The Beginners Introduction to Supination

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If you are a runner, you have probably already heard about supination and pronation. However, being familiar with these concepts can also be useful for everyone.

Knowing whether you have a neutral, a supinated (underpronation in other words) or an overpronated plantar arch can be a huge help when it comes to finding the perfect shoes.

Luckily for you and I, my good friend Noel, fortunately, is a supinator and together we have learned some useful information to help you understand what supination really is. So here is some advice we have for a someone wanting to learn about this gait.

Definition of Supination

So let’s start with the definition:

Supination refers to the natural movement of a running strike which consists of the outward roll of a foot. Although a certain degree of supination and pronation are completely natural and necessary to perform basic movements. Too much of either can result in an uneven gait, pain and overall bad posture.

Right Foot Supination Strike
Right Foot Strike without and with Shoe

So, if you are a supinator (underpronator), you are putting a lot of weight onto the outer portions of your foot. Which can result in the ankle rolling outward too much. This potentially increases the risk of injury, pain, and soreness throughout the body.

Running Gait

Let’s start with the basics. The running or walking gait refers to the cycle of movements that make running (or walking) possible. We can divide the running gait into two pretty easily distinguished phases:

– Stance phase (when your foot is in direct contact with the floor)

– Swing phase (when your foot is in the air and not in contact with the floor).

To understand the different running gaits, we need to take a closer look at the stance phase of running. This is where your foot makes contact with the floor. At this point, your foot is slightly pronated – it’s slightly turned inwards and rotated internally to help reduce stress from the impact.

Left Foot Strike

During the stance phase, your feet move from pronation into supination. This means that your weight is shifted from the back of the feet to the front. And from the inside to the outside. Finally, the swing phase begins when you elevate your foot in the air from heel to toe.

Gait and Posture

Running Posture
Running Posture

You might be wondering, why is this important to you if you are not a runner or don’t play sports at all? Well, having your foot constantly in a supinated position does not only affect your running gait. But, also your walking gait as it can cause pain to your joints and affect your posture.

People who tend to supinate their feet even when it’s not necessary usually have their feet rolled outwards excessively while walking or simply standing (which are two common things all of us do daily). So, their ankle, metatarsal bones, and joints experience unnecessary stress, which could lead to recurring ankle strains, back and hip pain due to imbalances and plantar fasciitis (the inflammation of the sole).

Causes of Supination (Underpronation)

Underpronation usually has a genetic background. Traits like the length of the legs (including the possible difference between them), the width of the foot, ankle stability and shape of the foot’s arch can all contribute to the development of an underpronated  (supinated) foot. People with higher arches are more likely to have an over supinated foot.

Therefore, wearing the incorrect shoes can play a big role in supination. Worn out, tough and rigid shoes or footwear that are too tight don’t support the foot’s arch properly. Which forces the foot to become underpronated. Also,  having a sedentary lifestyle, standing for long periods of time, too much exercise or restricted range of motion can also cause this type of gait.

How to Determine If You Suffer from Supination (Underpronation)?

Supination (Underpronation) is far less severe than hyper supination. However, you can still experience pain and imbalance in your foot arch along with your hips and knees. If you suspect that your feet might be supinated (underpronated). Then there are two very simple checks you can try at home. They are:

Wet Foot Test

You can carry out the well known wet foot test. This is where you wet the bottom of your feet thoroughly and stand on a plain white or brown paper. Or you can also step outside and walk a few steps on a pavement.

Wet Foot Test Sole Patterns

A neutral foot will leave a footprint where the heel is connecting to the front area by a strip about half the width of the foot. If your feet are underpronated, this strip will appear thinner. In more severe cases of hyper supination, this strip can also disappear completely.

So, take a look at the prints left behind on both feet, to give you a better idea of your walking gait. As you may find one foot to differ from the other, which could be due to the length of your legs or damages from previous foot injuries.

Check Your Old Shoes

Another great method of finding out whether or not you have an underpronated (supinated) arch. Is to examine your old shoes, it can be a great indicator. If they are worn out mainly on the outside, you might be supinating.

Worn Sole Pattern

If any of these tests turn out to be positive for you. Then we recommend that you consult with a podiatrist to set up a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan.

How to Treat Supination (Underpronation)?

What to do if you suspect that you might be supinating? Well, first of all, contact an expert and make a consultation with a podiatrist or a physical therapist. They will be able to perform a complete gait analysis to determine whether or not you really suffer from supination. Secondly, you can purchase a pair of selected shoes to help reduce the impact of your gait or help fix your foot strike when walking or running.

Supination (underpronation) is not a serious medical condition. However, you should still pay attention to a handful of things to prevent injuries. Supinators usually have tight calf muscles, therefore we recommend you to perform calf and Achilles tendon stretches regularly, even if you are not a sporty person. These stretches will help decrease the risk of injury. So, always warm up your muscles thoroughly before exercising, and most importantly, choose the right type of shoe.

Shoes for Supination

Underpronation (aka too much supination) is far less common than overpronation. Therefore, if you are an underpronator, you might have a hard time finding the perfect sneakers.

But don’t worry, we’re here to provide you with some useful tips and tricks on how to choose the perfect shoes for your feet!

Ultimately, the biggest problem with this particular gait is the lack of balance and shock absorption when you land on the ground during your running or walking gait.

To address the lack of imbalance. Choose shoes that provide adequate support for your ankle, have ample room for your toes and are also flexible to avoid discomfort. Also, make sure you find a lightweight pair of shoes that are still able to provide the necessary cushioning to absorb shock when you strike your foot on the ground.

What a Supinator Needs

While standing, the biggest challenge a supinator faces is the even distribution of weight along the soles. As you tend to put too much load on the outer portions of your feet. You are not benefiting from one of nature’s most ingenious inventions: the weight distribution system of our plantar arch.

Your plantar arch was designed to be able to support your whole body weight. To help distribute the stress evenly along your foot’s joints, muscles, and fascia. So, to achieve equally distributed weight, you can try insoles or orthotic devices, depending on the severity of your case.

Insoles are a great solution for anyone who is suffering from a mild case of supination. Their advantages include versatility and the possibility to use them with many shoes. However, one disadvantage is that you have to clean them thoroughly and eventually replace them to avoid unpleasant odors and infections.

Orthotic devices are also available for those of you who have a more serious case of supination. They usually are specially cast and custom made. So, your podiatrist or physical therapist will let you know the best possible way to treat your supination.

So, make sure you carry out all the necessary checks before purchasing yourself a brand new pair of shoes.

This is all I and Noel have picked up and learned. I hope this information has been helpful for you and we do hope you now have a better understanding of supination.

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