Next time you’re in a busy restaurant, at a park or a crowded mall, sit back and watch how people walk. (Try not to be creepy when you do this.) I guarantee you will notice that some people walk differently than the rest.
Do you see anyone whose feet roll outward, so the people are walking on the outer sides of their feet? Do you see anyone whose feet roll inward, so their feet are bent and ankles almost to the floor? Do your feet make either of these movements? Where and how one’s feet hit the ground (pronation) can help pinpoint potential injuries, the type of foot arch and which shoes will be the most comfortable.
Pronation is our foot’s natural movement to absorb the impact of hitting the ground when walking or running. Note that Pronation has nothing to do with being pigeon toed or having duck feet. There are three types of Pronation: Normal Pronation, Overpronation and Underpronation (Supination). Normal Pronation is – you guessed it – ideal.
When a person with Normal Pronation walks, his or her heel hits the ground first, then the foot slightly rolls inward and then pushes off evenly at the toe area. The impact is distributed throughout the foot and the entire foot supports the body. This makes walking easy and pain-free. These normal pronators have a healthy gait cycle and a normal arch.
If a person has Overpronation, the outside of the heel hits the ground first, then the foot rolls in too much and the two biggest toes are mainly responsible for pushing off the ground. The impact isn’t absorbed evenly, so the foot and ankle can’t stabilize and support the body properly. Overpronation is common in people with low arches, flat feet or who are overweight. They are more susceptible to feet and ankle injuries. Walking and running can be painful for overpronators.
The least common type of pronation is called Underpronation, which occurs when the outside of the heel makes the first contact with the ground, but there isn’t enough inward movement of the foot, so the foot rolls along its narrow, outside edge and the smallest toes push off. The weight is not distributed efficiently throughout the foot and the smaller parts of the foot has to take the impact. Supinators (underpronators) are more vulnerable to getting knee and back injuries than others, because the shock from hitting the ground on such small and weak areas of the foot travels up through the legs.
You can tell what type of pronator someone is by observing them walk or run. If their feet tend to roll and bend inward, then they are an overpronator, but if their feet tend to roll and bend outward, then they are an underpronator. Those with normal arches or those wearing footwear with biomechanical correction will move with normal pronation.
See What Type of Arch You Have With This Easy Test:
- Get a grocery store-type paper bag
- Get the bottom of your left foot wet
- Step on the paper bag with your left foot and put your weight on it as if you were walking
- Look at your footprint
- If your footprint is in the shape of a C, with half your arch showing, then you have a normal arch
- If you see most of your footprint, then you have flat feet (low arches)
- If you only see your toes, top of your foot and your heel (with a space in between the top and bottom of your foot), then you have high arches
If you are an overpronator, you should seriously consider buying an arch support insole or supportive footwear to help keep your body balanced and pain-free.
If you’re a Normal Pronator, you want shoes, sandals or insoles designed with:
- Moderate arch support
- Neutral-cushioned shoes
If you’re an Overpronator, you want shoes, sandals or insoles designed with:
- Contoured and firm arch support
- Deep heel cup
- Dual-density midsoles
- Motion control
- Stability Shoes
If you’re an Underpronator, you want shoes, sandals or insoles designed with:
- Neutral-cushioned shoes
- Soft midsole
- No stability or motion-control shoes
What is the difference between Supinated feet & Under Pronated feet?
(Comment: A supination is the heel bone angles outwards and the arch is somewhat high. People who have supinated feet are said to have high arches. Supinated feet are bad shock absorbers and force the knees, lower back and hips to carry the extra stress.
Pronation is when the foot turns inward (when your foot contacts the ground), an under pronated foot is very rigid, keeping most of the weight on the outside of the foot. Supinated feet usually aren't as bad but can lead to outside ankle and heel pain. ) My comment: confusing!
Pronation of the foot refers to how the body distributes weight as it cycles through the gait. During the gait cycle the foot can pronate in many different ways based on rearfoot and forefoot function. Types of pronation include neutral pronation, underpronation (supination), and overpronation.
- Neutral pronation
An individual who neutrally pronates initially strikes the ground on the lateral side of the heel. As the individual transfers weight from the heel to the metatarsus, the foot will roll in a medial direction, such that the weight is distributed evenly across the metatarsus. In this stage of the gait, the knee will generally, but not always, track directly over the hallux.
This rolling inwards motion as the foot progresses from heel to toe is the way that the body naturally absorbs shock. Neutral pronation is the most ideal, efficient type of gait when using a heel strike gait; in a forefoot strike, the body absorbs shock instead via flexation of the foot.
As with a neutral pronator, an individual who overpronates initially strikes the ground on the lateral side of the heel. As the individual transfers weight from the heel to the metatarsus, however, the foot will roll too far in a medial direction, such that the weight is distributed unevenly across the metatarsus, with excessive weight borne on the hallux. In this stage of the gait, the knee will generally, but not always, track inwards.
An overpronator does not absorb shock efficiently. Imagine someone jumping onto a diving board, but the board is so flimsy that when it is struck, it bends and allows the person to plunge straight down into the water instead of back into the air. Similarly, an overpronator's arches will collapse, or the ankles will roll inwards (or a combination of the two) as they cycle through the gait. An individual whose bone structure involves external rotation at the hip, knee, or ankle will be more likely to overpronate than one whose bone structure has internal rotation or central alignment. An individual who overpronates tends to wear down their running shoes on the medial (inside) side of the shoe towards the toe area.
When choosing a running or walking shoe, a person with overpronation can choose shoes that have good inside support—usually by strong material at the inside sole and arch of the shoe. It is usually visible. The inside support area is marked by strong greyish material to support the weight when a person lands on the outside foot and then roll onto the inside foot.
- Underpronation (supination)
An individual who underpronates also initially strikes the ground on the lateral side of the heel. As the individual transfers weight from the heel to the metatarsus, the foot will not roll far enough in a medial direction. The weight is distributed unevenly across the metatarsus, with excessive weight borne on the fifth metatarsal, towards the lateral side of the foot. In this stage of the gait, the knee will generally, but not always, track laterally of the hallux.
Like an overpronator, an underpronator does not absorb shock efficiently - but for the opposite reason. The underpronated foot is like a diving board that, instead of failing to spring someone in the air because it is too flimsy, it fails to do so because it is too rigid. There is virtually no give. An underpronator's arches or ankles don't experience much motion as they cycle through the gait. An individual whose bone structure involves internal rotation at the hip, knee, or ankle will be more likely to underpronate than one whose bone structure has external rotation or central alignment. Usually - but not always - those who are bow-legged tend to underpronate. An individual who underpronates tends to wear down their running shoes on the lateral (outside) side of the shoe towards the rear of the shoe in the heel area.