Supination and Pronation Explained: How Foot Strikes Affect Your Performance

869d50b8b9c79a6da64445755e6ffbb6

Are you part of the 83 percent of Americans who suffer from chronic foot pain? If so, part of the issue could be the way your feet move when you walk or run.

If your feet supinate or pronate excessively, you could end up putting too much pressure on that part of your foot.

This, in turn, can lead to pain, cramping, and general feelings of discomfort. It can also hinder your walking and running speed and your ability to play sports or exercise.

Read on to learn more about supination and pronation and how the way your feet strike the ground can influence your pain levels and your athletic performance.

Supination and Pronation: What’s the Difference?

The first thing you need to understand when it comes to diagnosing foot issues is the difference between supination and pronation. Listed below are some key differences between these two movement patterns:

Supination

Supination involves the foot rolling outward when a person is walking or running. When your feet supinate, more weight gets placed on the outer edge of the foot and the ankle rolls outward.

Some supination is normal and necessary, especially when you’re pushing off the ground with the foot while running. Too much supination can be problematic, though, and can contribute to ankle sprains and other injuries.

Pronation

Pronation is the opposite of supination. When the foot pronates, it rolls inward and more weight gets placed on the inner portion of the foot. 

The feet pronate naturally as the heel strikes the ground. Too much pronation causes the arch to flatten, though, and places excessive stress on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments found on the bottom of the foot.

Pronation Symptoms

It’s not always easy to know if you’re overpronating your feet while you walk or run. The following are some signs that this might be an issue for you, though:

Wear and Tear on Your Shoes

One of the easiest ways to determine whether you’re overpronating is to examine the bottoms of your shoes.

If most of the wear and tear on your shoes is present on the inside sole (near the big toe and ball of the foot), it’s likely that overpronation is your problem.

Sometimes, if your pronation is excessive, your shoes will fall inward when you set them on the ground or another flat surface.

The Appearance of the Feet and Shins

You can also tell if you’re overpronating by looking at your feet and shins.

If you have low arches or flat feet, there’s a good chance overpronation is a problem for you.

Take a look at your shins, too.

Does the line of the bone that extends from the knee to the ankle lead to the first or second toe? Or, does it lead to the inner portion of the foot?

If the latter is the case, you might be overpronating. 

Ailments and Injuries

You might also experience some specific ailments and injuries if you overpronate your feet while you’re out running or walking.

Some common issues associated with overpronation include:

  • Pain in the heel or arch
  • The development of corns or calluses on the feet
  • Pain in the knees, hips, or lower back
  • The development of hammer toes

If you notice any of these issues, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist to work on fixing your pronation issue.

Supination Symptoms

If excessive supination is your problem, you’ll experience some different symptoms than if you were overpronating. The following are some of the most common symptoms associated with too much supination:

Wear and Tear on Your Shoes

As with overpronation, you can also examine your shoes to determine whether you’re supinating too much. Flip your shoes over and take a look at the sole.

If you notice more wear and tear on the outside edge of the sole than on the rest of the shoe, there’s a good chance you’re supinating more than you should.

The Appearance of Your Footprint

You can also tell if you’re supinating too much by taking a look at your footprint. Get your foot wet, then step on the cement or on a piece of paper.

Examine your footprint and check to see where you place most of your weight. Is only a small portion of the arch of your foot visible?

Ideally, about half of your arch should be visible in the footprint. If less than that is visible, you’re likely dealing with excessive supination.

Ailments and Injuries

Some aches and pains are more common among people dealing with supination, including the following:

  • Pain in the ankle
  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • Frequent ankle sprains
  • The development of calluses or bunions on the outer portion of the foot
  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Frequent shin splints
  • Frequent stress fractures in the legs or feet

You may also notice feelings of weakness in your feet or ankles if you supinate too much.

How to Correct Pronation and Supination

Too much pronation or supination can increase your injury risk and make it harder for you to perform your best when you’re running or playing sports. You’ll also face a greater injury risk when you’re going about your day-to-day life. 

Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to correct these issues, including the following:

  • Work with a podiatrist to diagnose the issue (you can get more information here on podiatrists who specialize in issues of excessive supination and pronation)
  • Work with a physical therapist to learn exercises to correct muscle imbalances caused or made worse by pronation and supination
  • Take a break from high-intensity exercise while you work on correcting your gait
  • Wear inserts to provide additional support and experience more comfort when you walk or run

It’ll take time to change your walking and running habits. The more effort you put in, though, the easier it’ll be for you to make necessary adjustments.

Start Improving Your Foot Health Today

Now that you know more about supination and pronation, do you think you’re struggling with either of these issues?

If so, it’s important to take steps to improve your gait and avoid exacerbating the problem.

Keep this information in mind so you can start correcting your gait. We also have lots of other articles that can help you learn more about how to do this.

Start with this article on the benefit of shoe soles and how they can change the way you walk for the better.