What is Pronation and Overpronation?

Definition of Pronation and Overpronation for Walking and Running

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

Definition of Pronation and Overpronation

Pronation refers to the natural side-to-side movement of the foot as you walk or run. It is also known as eversion. The foot rolls a bit inward with each step.

From the time your heel strikes the ground, your arch begins to flatten and cushion the shock. Your weight shifts to the outside of your foot and then back to the big toe. If you have a correct gait your foot should begin to roll outward with the toe-off.

The arch rises and stiffens to provide stability as the foot rolls upward and outward. This is normal pronation. All of the toes aid in push-off in normal pronation but the big toe and second toe do more of the work while the others stabilize.

The sole of the foot is facing the rear of your body in pronation. The muscles active during pronation are the anterior tibialis, extensor digitorium longus and the extensor hallicus longus, all of when are supinators of the foot.

  • Pronunciation: pro-nay-shun
  • Common Misspellings: pronacion pronatoin

Problems with Overpronation

For some people, the ankle rolls too far downward and inward with each step, which is known as overpronation. This can lead to injury but can be corrected with the right shoes, insoles, or orthotics. In overpronation, the big toe and second toe do all of the push off and this leads to strain on them and instability in the foot.

The excessive rotation of the foot in overpronation leads to more rotation of the tibia in the lower leg, with the result being a greater incidence of shin splints (also called medial tibial stress syndrome) and knee pain.

It places more stress on the ligaments and tendons of the foot that attach to the heel, contributing to heel pain problems.

Determining whether you are an overpronator is the key to selecting the right walking shoes. Overpronators need motion control shoes to help correct their gait and reduce the risk of injury.

  • How to determine whether you are an overpronator
  • Top Picks for Motion Control Shoes: Motion control shoes are built to correct for overpronation. They have increased medial support and stiffer construction to guide the foot into a proper amount of pronation.
  • Custom orthotics can provide motion control. These are prescribed by a podiatrist and individually designed to meet the specific need of each foot.
  • There is some thought and research that say barefoot running may be an answer for overpronation. Some studies shoe you pronate less running barefoot.

Problems with Underpronation - Supination

Supination is a rolling motion to the outside edge of the foot during a step. The foot naturally supinates during the toe-off stage as the heel first lifts off the ground until the end of the step. This provides more leverage and to help roll off the toes.

Too much supination places extra stress on the foot. The big toe and second toe aren't used in a supinated toe-off, which leaves all of the work to the outer edge of the foot and smaller toes.

This can result in ankle injury, iliotibial band syndrome of the knee, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.

Supinators do well with neutral shoes. They do not need motion control shoes as they don't need medial stability.

Sources:

Donatelli, Robert. "Normal Biomechanics of the Foot and Ankle." The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. November, 1985.

Heel Pain. American Podiatric Medical Association. Accessed 1/21/16.

Jo L. Tweed, Jackie A. Campbell, and Steven J. Avil (2008) 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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