Best Running Shoes for Supination: Top Athletic Shoe Models for Underpronation
Do I Need Special Shoes for Supination?
What is excessive supination, also known as underpronation or rigid foot? Supination is the tendency to turn the foot outward as you stride, placing all your weight on the outside of the foot, as opposed to the more commonly occurring overpronation, which is the tendency to turn the foot inward and place weight on the arch.
If you are a runner who supinates excessively, you may need a special type of running shoe to help prevent injury.
There is an irony in the words "special features." Instead of needing lots of stabilizing and fancy features as do shoes designed for overpronation...running shoes designed for supinators have only moderate, if any, stabilizing features.
Shoes designed for overpronation (pronation is basically the opposite of supination) have plenty of stabilizing and fancy features. In contrast, running shoes designed for supinators have only moderate, if any, stabilizing features. Instead, they're simply very flexible, with superior cushioning.
Why does this help? I am not doctor, but here is my understanding. I'll use my husband, a classic supinator, as an example. He does a lot of hiking over rough terrain and moves rather like a goat with his high arches, rigid ankles, and extremely stable gait. On uneven terrain he has no problems. But on flat, regular ground, he doesn't run well in shoes that stabilize. Any kind of added stability preventing his foot from rolling inward - moving toward pronation - backfires. What he needs is a shoe that allows his foot to be as flexible as possible and roll in as far as it can at the end of the stride.
As for cushioning, as you'll read below, supinators are already more prone to shin splints, fractures, and ankle and knee injuries due to the mechanics of their stride, so anything that reduces the jarring impact of their stride helps.
Below, you'll find the short list I researched and compiled featuring some of the best running shoes for supination/underpronation. There is also a poll where you can vote for your favorite model of supination-friendly athletic footwear for runners.
Poll: Are You a Walker or Runner Who Supinates (Under-pronates)?
What has been the best running shoe for supination in your experience? (If your favorite shoe is not listed here, please share what works for you in the Comments Section.)
Signs of Foot Supination
Though you should see your podiatrist to be sure, there are certain signs and symptoms of excessive underpronation, also known as pes cavus feet:
- A supinator's running shoes will show wear on the edge or outside of the sole of the shoe at the forefoot or heel.
- The running shoes of somebody who supinates tend to tip outward when lying flat.
- Underpronators may be prone to ankle sprains. (Source: Sports Injury Handbook by Levy & Fuerst, 1993.)
- People with a gait characterized by underpronation may experience shin splints.
- People who oversupinate may suffer from plantar fasciitis.
- A clawed toe is associated with supination, according to the Podiatrist Consumer Fact Sheet put out by the state of Massachusetts.
- Under-pronators may experience stress fractures in the leg and feet.
- Because of their supinated gait, the smaller toes of the feet may be prone to injury, as these are used to push off instead of the larger toes.
- Those who are bow-legged may also underpronate.
Depending on the source of the problem, athletes or non-athletes who have any of these problems may find that the best running shoes for shin splints, plantar fasciitis, high arches, bad knees, and other lower-body injuries may also be the best shoes for underpronators.
Supinators: What to Look for in a Shoe
As you can probably gather from what I said above, supinators need shock absorption in a running shoe. They do not pronate very much, if at all, meaning they do not turn the lateral foot inward toward the midline of the body. They roll the foot outward and let the impact fall on the outside of the foot rather than rolling inward at the end of their gait as they run or walk. Rather than the soft connective tissue taking the brunt of the weight, the delicate bones and the joints bear this burden, leading to strain injuries all down the lower extremity.
Some pronation is necessary for shock absorption, so a runner whose gait lacks pronation needs generous cushioning in the midsole to bear the high impact of running sports. On their running shoe fit guide, the ASICS company says that people needing shoes that are well-cushioned also tend to have a rigid forefoot.
Rather than rigid stabilization, look for a flexible midsole that will allow as much pronation as possible. According to Runner's World, shoes for supinators are lightweight and have a flexible medial section (the medial is the inside of the shoe).
Go Light on Stability Features
Since there are more runners who overpronate than there are who underpronate, many athletic shoes are designed with the very features that can make supination worse. Avoid athletic shoes designed for stability and motion control.
So, to summarize, when choosing a good running shoe for supination, look for:
- superior cushioning
- soft, flexible midsole
- single-density midsoles
- lightweight running shoes
- heavy-duty stabilizers
- hard midsole
- medial support post
Short List of the Best Running Shoes for Supinators
I've compiled a list of some of the highest-rated and most popular running shoes designed for underpronation.
Nike Free 5.0 V4 Running Shoe for Men and Women
Nike designed this very popular shoe to mimic the experience of running barefoot on cushioned earth. It's built with many flexibility features and the shoe is also very lightweight, making it a good candidate for one of the best running shoes for supinators, both men and women.
ASICS Gel Nimbus 11 Running Shoe for Men and Women
The , built to accommodate under-pronators, uses a light midsole material, extra cushioning and memory foam in the heel collar. This one can get pricey, climbing well over $100, but it is very well reviewed at both Zappos and Amazon. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 11
ASICS Gel Cumulus 11 Running Shoe for Women and Men
The ASICS Gel-Cumulus 11 reduces shock absorption with the Twist GEL® Cushioning System, which is also designed to improve the push-off at the toes that tends to be a problem with oversupinators.
Saucony Grid Cohesion NX
The Saucony Grid Cohesion NX appears to be extremely popular with women—more so than with men, judging by the number of reviews. It's not as lightweight as some, but does boast of a superior shock absorption and cushioning system. It's also one of the cheapest models of running shoes for supinators.
According to my poll (which was taken by more than 3,000 visitors to this page), the Gel Cumulus, of which Asics keeps bringing out new versions, was by far the best-rated. These are available for men and women.
Nike Free 5.0 V4—Available for Both Men and Women
As I said, this very popular shoe was designed to mimic the experience of running barefoot on cushioned earth and it's excellent for supination.
Saucony Grid Cohesion NX for Women
According to my poll, some supinators rated this shoe best, although it seems to be more popular with women than with men.
Adidas Supernova Cushion 7 and Glide Running Shoes
For Women Underpronators...
And for Guys...
Popular with men especially, the Adidas Supernova Cushion 7 Running Shoe features what supinators and guys with a higher arch need—less built-in stability so that the feet guide the movement during the running stride.
Adidas Supernova Cushion 7 Running Shoe
Especially popular with men, the Adidas Supernova Cushion 7 Running Shoe is well-rated by supinating guys with high arches.
Orthotics and Insoles
Many podiatrists believe in and prescribe custom orthotics to help men and women who experience foot supination excessively to increase shock absorption and thus lower the chances of injury resulting from foot underpronation.
Talk to your podiatrist, sports medicine doctor, or sports therapist about the possibility of custom orthotics if your over-supination is causing frequent injuries. Cushioned insoles or inserts may also be helpful.
Supinator Runners With High Arches
People who underpronate often, but not always, have high arches, which also benefit from cushioning. In fact, ample cushioning is more important than arch support. Too much arch support can make the problem worse. Ask your physical therapist or podiatrist whether your high arch, normal arch, or low arch is best supported by a low, moderate, or aggressive arch support. (I really do recommend talking to the experts. My physical therapist occasionally had sessions at Jocks & Jills, an awesome Seattle athletic shoe store, where he assisted people choosing footwear with foot problems.)
Many readers and poll-takers rated this shoe highly. And not that it's THAT relevant when injury is the issue, but the look of this style is a bit snazzier than some of the others.
I caught a forum thread on Coolrunning.com where visitors offer their recommendations and personal experiences with good athletic shoes for runners who underpronate and who have high arches. Some of these folks stated they were big, tall guys who needed a lot of cushioning.
One person said that the New Balance 1060 had good stability and cushioning. Another likes the New Balance 881. One supinator with wide flat feet loves Adidas Supernova.
There is also a recommendation for Brooks Glycerin. Further research at Zappos suggested to me that, though the Glycerin has soft cushioning, it's built for those with a neutral gait or mild overpronators, so it may not be the best option for extreme cases of supination.
The author is not a medical professional and the recommendations in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The author received no freebies in this review but may receive compensation for products bought through links on this page.
© 2010 Chris Telden