A runner’s body: What is pronation?

While it might sound like a negative diagnosis from a doctor, or even a place on the political spectrum, the answer to the question, “What is pronation?” is actually something pretty normal.

Pronation: The natural movement that occurs when the foot lands while running or walking.

Pronation is the customary, habitual movement of our feet as we walk or run
When we walk or run, our feet naturally move inward as they hit the ground. Our arches flatten and this helps to evenly distribute the weight of our body and absorb shock.

Pronation, then, is an essential part of how we walk. However, sometimes our feet can move too far inwards upon impact.
This is called overpronation and can have a knock-on effect to how our feet and muscles react to movement, and can lead to injuries over time. This is especially important information for a runner. Our blog today answers the question “What is pronation?” and looks at the differences between neutral, under-, and overpronation, what they mean for you and what you can do to prevent pronation-related injuries from occurring.

Neutral pronation
Neutral pronation is when your foot lands in a natural, ‘correct’ way upon hitting the ground. There should be a slight inward movement of the ankle when making contact with the ground. It’s believed that only between 20–30% of runners have neutral pronation, so if you’re worried that you may suffer from incorrect pronation, at least you know that you’re not alone, that you’re in the majority.

Overpronation is when the arch of your foot moves too far downward or inward when hitting the ground. Overpronation is colloquially known as ‘flat feet’ and can have a negative effect on your body if action is not taken to correct the condition. People with flat feet are usually more susceptible to injuries, especially those us who enjoy running regularly.

Underpronation, also referred to as supination, is the opposite of overpronation in that the weight of the foot falls too far outward instead of inward. And the risks are similar to those of overpronation – when your foot moves excessively outward upon hitting the ground, it makes you susceptible to injury if the condition is not treated correctly.

How do I know if I have supination or overpronation?

The signs are in your shoes – A quick way to check whether you suffer from over- or underpronation is to check the soles of your shoes for signs of wear and tear. If your shoes are more worn on the inside of your sole, towards the ball of your foot, then it’s a good indication that you may overpronate. If, on the other hand, most of the wear on the sole is towards the outside, towards your little toe, then you might be more inclined to supinate.

Know the symptoms – A sore arch can be a symptom of overpronation, or not enough support in your shoes . Likewise, pain in your heel can also be a sign that you are not distributing your weight on your feet when you strike the ground. Those of us who do not pronate correctly are also likely to regularly suffer from:
· Calluses
· Corns
· Knee pain
· Back pain
· Shin splints

Check your alignment – The way your shins align to your feet can also be a sign of improper pronation. Look at your shinbone, the forward bone that travels from your knee to your ankle. If the bone lines up with the inner part of your foot, you may suffer from overpronation. The shinbone for people with neutral pronation should lead to the second or third toe on the foot.

Visit an expert – if you are unsure of whether you suffer from incorrect pronation, you can get advice from your local running store staff, who can check your feet and recommend options for treatment.

How can you fix incorrect pronation?

There are several options out there to help you treat incorrect pronation.

Strength and conditioning – There are specific exercise you can do to help strengthen the muscles around your feet and arches. These include calf stretches and rolling your feet, both of which will help relieve the stress on your feet created by overpronation.

Insoles – Orthotics can be inserted into your shoes to provide extra support to your arches and can help neutralise the impact of the way you naturally walk or run. These are available with and without prescription and can provide the support you need to prevent or relieve injuries.

Choosing the right footwear: pronation shoes – Another option for treatment is buying the right shoes. When you suffer from incorrect pronation, it’s important that you put some thought into your footwear, especially if you’re a runner. Again, visiting a sports store or a store that specialises in footwear where staff can help you choose the right shoes for your circumstances is a smart step to take. Before you choose a pair, have a staff member measure your feet and look for shoes that offer the most suitable arch support for your feet.

Understand your body

Whether you have been running for years or are just starting out, it’s important to know how you naturally walk or run so you can take measures to avoid injuries and enjoy your runs to the fullest.