Are you an overpronator?
Studies have indicated that around 60% of the adult population tends to overpronate to some degree, and that overpronation accounts for up to 60-90% of overuse injuries in the foot and lower extremities.
If you are an overpronator, it is particularly important to understand both what overpronating is and how you can pick a shoe that works with your gait and footstrike rather than against it.
What is overpronating?
When a runner’s foot strikes the ground, the degree of inward rotational movement from heel to toe is known as pronation. Mechanically, pronation is produced along the subtalar (talocalcaneal) joint located underneath the ankle and serves to absorb the shock of the foot’s initial contact with the ground. Without pronation, the entire impact of each step would be transmitted up the leg and create excessive stress on the tibia.
Overpronation refers to excessive rotation of the foot and transfer of body weight to the instep. Runners with low arches (“flat feet”) exhibit a higher propensity to overpronate, though a determination of overpronation should not be based on low arches alone.
If you have low arches and the inner area of the soles on your running shoes tend to wear down quickly, it is highly likely that you are an overpronator. Another indication is if when standing, either your heels or knees naturally angle inward, but the only way to be completely sure is to see an orthopedist or other foot specialist.
As an overpronator’s feet tend to go through a wider range of motion with each step, the stress and repeated pressure through the foot, ankle, shin, and knee can lead to discomfort and eventually serious injury.
What causes overpronation?
Excessive pronation tends to afflict heel-strikers more than midfoot or forefoot strikers. Everyone has a different gait that comes most naturally to them, and while heel, midfoot, and forefoot strikers can be found at all levels of recreational and competitive running, generally the faster you run the more likely you are to first make contact with your forefoot (in an all-out sprint, you’re actually striking with your toes).
While running shoes do a great job keeping our feet warm and protecting them from injury, they do tend to alter our natural foot strike. As a result of the elevated heel, we are more likely to impact the ground heel-first than we would if running barefoot, which consequently increases our degree of pronation.
Most of what determines the extent of a runner’s pronation is simple genetics. Occasionally a foot strike will gravitate towards a more “normal” level of pronation as the runner develops a more efficient stride over time, but such an improvement should not be expected and it is certainly possible that overpronation can become even more severe as a runner develops.
Why worry about overpronation?
In a recent RunnersWorld poll, 66 percent of respondents indicated having been sidelined by injury during the past year. Overpronation is thought to be the primary cause of most wear-and-tear injuries, and being able to run injury-free will both improve your health and peace of mind as well as help you avoid expensive trips to the doctor’s office.
Overpronation has been shown to be linked to the following injuries:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Shin Splints
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Patellofemoral Knee Pain
- Heel Spurs
- Hip and Lower Back Pain
How to deal with overpronation?
Being an overpronator doesn’t have to mean resigning yourself to a lifetime of injuries. Many of the world’s top professional runners, including Haile Gebrselassie – generally considered to be the greatest distance runner of all time – are moderate to severe overpronators.
If you’re an overpronator, there are a variety of things you can do to reduce your chance of injury:
- Pick a shoe that matches the contours of your foot and provides the appropriate level of motion control
- Look into specialty orthotics such as arch supports and insoles
- Perform stretching exercises and strengthening drills designed to improve strength and flexibility in your toes, feet, and legs
- Consult a doctor or other specialist to see what treatment options would work best for you