What is Supination?

Definition of Supination

A hand in the supinate position.
A hand in the supinate position. Khaleel Ahamed/EyeEm/Getty Images

Definition of Supination

Supination is an anatomical term of motion for the rotation of the forearm or foot. When you turn your palm or sole so that it faces forward of your body, it is supinated. It comes from the root word of supine, It is the opposite of pronation.

Supination of the Forearm and Hand

When you supinate your hand, the forearm and palm are being turned to face out, a thumbs-out position.

This results in your thumb being at the far side away from your body and the pinkie finger closer to your body. If you were to do this when your arms are at your sides, the palms are facing forward, anteriorly. If you supinate your hand while your arms are over your head, the palm is facing backward.

Supination of the Foot

When your foot is supinated, the sole is facing in, toward the ankle of the opposite foot. This is done with the ankle of that foot rolling out and the toes and sole facing in. If you were to look at the front of the leg when the foot is supinated, you would see the big toe angled in and the ankle angled out from the midline. It involves plantarflexion, adduction, and inversion of the foot.

Also Known As: Under-pronation, high arches

Normal Supination While Walking

In a normal gait cycle, the foot is slightly supinated at the time the heel contacts the ground, but then it pronates, turning up and out to absorb the shock of the step.

As the full weight of the body comes on the foot when the foot is flat on the ground, the foot supinates, twisting in and down as it takes on the load and continues to supinate during the propulsive push-off stage. As such, supination is a normal part of how the foot moves throughout a step. It is when either pronation or supination motion is excessive that they become something that may need to be addressed or corrected.

Too Much Supination of the Foot

Over-supination or being a supinator describes having excessive outward rolling motion the foot and ankle during a walking or running stride. This excess motion can place extra stress on the foot. It can also place more outward rotation on the knee. This is seen in less than 10 percent of the population, it is much less common than over-pronation.

You can look at the wear pattern of your shoes for a clue as to whether you are a supinator. Excessive wear on the outer edge of the sole is an indicator of supination.

Supination is more common in those with high and inflexible medial arches and can lead to foot aches and pain. Their stiff arches aren't good shock absorbers. They may develop conditions such as iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and knee pain.

Wearing the proper footwear, using shoe inserts / insoles, or orthotics can help reduce supination. Supinators should not use motion control shoes, which are designed to correct the opposite condition of over-pronation.

They should look for neutral shoes and flexible shoes.

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