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What are Supination and Pronation, and How Should they Determine Your Shoe Choice?

What are Supination and Pronation, and How Should they Determine Your Shoe Choice?

What are Supination and Pronation, and How Should they Determine Your Shoe Choice?

The feet have some of the most complex anatomies anywhere in the body. You're aware that your feet move and roll as you walk or run, of course — but a closer look at exactly how could save you a lot of pain and trouble — because it helps you pick the right shoes for your unique feet.


What is Supination?

When you push your feet off as you're about to start running, some of the weight naturally shifts to the outer edges of your feet to support the effort. This natural form of supination is standard and expected. For some people, a larger portion of their body weight routinely falls on the outside of their feet. This kind of motion, called over-supination, shows up as feet that visibly roll outward as they walk.

Some of the risks involved in over-supination, both among athletes and for everyone else, are:

  • Sprained ankles
  • Plantar fasciitis — pain in your heels
  • Extremely tight Achilles tendons
  • Bunions


What is Pronation? 

Pronation is also natural and expected to some extent. When your feet hit the ground, they'll roll inward and help you find your balance correctly. Over-pronation takes this phenomenon to an extreme. If you suffer from this problem, your feet will visibly roll inward with each step you take.

Over time, over-pronation can cause pain — not only in the arch of your feet, heel, and your ankles — but also in the knees, hips, and even back. People with overpronation may struggle with chronic pain for a long time before finally realizing that their feet were to blame all along.


How to Figure Out if You Over-Pronate or Over-Supinate 

Your shoes are an easy guide on your path toward determining whether you are over-pronating or over-supinating. People who over-pronate will notice that the inside of their shoes wears out much faster than the rest, while those who over-supinate — the rarer condition, by the way — will wear the outer edges of their soles out more quickly.

The effect is going to be especially obvious if you're an athlete or generally walk a lot. Parents should also look at the wear and tear of their kids' shoes to determine whether they are over-pronating or over-supinating.


How Should Pronation and Supination Affect Your Shoe Choice?

If you over-pronate or over-supinate, your anatomy is a likely cause. You may have extremely high arches if you over-supinate or flat feet if over-pronation is your problem. It's also possible that one of your legs is longer than the other or that recent or older injuries are the issue.

Although a running gait analysis administered by a podiatrist would benefit everyone, you could start by testing whether you have high arches or flat feet — and then getting insoles designed to support your particular foot type the best. Furthermore, it's essential to pay extra attention to the fit of your shoes. That means never settling for a shoe that's too tight. It's also best to try on shoes in the afternoon, as your feet will slightly swell as the day goes on.

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