- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Find Your Foot Type (Pronator, Supinator, or Neutral)
Foot pronation is an important factor to consider not only when buying running shoes but also for general foot health. Depending on what type of pronator you are, you will want to consider certain types of shoes. You may need a shoe that can absorb shock or one that offers extra stability and support.
It's a good idea to know your type before heading to the shoe store. As important as pronation is to foot health, many people don't know what type of pronator they are (or that different types of pronation exist!)
Foot pronation is a crucial thing to consider when selecting shoes. Wearing the correct type of shoe can be more comfortable and wearing the wrong type can be detrimental to the health of your feet.
What Is Foot Pronation?
Foot pronation is defined by how you step as a part of normal walking or running. In other words, it's the way your foot makes contact with the ground. As you take a step, the edge of your feet will first make contact with the ground, causing your foot to supinate (lock) to handle the shock. This is followed by the rolling in of your foot and the movement of your heel in an outward direction.
There are three different types of foot pronation:
Neutral: When a runner's foot naturally rolls inwards during the heel-to-toe transition of their gait (as described above), this is called neutral pronation.
Over-pronation: If foot rolls excessively inwards and the arch collapses, this is called over-pronation which can also be described as "flat feet."
Under-pronation (aka supination): Under-pronation occurs when the runner's foot does not roll in enough.
How to Find Your Foot Type
It is easy to find out what type of pronator you are without taking a trip to the podiatrist! Want to know your type? Follow these simple steps (no pun intended) to determine whether you're a pronator, supinator, or neutral.
- Wet your feet and step on a piece of paper.
- Take a look at the footprint.
- If it shows a perfect footprint, then you are a neutral pronator. If the paper shows that the arch has also been left in the print, you are an overpronator. Supination (under pronation) is shown by a footprint showing a gap disconnecting the top and bottom portions of the feet.
What is Over-pronation?
If your footprint test came out with a "flat foot" result, you are an over-pronator. As an over-pronator, the way that you step could be causing foot pain. The stress made on your body as you step can also be causing pain in your ankles, knees, legs, and lower back.
There are a few factors that may contribute to over-pronation:
- Your natural gait
- Increased weight putting pressure on your feet
- An injury
If left untreated, it can cause painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis as well as wear and tear on your hips, knees, and spine.
Wearing shoes that correct over-pronation are one of the best ways to treat this condition. For those with mild to moderate over-pronation, a shoe that offers stability is the way to go. These shoes offer a firm midsole which is a preventative measure against over-pronation. In addition, many contain sections of firm foam under the heel or arch for more support and stability. If you suffer from severe over-pronation, your best bet is a motion control shoe. These are highly corrective shoes that improve your gait by controlling inward motion.
There are also light exercises that can be done to help strengthen affected muscles, such doing stretches with your legs and feet with a resistance band. In addition, heel raising exercises go a long way in strengthening your ankles.
Be sure to talk to your podiatrist about which of these options are best for you.
What type of pronator are you?
What is Supination?
Supination (or under-pronation) occurs when your foot doesn't roll in enough. As a result, the impact of your steps is taken mostly on your heel instead of sharing it with the rest of your foot. In other words, your foot is not properly absorbing shock.
Supination is most often caused by your natural gait, but if left untreated under-pronating can cause ankle injuries, iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, joint pain, and even hammer toes! Injuries related to repetitive motions are a major concern for supinators.
Wearing shoes made especially for supination not only help treat the condition but can also increase comfort. If you're a supinator, you'll want to opt for shoes that offer extra cushioning. This will absorb the force of the impact of each step. For more formal shoes, adding cushioned insole will help.
A shoe with a straight instep shape can help bring in that inward motion, countering your natural tendency to put more pressure on your heel. In addition, you'll want a more lightweight shoe that allows your foot more control in terms of motion.
Be sure to keep your podiatrist informed, as he or she can find a treatment option best for you.
Selecting Shoes for YOUR Feet
Shock absorption in running shoes can prevent a lot of foot problems, but be sure to know what type of pronator you are first.
By selecting the correct shoe type for your feet, you can help treat physical problems related to pronation issues:
- Runners who over-pronate are urged to wear motion control shoes.
- Supinators should wear cushioned shoes to enhance shock dispersion.
- Neutral pronators (those who have no natural pronation problems) are urged to wear stability shoes to make sure they stay a neutral pronator.
Many sporting goods stores carry shoes made for people with various foot conditions. The comfort and fit of shoes are very important, so be sure to heavily consider your foot type. Knowing your foot type, before you hit the store, allows you to make an educated decision in selecting a shoe.
© 2009 Melanie Palen