Now that you have learned about supination in our previous post, it’s time to understand what pronation is. Pronation and supination can affect anyone. So, don’t worry if you are not an athlete, this article will still provide you with useful information. Whether you have a pronated, neutral or supinated foot. I am here to help you find the perfect footwear to suit your gait. As I am also a neutral pronator.
Definition of Pronation
Pronation is the natural movement of the foot, which takes place when striking the foot whilst running or walking. But don’t worry, a certain degree of pronation is completely necessary and desirable.
During normal pronation (also known as eversion). The foot rolls inward a bit and your plantar arch begins to flatten and cushion the shock of impact. So, pronation helps to distribute the force of the impact the foot takes during the running and walking gaits.
The Role of Pronation when Running
The Pronation running gait is the chain of movements that makes running possible. It consists of a stance and a swing phase.
Pronation plays a significant role in the stance phase. As your foot comes in contact with the ground, it is slightly pronated to optimally distribute the force of impact when you run. During the stance phase, your foot moves from pronation to supination to prepare to take the toes off the ground. Throughout the swing phase, your foot should stay in a neutral position.
Problems may arise if your foot pronates instead of supinating in the latter stages of the stance phase. Or if your foot stays pronated during the swing phase.
Gait and Posture
Excessive pronation can lead to various serious injuries. Knee pain, shin splints, and strains on the big toe are common injuries pronators experience. In some severe cases of overpronation, an unnatural angle forms between the foot and the ankle. This prevents the even distribution of stress and impact throughout the foot upon landing and also threatens ankle stability. People who have low arched feet, flexible arched feet and flat feet would tend to overpronate when walking or running.
Due to the lack of ankle stability, people who tend to pronate more usually have an increased risk of knee, heel pain and potential ankle injuries. According to this study carried out in 1998, individuals with recurring running injuries typically have a “pronation movement that is about two to four degrees greater than that of those with no injuries”.
Causes of Pronation
Since pronation is a well-researched topic, numerous causes have been determined. Anatomical causes of pronation include genu varum (the outward bowing at the knee), an unequal leg length, ligamentous laxity, weakness and tightness of calf muscles and low plantar arch. Age, arthritis, increase in weight and injuries are all potential factors that may cause overpronation.
According to experts, shoes can also play a significant role in pronation. The same person can have far different degrees of pronation just by wearing different shoes. In addition, different physiological conditions such as obesity or pregnancy can also weaken the plantar arch resulting in pronation.
How to Determine if You Suffer from Pronation?
You can choose from various methods to find out if you pronate excessively. A few of them are:
Wet Foot Test
This is where you wet your feet thoroughly and step on a plain white or brown paper. Or you can step outside and walk a few steps on the pavement with your wet feet. Once done make sure to examine the footsteps you leave behind. As a neutral foot will leave a footprint where the heel is connected to the front area by a thin strip. If this strip appears to be wider than half the width of the foot, you are most likely a pronator.
But do, take time to examine the footprints of both your feet. You might find that one of your feet pronates more than the other one. This happens to a few people and is completely normal.
In more serious cases of overpronation, your plantar arch may flatten completely. If your foot collapses inwards, the arch of your footprint will appear filled in.
Shoe Wear Pattern
Look at the soles of your current sneakers. If you tend to pronate, you will see more wear on the inner side of the heel and forefoot as shown by the red impact areas on the diagram below.
For this test, you need to find a pair of shoes or boots that you have been wearing regularly for the past months. Put them on a flat surface with the heels facing you. Look for signs of wear on the sides of the heel. If you find more wear on the inside and the heels tilt inwards, your feet probably pronate.
You can get a foot analysis at a specialist running shoe store. They may use a foot pressure scan or ask you to walk or run barefoot on a treadmill to get a better picture of your running gait. Some stores even provide a video gait analysis.
With these methods, they can figure out where you put stress on your foot. So, that they can recommend a pair of shoes that are ideal for your foot type.
Consult an Expert
If you experience ongoing foot and ankle pain or tingling sensation whilst walking or running. Then you should see a physical therapist or a podiatrist to set up a proper diagnosis. So that they can provide you with customized treatments.
Walking and running gaits may change after an injury. So, if you had a foot- or ankle-related injury. We recommend you consult an expert instead of the DIY methods to determine whether you are a supinator or a pronator.
How to Treat Pronation?
Pronation can lead to recurring injuries. Once you have established that you do pronate excessively, there are a couple of things to pay attention to.
Pronation provokes extra stress and tightness of the muscles, so always dedicate extra time for stretching.
You can try specific shoe-lacing patterns to reduce pronation. If shoes are tied as tight as possible, the degree of pronation significantly decreases. As your foot is kept locked into the shoe.
Running barefoot is also known to reduce pronation. Try running barefoot a few times a week over a well-cushioned surface to help your pronation gait. But, never run barefoot on hard surfaces like concrete. As repetitive pounding of the foot on a hard surface can worsen your gait.
Certain taping techniques can complement the treatment of pronation. So do consult with your podiatrist or physical therapist to find out whether you can benefit from taping.
However, even after taking all the above into consideration. The most important aspect of treating this gait is finding the right pair of shoes.
Shoes for Pronation and Overpronation
Overpronation and pronation are more common than underpronation (Supination). So, you can choose from a great variety of shoes if you are a pronator.
Many runners recommend wearing shoes with straight or semi-curved lasts (shape of the shoe). Stability shoes with multi-density midsoles and external control features reduce pronation.
To provide extra support and stability, find footwear with a firm heel counter and arch support. We will recommend many shoes, which benefit both pronation and overpronation in our future posts. But, do carry out your own further research when purchasing yourself a pair of shoes for overpronation.
Those who suffer from a more severe case of overpronation can benefit from using custom orthotics and insoles. These devices are custom made to meet the specific needs of each foot. If your podiatrist or physical therapist find it necessary to fix your overpronating feet. Then they will use a customized designed pair of orthotics to help fix your gait.
Motion Control Shoes
Motion control shoes are specific types of running shoes designed to limit the excessive foot motion by reducing the amount of plantar force.
These are really popular among runners, however, every pronator can benefit from their increased medial support and stiffer construction. These shoes not only reduce pronation, but they also provide extra support and stability. Overpronators benefit from purchasing motion control shoes. As they provide rigidity to the foot and help stabilize the running or walking gait.
So, check your feet with these simple tests before your next shopping trip. And make sure you purchase the right pair of shoes to prevent any injuries.