4-H youth and their livestock can help improve the way you walk- part 5

Supination can increase friction and joint pain in both people and livestock.

Studying and evaluating livestock is a great way to use observation skills learned to identify positive and negative characteristics.  Michigan State University Extension suggests the one trait that is important in selecting good livestock is how they are able to move.  An animal that walks smooth and effortlessly is a good indicator of being structurally correct in its skeleton and a sign of good health and longevity.

You can also learn what to look for when evaluating how animals like cattle, sheep and pigs walk, which will help you start to observe and make inferences about the way people walk.  This article will focus on supination and the potential stress this may have on the human and animal body.  In the last article in this series, MSU Extension discussed over pronation or having flat feet.  Supination is the opposite of over pronation.  It occurs when the foot rolls outwards placing most of the weight on the outside of the foot and raising the arch.  For humans, supination means you have very high or prominent arches in your feet.   Kristen Price a certified athletic trainer with Playmakers says that supination may occur due to a high or rigid arch.

“It is often a biomechanical alignment we are born with, or could occur from an injury to the foot or ankle,” she said. “Supination can have a negative impact on your long term health as it places additional force on the shin, knee and thigh adding stress to the tendons and ligaments in your leg.”

There is an easy activity you can participate in to see if your feet have high arches.  This is an easy test.  Get the bottom of your feet wet and step onto a piece of paper.  If you can see only the outer portion of the middle part of your foot, then you may have high arches and exhibit supination (see pic).  Ideally you will see approximately half of the middle part of your foot (see pic).  But if you determined you have high arches – now what?  According to Kristen Price, you want to be in a neutral shoe that cushions the foot, but does not have too much arch support. A heel leveler can be utilized to wedge the calcaneus (heel bone) into proper alignment.     

Livestock obviously have hooves that have a different form and framework from our feet, but livestock do have little flex to their pasterns or a smaller outer toe (possible in cloven hoofed animals such as pigs, sheep and goats) may experience similar results to people who exhibit supination.   Use your observation skills to determine if your livestock have even toe sizes and if they have enough flexibility in their pasterns. 

The next article in this series will discuss the flexibility of your knee and how bending your knee properly while you walk will reduce joint pressure and pain.

4-H members can choose to learn a lot about observation skills, making inferences, physical health and even livestock evaluation.  If you are interested in learning more about these areas or other learning opportunities 4-H provides, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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