The term “pronation” often pops out whenever running or cross training is mentioned. Pronation is a measure of the extent to which your foot arch collapses when your foot hits the ground to help mitigate impact shocks. Running with pronated feet is usually associated with discomfort or pain.
Individuals may exhibit any of the three types of pronation depending on the type of their foot arches. The three types of pronation include supination, neutral pronation and overpronation.
While pronation is not a disease, understanding your pronation type can help prevent discomfort or pain when running or cross training.
Below is a detailed guide for running with pronated feet.
Supination, Neutral Pronation and Overpronation: Explained
The type of pronation exhibited by different individuals depends on their stride and the shape of their foot arches. Below is a summary of the three types of pronation.
Supination is sometimes referred to as underpronation. It occurs when your foot rolls outwards especially during the toe-off stage of the gait cycle. People who have high foot arches have greater tendency to supinate.
In supination, your feet lose their elasticity which in turn decreases their shock absorption ability. As a result, the bulk of your body weight is carried by the outer edge of your feet including the small toes.
This refer to the natural or normal foot movement where it rolls to about 15%. In this position, your ankles and feet are properly aligned to one another which causes the entire foot to touch the ground.
During push-off your body weight is evenly spread across the heel and toes. With even distribution of weight you are less likely to suffer injuries as in the case of supination or overpronation.
Overpronation occurs mostly in flat-footed individuals especially during high impact workouts such as running. It’s the opposite of supination where your feet rolls inwards to more than 15 percent.
In overpronation, your foot arch tends to flatten to absorb impact shocks. Excessive rolling leads to ankle rolling which in turn causes pain and discomfort. As a results you may suffer from injuries such as IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, back pain, and so on.
How to Determine Pronation Type
If left unattended, pronation injuries can lead to recurring pain and discomfort which may even side-line you from your running or fitness routine. Podiatrists recommend wearing shoes that are meant for the specific type of pronation.
But first you need to get tested to know your type of pronation. You can visit your nearest podiatrist or sport shop for pronation test. Alternatively, you can do the tests at home using simple DIY procedures.
Below are three tests you can perform at home to know your pronation type.
1. Foot Arch Wet Test
Wet test is the simplest, accurate and commonly used pronation test.
Requirements: You need some water in shallow pan and paper towel or simply a flat surface.
- Put water into a large pan that can accommodate your entire foot.
- Place your foot into the water so that the water level covers the entire foot sole or bottom.
- Remove your foot from the water and carefully step on a flat surface or paper towel. Ensure you apply enough pressure in order to have a clear imprint of your foot arch.
- Step out of the surface or paper to see the imprint left by your foot.
If the imprint on the paper shows a complete outline of your foot (with less inward curve) then you exhibit overpronation.
Supination is characterised by an imprint with an excessive inward curve. You can only see the toes, ball of the foot and the heel.
If you’re a neutral pronator, your foot appears almost complete with the arch curving almost half way.
2. Wear Test
Another simple test for determining your degree of pronation is to check how the outsole of your shoes wear out with time.
If you look your extensively used pair of shoes, you’ll notice some trend on how the outsole tends to wear. Overpronation causes excessive wear on the inner edge of the outsole especially around the big toe, ball of the foot.
On the other hand, the outsole wears more on the outer edge if you exhibit supination. The areas around the outer heel and the outer ball excessive wear.
If you’re a neutral pronator, you will notice excessive wear at the center of your shoe’s outsole.
3. Gait Analysis
If you cannot confidently perform the DIY pronation tests, then you have gait analysis by experts. Runnerswarehouse offers such services from the comfort of your house. All you do is send them a video showing how your feet pronates.
Choosing the Correct Shoes
Pronation is not a disease but rather an injury which becomes pronounced during physical activities such as running or jogging. If you don’t take early interventions overpronation injures can make your running or fitness engagements very uncomfortable.
However, it’s possible to solve overpronation issues by wearing the correct shoes when running or cross training.
Below is a guide for choosing your shoes depending on your type of foot pronation.
Shoes for Overpronation
Podiatrists recommend wearing stability shoes so that your feet don’t bend inwards to extents that cause pain or discomfort. Different brands of running shoes use various technologies when designing stability shoes.
For instance, you will hear terms like guiderails, rollbars, stabilipods and so on.
Arch support also helps in minimising overpronation. If your running shoes lack arch support, you can replace with new shoes or buy custom orthotics.
Shoes for Neutral Pronation
With neutral pronation, your body weight is evenly distributed in the entire foot which in turn minimises strain on your joints. To maintain the correct foot gait, your running shoes should offer good stability and have sufficient cushioning.
Shoes for Supination
Neutral running shoes are the best when it comes to supination. Your shoes should have an inner curvature for supporting your arches. In addition, they should have plenty of cushioning especially on the outer side.
The first thing to do when you have pronation issues is to perform a DIY pronation test or have an expert do a gait analysis. This will help in determining the most ideal running shoes for your type of pronation.