent spraining of the ankles
  • Ankle pain

Choosing the Right Shoes

Sometimes sickled feet is simply due to wearing the wrong type of shoes. If that is the case then fixing your feet and ankles can be done rather easily—all you have to do is to choose the right pair of shoes!

Well, what about sickled feet caused by the other symptoms mentioned earlier? How do you treat them? We'll go over those in the next section of this guide. For now, we can address the easiest and quickest solution that you can get.

Here are the steps:

1. You need to visit a podiatrist and get a diagnosis

A podiatrist will give you a complete foot strike analysis (i.e. figure out how your feet impact the floor when you're walking). You will also get a running gait analysis.

That means your feet and ankle movement will be analyzed when you're getting moderate to increased foot stress. These tests are critical and they will help you in the long run.

These tests will help you choose the right type of shoes that will suit your foot type and also your running gait (i.e. the way your foot moves when you're walking, running, etc.). Choosing the right pair of shoes that suits your foot type will help prevent further pain and injury.

2. Get properly fitted shoes

Sometimes you need to have your shoes customized to suit your foot condition. Other than that, if that is way too expensive or is not an available option, then you can have orthotic inserts made.

Orthotic inserts or insoles help cushion the impact of your feet on flat surfaces. They also provide proper support to different parts of your feet so that you do not supinate too much (i.e. they help prevent your feet from putting too much pressure on the sides of your heels).

Other than that you should make sure that you are getting the most appropriate sized shoes for your feet. When selecting the shoe that you are going to buy, consider the fact that your feet are three dimensional.

The length of your foot is only one of several factors that you should consider. Properly fitting your shoes will also mean that you measure your feet for depth and width as well.

3. The time you purchase your shoes matter too

When you are out to buy a new pair of shoes, make sure to buy them at the latter half of the day. This should be a rule of thumb-never buy shoes first thing in the morning.

This allows your expand during the normal course of the day. By that time you would have ran or walked or moved about. That means you have been up on your feet and because of that your feet would have swollen a bit because of regular use. You will be making more accurate fit when you buy your shoes sometime in the afternoon.

What happens if you purchase your shoes early in the morning? Well, when you put them on later in the day you will find that your brand spanking new shoes are about a half size too small—and you will have to go through the hassle of returning them.

4. Your socks matter

Whenever you buy or try on a new pair of shoes, you should always put on the same socks that you wear every day. That will help you ensure a proper fit.

5. Shoes will never stretch

Oh, well, they will stretch but only for a centimeter or less but they will never stretch if the shoes are already too tight. Sometimes they don't even stretch in the right places. That is why another rule of thumb when buying new shoes is not to buy ones that are already tight fitting in the hope that maybe they will expand to the right size eventually.

Other Quick Fixes

The following are other quick fixes that you can try if you don't really have a serious supination problem. Note that the following tips are aids and are only secondary to using orthotic inserts and getting a good pair of shoes-those two come first.

  • Always warm up before you exercise or practice a routine. Make sure that you go through not just any warm up-it should be thorough and correct.
  • A proper warm up will help to prepare the tendons and muscles of your feet. Without proper warm up your feet, bones, tendons, and muscles will not move properly (i.e. they will feel and move kind of stiff).
  • Another effect of not warming up properly is that there will be a limited blood flow going to your lower extremities. That means your feet and legs won't get enough energy, oxygen, and other necessary nutrients for them to properly function.
  • You should get proper strength and conditioning for your lower legs and feet. That will also mean for you to get a lot of balancing exercises. Getting your legs and feet properly conditioned will help prevent possible injuries.
  • Believe it or not, the flexibility of the muscles in the lower legs is sometimes neglected. However, they are very crucial if you want to prevent lower leg and ankle injuries.
  • You see, when the muscles that support your ankles are supple and flexible, they can move properly thus preventing any over stretching from happening.
  • The opposite can happen if you neglect those muscles. They will tend to be tight and stiff. When that is the case those muscles can get over stretched quite easily. To prevent that from happening you should go through a rather structured stretching routine for your ankles.

Stretches That Will Help Prevent Sickled Feet

We will go over the exercises that will help prevent the over sickling of your feet. To give you an idea about that, the following are two structured stretches.

Stretch #1 - Standing Calf Stretch

You can do this stretch as part of your warm up routine before doing any exercise or training. Here are the steps:

  1. Stand facing a wall. Make sure you are standing at arm's length. Stand with both feet at shoulder width apart.
  2. Place both of your hands against the wall and place most of your weight against it.
  3. Move your right foot way backward (like taking a backward step) as far away from wall as you can.
  4. Try to get your right foot flat on the floor.
  5. Feel the stretch on your ankles, feet, and legs. Bend your left knee a little bit.
  6. Hold that position for 10 seconds.
  7. Bring your right foot back to its original position right next to your left foot.
  8. Now, repeat the same movement with your left foot.

Stretch #2 - Kneeling Achilles Stretch

This stretch puts a lot of weight on the heels. Don't overdo it. Just ease into the stretch as far as you can. Here are the steps:

  1. Kneel with both your knees together.
  2. Raise your left knee and rest your left foot right next to your right knee.
  3. Lean forward and downward.
  4. You will feel pressure on your lower leg, some on your knees, and a lot on your heels when you do.
  5. If you feel pain then stop/reduce adding pressure
  6. Hold that position for 20 seconds.
  7. Go back to kneeling on both knees again.
  8. Repeat the steps described above but this time using your right foot/knee.

These are only two stretches or exercises that can help with sickling of the feet. We'll go over the other treatments and preventive measures in a later section of this guide.

How To Check If Your Feet are Sickling

There are a few practical tests that you can use to check if you have sickled feet. These are easy self-examinations are ones that you can do on your own.

Option 1 - Check Your Old Shoes

Your first option is to examine your old shoes. Hopefully you haven't thrown them away just yet. They will be very useful for checking if you are already sickling your feet too much or not.
Here are the steps:

  1. Grab an old pair of shoes
  2. Inspect the sole of one shoe see how the bottoms have been worn out
  3. If the sole wears down evenly from the outer edge going all the way to the center then you're fine. You're not sickling your feet too much with regular walking or running.
  4. However, if the sole wears down ONLY on the outer edge then you are already sickling your foot too much every day.
  5. Inspect the other shoe. It is possible that you are only sickling your foot on only one foot or on both feet.

Option 2 - Footprint Check

Another option is to do a footprint check. Your footprints will reveal how your feet are impacting the ground when you take each step. With this test we determine possible issues with one's gait.

Here are the steps on how you can do this test:

  1. Get a bucket of water (one that is big enough for your foot) and then locate dry concrete tile. Don't fill the bucket all the way to the top.
  2. If you don't have any concrete surfaces in your home, you can alternatively use a brown paper bag. Grab at least two bags since you're going to test both of your feet. Lay one brown paper bag flat on the floor.
  3. Dip your left foot in the bucket of water. Make sure that it is completely submerged.
  4. Lift that foot off the water and let it dangle above the bucket. Give it a little shake while you're at it. Let all the excess water drip off. Don't wipe your foot dry though.
  5. Step your left foot on the brown paper bag while it's still wet.
  6. Just let it land and rest naturally on the bag as if you were standing on pretty much anything. No special movements no special way of bearing your weight.
  7. Step off the paper bag and examine the footprint you just made.
  8. If there is half an arch imprinted on the paper/floor then your foot's gait is normal. If the arch is barely visible or there is no arch at all then you are sickling that foot too much.
  9. Repeat the same steps above but this time use your right foot.

Option 3 - Getting a Gait Analysis

Earlier in this guide we mentioned something called a gait analysis. This may have come across as some kind of test for the foot or maybe for the shoe. Or it may have been construed as nothing more than just someone observing how you walk or watching how your moves on the ground.

It's actually more than that. Well, we can't blame people for thinking this way since that is the usual experience they get at a local shoe store. This is what happens, you walk to a store and the clerk will say something like he's going to perform a gait analysis.

We agree since that is a more scientific sounding option to buy the perfect shoe, right? So, what happens? The clerk at the store will have you run and then jog. At that moment he will observe and note how you perform during his test.

He will then suggest certain footwear options. That will include shoes that have more cushion in them, or maybe shoes that are more neutral, shoes that tend to be more stable, or maybe he would offer you a pair of shoes that will make your feet to land on the mid-foot.

Well, the question is whether or not that is the kind of gait analysis that you really need especially when you really have a biomechanical problem?

It goes without saying that a gait analysis is more than just some plain old generic exercise. You may be surprised to find out that it is a technically precise process.

Apart from that, it is a highly customized test. That means given your history of injuries and other factors, the therapist may include other tests as deemed necessary. A gait analysis does more than just observe how you walk and run. It will include tests to check how you will hold up during regular training and it also gauges your optimal performance.

Stretches That Will Help Prevent Sickled Feet - Quick Fixes and Exercises
Stretches That Will Help Prevent Sickled Feet - Quick Fixes and Exercises | Source

So, What Goes on During a Gait Analysis?

Okay, so during a gait analysis your feet will be inspected and evaluated. But that is just one part of the whole process. Finding out why your feet hurt during certain times (e.g. when you train or when you've been standing for hours) will require some more in order to solve the entire biomechanical puzzle.

A gait analysis will also examine the entire integrated movement pattern of your body. Remember that the other parts of your body are actually involved every time you walk or run.

There will be few analyses that will be conducted: static, dynamic, and running. These tests will form something called a movement map-i.e. the way your movement is programmed in your head.

This will help to identify your kinesthetic awareness, walking habits, flexibility, mobility levels, functional strength, and overall stability. After all of these things have been carefully analyzed the therapist can get a clear picture of your gait. You can say that it is actually an analysis of your overall movement.

Remember that even the way you stand and get your balance affects your movement habits and that can eventually contribute to the sickling of your feet. In other words, there are certain movement habits that you have formed that eventually led you to put much of your weight to the edge of your sole.

Your Body Overcompensates During Certain Movements

A gait analysis will help to discover where your body compensates to get you moving forward. Why does it do that? As stated earlier, there are certain habits that we have formed that reduce our movement efficiency. If you are able to pinpoint that then you can formulate a more efficient and effective treatment plan for sickled feet or over supination.

Athletes and dancers tend to commit moves that overcompensates their motion. These overcompensations can sometimes become a habit. When that happens these bad habits lead to a dysfunction such as the sickling of the feet.

When you overcompensate when you run or maybe when you dance, it produces imbalances on your joints. That also means that certain major muscles that should have been used for proper body movement aren't contributing as much to the overall effort.

That means the big muscles of your legs like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings aren't really contributing that much to achieve certain movements. You tend to make them less active and thus the smaller muscles tend to work out a lot more than they usually have to.

These smaller muscles that we use for movement are called stabilizing muscles. They are a lot smaller in comparison to the large prime mover muscles of your body. When the stabilizers work more, then an over compensation occurs.

It's not their job to move your entire body forward. That's not what they were designed for, which is why they are a lot smaller in the first place. Their main purpose is to help stabilize your body. When they over compensate they eventually break down a lot faster, which of course ends up in an injury ergo you get sickled feet.

So, how do you discover these tiny details? You get a detailed gait analysis.

That means you can do the first two tests mentioned here in this section of this guide. If they show you that all is well and that you feel none of the other symptoms mentioned earlier, then you're perfectly fine.

That means you don't need to spend money on a therapist to conduct a gait analysis. However, if the initial two tests mentioned above show you that you may already be sickling your feet to a certain degree then please get a proper gait analysis. This may save you from a lot of pain and further injury.

Orthotics: Foot Supination Insoles

We mentioned orthotic inserts or insoles and how they can help your feet properly impact different surfaces when you walk, run, or dance. Orthotic inserts are insoles that add contour to the insides of your shoes.

They help to stabilize the ankle and also the heel. The result is that the ankles are prevented from rolling outward. Another benefit is that it provides support for the arch of the foot, which gives the feet some proper foundation.

You can say that these insoles help to lock the ankles in place. It is a corrective measure in case you made it a habit to put your weight to the sides of your feet. The lock will prevent that characteristic outward rolling motion of the ankles that occur when your feet are sickling.

The arch support on the other hand gives your feet a stable base to rest on. The pressure from your body weight is then distributed properly. The overall effect is that the foot makes the natural stepping motion. The outside edge of the foot is also relieved of the stress and weight it used to carry.

Orthotic Insert Buyer's Guide

Of course, not all corrective insoles are created the same. Some are better suited for correcting certain foot conditions. These insoles can actually be placed into three different categories, which include the following:

  • Rigid support inserts
  • Soft support inserts
  • Semi-rigid support inserts

Rigid Support Inserts

Rigid support insoles are inserts that tend to be more technical than the other two types. They are used to control the movement of your feet that occurs below the ankle.

Since these inserts tend to be rigid, they prevent your feet from turning inwards (or outwards in other designs). In other words they prevent excessive pronation (or under pronation/aka sickling of the feet). These inserts are usually made from a combination of microfiber, foam, ABS, and polyurethane plastic.

The microfiber and foam provide are there for added comfort-our feet aren't designed to hit hard solid surfaces. The other materials used in the construction of these things of course are there for added support to the feet.

Some of these inserts are 3D printed, which allows for customization. Well, you know, the arch of one person's feet will not exactly be the same as another person's arch, right? Expect custom inserts to be slightly more expensive. However, you can always go for the traditionally molded inserts if you like.

Which one should you get-3D or molded? Better ask your podiatrists. Their tests will help to confirm whether you need a custom built orthotic insert or not.

Soft Support Inserts

Your podiatrist may also recommend that you get inserts that provide soft support. Maybe your foot doesn't supinate or sickle that much and you're just using inserts as a form of preventive measure.

Or maybe your feet just need some much needed support the immense amount of pressure when you run or dance. Soft support inserts work like shock absorbers.

They help give you balance. They are lightweight, so you don't have to strain your feet and legs any more than you need to. They also help to relieve the pressure on certain parts of your feet – usually where there is a lot of impact created like the edges of your foot or in the insole.

Some soft support inserts may contain some kind of gel to add that much needed shock absorption. Some of these inserts on the other hand may only contain the traditional foam based material, which makes them more affordable.

Semi Rigid Support Inserts

Semi rigid supportive insoles on the other hand are somewhere in between rigid and soft types of inserts. Orthotic insoles of this type are best suited for athletes who may be worried that they are sickling their feet a bit too much.

They provide a good balance between shock absorption and a good foundational support for active feet. Semi rigid support insoles are made from a combination of different materials such as foam, cork, leather, and plastic.

How Do You Know If You Need Insoles?

Needless to say, the human foot goes through a lot of macro as well as micro movements as you go through your day. Sometimes people put undue stress on their feet by standing all day or maybe by playing high intensity sports.

Of course your feet need a break from time to time. Play some high impact sports and you give your feet a lot of stress by doing so. Wear any kind of poorly fitted shoes and you cause some damage to your feet as well. Sometimes the feet just go through the motions of wear and tear from old age. Well, it happens and it will happen to everyone.

So, how do you know if you need to purchase a pair of nice orthotic inserts? You can perform any of the tests already mentioned above. However, do take note that orthotic inserts should only be part of an overall ongoing treatment for sickled feet and they should not be the only thing that you are doing to treat the said condition.

Benefits of Soft Support Orthotics

You may benefit from soft support insoles if you have the following conditions:

  • One leg is slightly longer than the other: With this condition all you need to do is to even out the length of the two legs. It should be noted that only 1 in 4 people really have the same leg length.
  • However, the difference for most of us is so small that we hardly ever notice anything. So basically, the differences in the length of the legs don't bother us.
  • So, is it possible that you can sickle your feet because of this condition? Yes of course. However, a related symptom that can hint at this condition is an accompanying backache.
  • Your podiatrist can determine if the difference in leg length is affecting your movement. He or she can also recommend soft support orthotics if it is needed.
  • You feel pain under your feet: This sort of pain usually due to wearing worn out soles. If this is the case soft support orthotics made from memory foam will do the trick.
  • Shoes don't fit snugly: Maybe your mom gave you a new pair of shoes but they just don't fit snugly aka they're a little loose in some parts. Soft support insoles help to fill in the gap so you won't blisters or corns on your feet.
  • Diabetes related fatigue or foot pain: The two biggest foot issues for people with diabetes are the lack of feeling in the foot (i.e. neuropathy) and also hypersensitivity of the feet.
  • These conditions usually lead to complications such as feet sores and ulcers. And since the person already has diabetes, these wounds take like forever to heal.
  • That is why soft cushioned soles are best suited for folks with diabetes. They prevent sores and ulcers. They prevent a lot of pressure on the foot and thus no sores or blisters will form on the person's feet.
  • If you have hammertoes: If you are flatfooted then there is a good chance that you have suffered from hammertoes on more than one occasion. You need a soft insole that lends good support for your foot's arch. That slightly pronounced bump near the ball of your foot forces your toes to straighten slightly thus relieving your foot of the pressure created there.
  • Calluses located under your feet: If you have a serious case of calluses then a gel soft support insoles will be quite helpful to you. Put the gel insole in the fridge a few hours before you use them. That will give your feet a treat when you put on your shoes.
  • Pain from bunions: If you have bunions and they feel really painful then softer insoles can help to reduce the pressure on your feet when you put on your shoes.
  • Get a gel soft insole in case you have a slight issue of bunion pain. For really painful bunions, then a custom soft insole will be your best option.

When to Get Rigid Support Insole Orthotics

The following are the conditions where a rigid support insole will be more helpful:

When you have sickled feet or over supination

Rigid support insoles will be quite beneficial to you to correct conditions related to the sickling of the feet. The rigid support will keep your foot aligned so that you don't put too much pressure on the sides of your feet.

That means your feet will get all the support they need to remain in a neutral position as you take each and every step. This type of orthotic will also force your foot to roll inward.

This type of insole provides a supportive but deep heel cup. However, if you don't want the excessive bulk in your shoe and you just want to address the supination of your foot, then you can settle for a foot wedge instead.

When your feet are over pronated

There are rigid support insoles that are designed for over pronated feet. They stop the foot from rolling inwards too much. Just like the ones designed for over supination, a deep heel cup also helps correct over pronation.

Insole support for over pronation also provides some material support at the arch of the foot, which gives your foot that much needed metatarsal support. On top of that, this design of insole also provides good shock absorption.

People suffering from plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis causes pain on the flat muscle that stretches from your toes to your foot's heel. That muscle is actually called the plantar. Sometimes the pain on the plantar muscle is very pronounced and it can make you wince with each step. Sometimes the pain is bearable-it's like there are small needles that are slightly piercing your foot when you take a step.

The plantar gets over stretched when you wear heels all day or when you stand around all day. Rigid support insoles designed for this condition are called PF insoles. These insoles have been custom designed so that the plantar gets enough shock absorption. PF insoles are also full length-they stretch from your heels to your toes.

Really big difference in leg length

Some people have really pronounced differences when you measure the length of their legs. This condition can lead to all sorts of problems such as a sickled foot for instance. With this condition, a rigid insole will correct the difference in leg length without taking away any functionality from the shorter leg. This type of insole is custom made so make sure to visit a podiatrist to have one designed just for you.

People with weight issues

Sometimes the cause of the sickling of the feet or other issues of the foot is one's body weight. In this case the insoles should be firmer and wider so as to accommodate the weight being exerted by the body on the feet. Some of the common symptoms of this condition is flat footedness as well as collapsed arches of the feet. Note that you need to get a custom insole or insert to correct this condition.

When to Get Semi Rigid Support Insoles

There are times when semi rigid support insoles are best suited for your use. They are actually better suited for the following conditions:

People who play high impact sports

What are high impact sports? These are sports that require a lot of side to side movement and also a lot of lunging. Well, any sport that does a good number on your feet and knees like basketball and tennis are also high impact sports. That is why you should be looking for shock absorption when buying shoes as well as insoles-semi rigid support orthotic inserts to be exact.

Get one if you have Morton's Neuroma

What is Morton's Neuroma? It is a condition where the nerve located in between the 4th and 3rd toes get inflamed. That nerve has become larger than usual and that swelling causes a lot of pain.

Morton's Neuroma is usually caused by wearing heels that are just too high or from constantly wearing pointed shoes. Footwear of this type usually put a lot of unneeded stress on the toes

Metatarsal pads will come in handy during the treatment of this condition. They take the pressure off the nerve and provide enough support for your foot's metatarsal bones. There are insoles that are designed specifically to help with this condition-they usually aren't full length.

You usually wear boots all day long

Now, we know that boots can provide some good ankle support. However, you may also need to get some semi rigid support orthotic insoles if you tend to wear boots all day – maybe due to your day job or something.

Boots are usually inflexible and they do not provide enough support for the foot's arch. Semi rigid support insoles that are made of memory foam or those that have gel fillings come highly recommended for folks who have to wear boots all day.

Long time runners

Long time runners also need semi rigid orthotics. It's the same principle as playing high impact sports. If you've been running for quite a while or if you're a pro runner then you may have done a good number on your feet and also your knees. Note that it is your ankle and knee joints that usually take the brunt of the stress from all of that running.

You need to get a lot of arch support if you've been running or jogging for many years. Other than solid support, you will also need some shock absorption on your insoles.

Orthotics Dos and Don'ts

Whether you are in the market for custom insoles or off the shelf models, there are a few dos and don'ts that you need to keep in mind. Here are some key points to live by:

  • Understand the purpose of every material that is used to construct an insole. Know what purpose gels, memory foam, plastic, and other materials serve and then choose the right type of insole accordingly. If you get an insole that is too firm or too soft then you can make matters worse.
  • Don't settle for cheap insoles. Buy a pair from a trusted quality seller.
  • Don't second guess the size of insole. Get a tape measure and measure the dimensions of the insides of your favorite shoes.
  • Get an insole that you really need. Use the information provided above to determine what type of insole you really need.
  • Always figure out the right metatarsal padding for your shoe-never second guess. You can always remove the shoe liner. The big clue is that area of the liner where the ball of your foot has worn stuff away.
  • Another way to do it is to put some eye shadow under the ball of your foot, take the new liners of your brand new shoes and step on it firmly. Your ball position will be imprinted on the liner and now you have a guide as to the size and design of the metatarsal padding you need.
  • Always buy extra insoles. That way you will always have a spare since these things can get worn out easily. You can then bring the old insoles to the store. That way you already know what type and size of insole you want to purchase.
  • Don't try to revive an old worn out shoe by getting a new insole. You're just throwing away money that way.

Correcting and Preventing Sickled Feet

We have already described a couple of stretches that can help to treat and also prevent the sickling of the feet or supination. We will go over a few more exercises, stretches, and other things that you can do to help with this condition.

Tips for Dancers

A sickled foot is a huge issue in dancing, especially in ballet. Why is that? It is because when you see it on stage, it ruins your form and is downright ugly when you see on stage.

And that is one the things that make it frustrating. You don't see it when your feet sickle as you point your foot but the audience sees it very well. That is why it takes another person to tell you that something is wrong-hopefully during practice.

Tip #1 - Pointing Your Foot Minus the Sickling

In ballet you need to point your foot from time to time. When you do so, remember to push your heel slightly forward. Position your toes slightly behind the ankle bone on the inside.

Now, sometimes when you do that during practice you can notice you're your foot will be sickling. Here's a little exercise that you can do to prevent your foot from sickling:

  1. It is best to do this exercise while sitting down. Use a comfortable but solid chair.
  2. Put your feet together. Point your feet and make them as straight as you can. Try to make straight line from your calf.
  3. Now, move your feet to the side while keeping your heels together. Separate both big toes from one another for about half an inch away.
  4. If you feel pain on the lower end of your calves near the ankles then you're already overdoing it.
  5. What you're looking for is for your big toes to form a line with your ankle bones where the width of your toes pointing outward.
  6. If you have to separate your knees to get that effect then do it. You may have to exert some effort to keep your heels together to maintain this position.

Tip #2 - Ballet Exercises to Correct Sickling of the Feet

Here is a simple exercise that you can do on your own to help prevent the sickling of the feet. These exercises help muscle memory so that you will stop sickling your feet unnecessarily.

Exercise 1: Proper Tendu

  • Stand perpendicular to a bar with your left side towards the bar. Hold the bar with your left hand.
  • With your right foot, take your tendu forward with your heel leading (you move your heel forward first) and your toes following while they are touching the floor. It would be like you were dragging your foot along the floor.
  • When you make this move bringing your foot forward make sure that your foot is directly in front of your belly button. Your foot should never cross over to your left foot.
  • Now, instead of lifting your foot immediately, push your foot forward to make the heel come forward a bit (which corrects the sickling). This puts the foot in the perfect position.
  • Straighten the knee and then lift your right foot. Now you have the perfect tendu without any sickling.

Exercise 2: Ballet Exercise with Thera Band

  • Start at sitting position on the floor.
  • Cross your left ankle over your right leg.
  • Place your thera band over the toes and your metatarsals
  • Relax your left foot and then take up the slack on the thera band
  • Keep the thera band on a horizontal position to stop the foot from sickling
  • Now, slowly flex the ankle as you hold the thera band in place thus maintaining the amount of pressure on your foot.
  • Flex your ankle two more times and then relax your left foot.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat all these steps this time with the right foot.
  • This counts as one repetition. Do 5 repetitions for this exercise.

Exercise 3: Thera Band Exercise for Targeting Foot Supination

  • This exercise directly targets the joints and muscles that sickle your foot. You need to repeat this and the other exercises already mentioned here to help correct your muscle memory.
  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended forward.
  • Wrap the thera band around the toes of your right foot. Hold the ends of the thera band with both hands.
  • Cross your left foot over your right leg. The calves of the left leg should be placed just below the right knee. The left foot should be right beside the right foot.
  • Place your toes of your left foot on the thera band to give more resistance.
  • Now push out the right foot with the left foot adding leverage.
  • Notice if your right foot begins to sickle or supinate. Resist the force of the thera band with your right foot preventing the sickling effect.
  • Relax your right foot. And then repeat two more times.
  • Switch feet and work on the left foot this time.
  • This counts as one repetition.
  • Do 10 repetitions.
  • Now you can proceed with the other warm ups or your dance exercises.

Tips for Runners and Other Athletes

Since foot sickling is also an issue with runners and other athletes, we have also gathered a few more tips and reminders to help them as well.

  • Warm up with dynamic stretching to loosen calves and ankles before each exercise session.
  • To ease the pain, massage the calves and do some foam rolling. Icing can also help ease any pain on the calves and feet.
  • Always take time out especially when the pain worsens.
  • Choose light shoes and sneakers.
  • Practice consistently
  • Use orthotic inserts as recommended by a podiatrist
  • Strengthen all leg muscles with squats, lunges, crab crawls, calf raises, and if possible HIIT workouts.
  • Make sure to fix your form. Always lower feet with a soft landing, focus landing on the mid foot, shorten your stride and increase your cadence to keep proper running or walking form, and maintain proper posture when running.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      8 months ago

      Well, I had never heard of sickling before. This is useful as my husband appears to have this in one foot, probably from old injuries. I must get him to see a podiatrist.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      8 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very amazing and useful information provided here, Sree Vani! Not only for dancers and athletes. It is good for anyone.

      I suffer from some stiffening of muscles in my feet, especially my right foot. The thumb toe suddenly squeezes during the mid-sleep with unbearable pain. I have to stand up slowly and place my foot at a level on the floor and walk for some time to make it get right. It happens once in a month or so. My Doctors tell that it is due to aging and weakness of muscles.

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