What Is Pronation Of The Foot?
Most of you have heard the term pronation. Pronation is a natural, normal and necessary component of our gait sequence. Unfortunately, it is often given as a diagnosis as if it were a disorder or a biomechanical issue.
Pronation refers to the action of the foot where the foot flattens and rolls inward as we walk and run. It is a natural movement of the foot and does not need correcting or external support to correct.
Pronation provides us with natural, built in shock absorption and is able to absorb the force of impact with walking and running.
Now that you know what pronation is, let's look at other presentations of the arch of the foot.
Pronation vs. Supination of foot
Both pronation and supination are natural, normal motions of the foot. From a medical perspective, pronation is the foot's natural tendency to roll inward as it makes contact with the ground.
For most people, the foot should roll inward by 15% or less, so that the entire foot briefly touches the ground before you push off.
Supination, quite simply, is the opposite of pronation. Whereas pronation refers to an inward rolling of the foot, supination is an outward rolling that causes the foot to rise and propel our foot forward.
Pronation and supination are both normal presentations of the foot, however, there are some cases where the foot rolls too far inward and this is called overpronation.
What Is Overpronation of the feet?
Normal pronation involves the rolling inward of your foot to absorb the force of impact from walking or running. Overpronation of the foot is too much of a good thing, and it can become a biomechanical problem.
If your foot rolls too far inward it is unable to absorb shock properly and the person's entire body weight is placed on the inside of the foot.
Depending on the degree of overpronation, it can lead to foot conditions such as Achilles Tendinosis, plantar fasciitis, and even knee conditions and lower back pain.
What Causes Overpronation Of The Feet?
The most common cause of over-pronation is wearing conventional footwear that narrows at the toe. Putting our feet in unnaturally shaped footwear with narrow toe boxes restricts the feet from functioning normally and weakens our feet.
Narrow toe boxes prevent our feet and toes from spreading and splaying as we walk and we lose control and strength in our arch muscles.
When these intrinsic muscles of our feet, our foot core, become weak, we begin to over-pronate to varying degrees. This leads to common foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
The solution is to transition to natural, functional footwear that is widest at toe and has no elevation of the heel that allows our feet and toes to spread and splay normally.
Can Overpronation Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of foot and heel pain, and the most prevalent condition I treat in my practice.
Pronation is normal, however, overpronation can lead to a repetitive strain or micro-trauma to the plantar fascia, a thick, fibrous band that runs from your heel to your forefoot.
The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is wearing footwear that narrows or tapers at the toe.
Overtime, this damaging footwear feature creates weakness of our foot muscles, and sets us up for plantar fasciitis.
Do You Need Orthotics For Pronation Feet?
Orthotics have become a mainstay for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. Orthotics render your feet weak and dependent. Using this type of orthosis hinders our normal pronation and shock absorption.
Our healthy, natural pronation is no longer possible. This denies our feet the opportunity to work and function normally and it create “lazy” or weak feet.
I’m not opposed to foot orthosis in the beginning stages. They can certainly be helpful in diminishing symptoms in the acute phase of care, but beyond that, they further weaken the feet.
Strengthening your foot core with targeted exercises is the long term solution.
Best Running Shoes For Pronation?
If you are in the running community, you are familiar with the terms pronation and supination. Any running shoe store will often ask if you know your gait status, and offer shoes that will correct your "faulty gait".
Fitting you with an orthotic or recommending running shoes with anti-pronating technology is usually their suggested remedy.
Pronation doesn't need correcting and these type of supports only weaken our feet and hinders normal pronation.
Sadly, most running shoes do not meet the criteria for healthy footwear. If you look at the typical running shoe, you’ll notice that even these shoes taper at the toe and have an elevate heel.
These design features actually compromise our natural gait and leads to weak and deformed feet. Your foot functions best when your toe box is wide enough for your foot and toes to spread and splay as we walk and run.
I recommend running shoes that are widest at the toe, no elevation of the heel, and no heavy cushioning. Altra Running, Vivobarefoot, and Xero Shoes are a few of my favorite brands for runners.
Do You Pronate?
Watch this video below where I define pronation, and explain why orthotics are not necessary for the treatment of plantar fasciitis.
Can I Treat Plantar Fasciitis At Home?
I specialize in foot and gait mechanics and I have seen hundreds of cases of plantar fasciitis. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there about the condition and sadly, this leads to many people suffering for longer than they should.