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What is Pronation and Finding Your Foot Type

Melanie loves health & fitness and is currently studying for her personal trainer certification.

Foot pronation is an essential 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 crucial as pronation is to foot health, many people don't know what type of pronator they are (or that different types of pronation exist!)

Pronation can be crucial when selecting a shoe. Wearing the correct type of footwear can be corrective and more comfortable while wearing the incorrect kind can be detrimental to the health of your feet.

The right shoes can help correct for pronation and supination.

The right shoes can help correct for pronation and supination.

What Is Foot Pronation?

Foot pronation is defined by how you step as a part of your normal gait. 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 your 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.

  1. Wet your feet and step on a piece of paper.
  2. Take a look at the footprint.
  3. 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 type of pronator are you?

What type of pronator are you?

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
  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Aging
  • 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.

Treating Over-pronation

Wearing shoes that correct over-pronation is 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 provide a firm midsole which is a preventative measure against over-pronation. Also, 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. Also, 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 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 hammertoes! Injuries related to repetitive motions are a significant concern for supinators.

Treating Supination

Wearing shoes made especially for supination not only helps 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. Also, 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.
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Many sporting goods stores carry shoes made for people with various foot conditions. The comfort and fit of shoes are critical, so be sure to 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


Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on August 03, 2011:

Great hub, I'll try that water test and see what type of pronation I am. I think most likely I have neutral pronation as I haven't ever had any foot problems, but I will only know for sure once I do the water test. You get a vote-up, useful and interesting for this hub.

dablufox from Australia on May 04, 2011:

This is a really important topic for someone looking to start running to get fit. I think I am an overpronator, I have very expensive orthotics provided for me during my naval service and was prescribed Brooks shoes as they best suited my gait and foot shape. But most people don't get professional qualified medical assistance when purchasing running shoes and very few give it a second thought.

If I go for a run without my orthotics I would be a cripple the next day.

Top hub, very useful!

jasonycc from South East Asia on September 27, 2010:

I am actually doing some homework before buying a pair of running shoes. I think I am a neutral pronator too. Thanks for the pointers.

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on October 05, 2009:

I am a neutral pronator, but my mom is an under pronator and my dad is an over pronator. I guess I'm the average of those two!

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on September 06, 2009:

yes im a suprinator I took a couple of year before I stopped buying runners that were meant for pronators...

roezer from Ireland on August 30, 2009:

Nice info I noticed when did do a lot of running I often concentrated on my steps and how hard I was hitting the Ground shock absorbing in shoes really helps this and prevents long term damage.

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