How Do Pronation, Overpronation, and Supination Affect Your Gait?

Choose Shoes for Your Walking or Running Gait

Pronation - Neutral - Supination
Pronation - Neutral - Supination. By Ducky2315 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Pronation, overpronation, and supination are terms that relate to your foot and ankle motion as you walk or run. Your foot is designed to flatten when it hits the ground and roll inward with each step, which is known as pronation. This disperses the shock of hitting the ground. But many people have a gait with too little inward roll—supination, or too much inward roll—overpronation. Neither is ideal for walkers and runners but the right kind of shoes or insoles can help guide the foot to a more neutral gait.

You can do a little screening by checking the wear pattern on the soles of your shoes, as overpronation and supination will have distinct patterns. If you shop at a good quality athletic shoe store, the shoe experts will usually look at the soles of your shoes and watch you walk and run before recommending what kind of shoe you should wear.

Pronation

  • After initial ground contact, the foot is designed to roll inward to disperse shock
  • Overpronators roll in too much. This causes excessive movement of the foot and lower leg. Motion control shoes and orthotics are designed to correct this excessive movement.
  • Underpronators (supinators) have feet that don't roll enough after ground contact. They benefit more from flexible shoes.
  • Your gait may be neutral, with just the right amount of pronation. In that case, you can simply buy neutral running or walking shoes.

Overpronation

  • Definition: Overpronation is an excessive inward roll of the foot after landing a step. The foot continues to roll when it should be pushing off. This twists the foot, shin, and knee and can cause pain in all those areas.
  • Signs: You will see excessive wear on the inner side of your running shoes. Your shoes will tilt inward if you place them on a flat surface. Knock knees or flat feet contribute to overpronation. See more ways to determine whether you are an overpronator.
  • Solutions: Wear shoes with straight or semi-curved lasts. Motion-control or stability shoes with firm, multi-density midsoles and external control features that limit pronation are best. Over-the-counter orthotics or arch supports can help as well. Overpronation causes extra stress and tightness to the muscles, so do a little extra stretching. See: Top Picks for Motion Control Shoes

    Supination (Underpronation)

    • Definition: Supination is an insufficient inward roll of the foot after landing a step. This places extra stress on the foot and leg as the shock isn't as well distributed across the whole foot.
    • Signs: Your shoes will show excessive wear on the entire outside edge, with the side of the shoe becoming overstretched. Your shoes will tilt outward when placed on a flat surface. High arches and tight Achilles tendons contribute to supination.
    • Solutions: Wear shoes with curved lasts to allow pronation. Lightweight trainers allow more foot motion. Check for flexibility on the inner side of the shoe. You may also want to look for cushioned shoes rather than minimalist designs so you will have more shock-absorbtion. Supinators should do extra stretching for the calves, hamstrings, quads and iliotibial band.

    Experts to Help You Determine Your Gait

    Self-diagnosis is one thing, but nothing beats finding a specialist to analyze your gait. Where can you find one? The good news is that you can usually get a gait check for free at athletic shoe stores and specialty insole stores.

    Look for the technical athletic shoe store in your area. This will be a store that caters to serious runners and walkers.

    The salespeople will be specialists in fitting you for the right athletic shoes. Their goal is to sell you the right shoe rather than the most expensive or most trendy. They want repeat customers. Often, these stores sponsor local runs and marathons. Call or email them to ask whether assess your gait when fitting you for shoes.

    Specialty insole and foot health stores may also offer foot analysis and check your gait as part of recommending insoles or shoe modifications. Some outdoor stores, such as REI, will also analyze your gait when they recommend footwear.

    A Word From Verywell

    If you enjoy walking or running for fitness, your shoes are your most important piece of gear.

    No matter what your gait, you will benefit by getting well-designed shoes. See more about how to choose walking shoes.

    Sources:

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

    Tweed JL, Campbell JA, Avil SJ. Biomechanical Risk Factors in the Development of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome in Distance Runners. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association: November 2008, Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 436-444.

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