Signs and Solutions of Being an Overpronator

Use these tips to see whether you need motion control shoes

Overpronation
Overpronation. Wendy Bumgardner © 2014

One of the first questions that you face when shopping for athletic shoes is whether you overpronate. If you do, motion control shoes will often be recommended. Here are some signs of being an overpronator and solutions to correct your gait.

Overpronators have a stride where the ankle rolls inward too much during each step. In a person with a normal gait pattern, the foot rolls slightly inward after the heel strikes (this is pronation), but then it straightens and reverses to roll slightly outward at toe-off.

With overpronators, the foot continues to roll inward and downward during the step. This excessive roll is overpronation and it can put a strain on the ankle, shins, and knee.

Do You Need Motion Control Shoes?

Motion-control shoes have a stiffer heel and medial support to prevent the foot from rolling too far inward. This helps overpronators, but if you have a normal gait or you are a supinator you don't need motion control shoes. They are not for everyone. While motion control shoes are generally recommended for overpronators, there are some researchers who are questioning whether they are of use in preventing injury.

Detecting Whether You Are an Overpronator

  1. Check Your Shoe Wear Pattern: Look at the soles of your current walking or running shoes. Overpronators will see more wear on the inner side of the heel and forefoot. This is one clue that an athletic shoe expert will look at when he or she analyzes you to see if you need motion-control shoes, so always bring worn pairs along when shoe shopping.
  1. Shoe Tilt:: Take a pair of shoes or boots you have been wearing regularly for several months. Put them on a table with the heels facing you. Do the heels tilt in? If so, you may be an overpronator. This tilt is due to them wearing more on the inner side of the heel.
  2. Have a Shoe Fit Expert Watch You Walk or Run: The staff at serious running shoe stores are trained to spot overpronation. The salesperson may have you walk or run on a treadmill or watch you walk around the store. Look for technical running shoe stores that offer free gait and foot analysis.

    Solutions for Overpronators

    1. Motion Control Shoes: Most brands of running shoes have motion control shoe models. They have a medial support to guide your stride and keep you from overpronating with each step. Athletic shoe producers put a lot of thought and engineering into the design to keep them from being too heavy, but they will be heavier than most neutral running shoes. If you are a fitness walker rather than a runner, some of the running designs are appropriate. See the top picks for motion control shoes for fitness walkers.
    2. Insoles: If you are an overpronator who prefers to wear boots or shoes that don't have motion control elements, then consider buying over-the-counter insoles and orthotics that can help provide medial stability. You may want to visit a store that specializes in insoles and other minor shoe modifications. It can help to have a foot analysis done with a scanner that senses where you place the most pressure on your feet.
    3. Orthotics: Severe overpronators or those who can't be helped with such generic products may need to be prescribed a custom orthotic to wear in their shoes. You will need to consult with a podiatrist to have this done. While these can be expensive, they may offer you relief if you have developed foot or leg pain that the podiatrist believes is made worse by overpronation. In the long run, this expense can be money well spent if it means you can walk and run pain-free.

      Is Correction for Overpronation Evidence-Based?

      While it has been common practice for many years to steer overpronators to motion control shoes, the research into whether these shoes prevent injury is mixed and there are few well-controlled trials. For example, military recruits have been given motion control shoes if they overpronate, yet the rate of injury in basic combat training remained the same as when all recruits trained in military boots. You may see more debate about whether recreational runners and fitness walkers who overpronate benefit from motion control shoes.

      A Word From Verywell

      If you overpronate, you are likely to get a recommendation to wear a motion control shoe or use insoles or orthotics, but research in this area is not conclusive.

      If you have any pain that keeps you from enjoying walking or running, discuss your symptoms and needs with your doctor or a podiatrist to find the best solution.

      Sources:

      How to "Read" Your Footprint. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-health/Pages/How-to-Read-Your-Footprint.aspx.

      Knapik JJ, Trone DW, Tchandja J, Jones BH. Injury-Reduction Effectiveness of Prescribing Running Shoes on the Basis of Foot Arch Height: Summary of Military Investigations. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2014;44(10):805-812. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5342.

      Malisoux L, Chambon N, Delattre N, Gueguen N, Urhausen A, Theisen D. Injury risk in runners using standard or motion control shoes: a randomised controlled trial with participant and assessor blinding. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016;50(8):481-487. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-095031.

      Richards CE, Magin PJ, Callister R. Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based? British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2009;43(3):159-162. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.046680.

      Yeung SS, Yeung EW, Gillespie LD. Interventions for preventing lower limb soft-tissue running injuries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. June 2011. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd001256.pub2.

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