Overpronation vs Underpronation
As a runner or a walker, you probably don't spend much time thinking about the mechanics of your feet until they start to hurt. But understanding how your feet work is crucial for choosing the right shoes, preventing injury, and maximizing your performance. Two common foot mechanics issues are overpronation and underpronation, which can lead to various problems, from plantar fasciitis to shin splints. In this article, we'll examine these two issues and explore their causes, effects, and treatments.
Before we dive into the details of overpronation and underpronation, let's start with the basics of foot mechanics. When you walk or run, your foot rolls inward slightly as it makes contact with the ground, a motion known as pronation. This is a natural motion that helps to absorb shock and distribute pressure evenly across your foot. However, it's called overpronation if your foot rolls too far inward. On the other hand, if your foot rolls too far outward, it's called underpronation or supination.
Pronation and Normal Foot Mechanics
Normal pronation occurs when the foot rolls inward about 15%, and the arch flattens to absorb shock. This is the most common foot type, and people with normal pronation can wear a wide range of running shoes.
Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls inward more than 15%, and the arch flattens excessively. This can also cause the ankle to roll inward, putting extra strain on the foot and lower leg. Overpronation is common among runners with flat feet, and can lead to a range of injuries, including plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knee pain. If you overpronate, you'll likely see wear on the inner side of your shoes, and you may experience pain in your heel, arch, or big toe.
Underpronation, or supination, is when the foot rolls outward instead of inward, which means the foot doesn't absorb shock as efficiently. This can cause pain in the outer edge of the foot and put extra strain on the ankle and lower leg. Underpronation is common among runners with high arches. If you underpronate, you'll likely see wear on the outer edge of your shoes, and you may experience pain in your heel or second toe.
Differences Between Overpronation and Underpronation
The main difference between overpronation and underpronation is the direction of the foot roll. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls inward too far, while underpronation occurs when the foot rolls outward too far. The causes, effects, and injuries of each condition differ. Overpronators may benefit from stability shoes, which offer extra support to prevent the ankle from rolling inward. Motion-control shoes are another option for severe overpronators, which have a stiffer sole and provide more control over foot motion. On the other hand, underpronators may benefit from cushioned shoes, which offer extra shock absorption to compensate for the lack of natural motion. Neutral shoes are also a good option for those with normal pronation.
Footwear and Pronation
Choosing the right shoes for your foot type prevents injury and maximizes your performance. If you overpronate, look for stability shoes with extra support to prevent excessive rolling inward. Motion-control shoes are a good option for severe overpronators. If you underpronate, look for cushioned shoes with extra shock absorption. Neutral shoes are a good option for those with normal pronation. Make sure your shoes fit properly and are comfortable regardless of your foot type. It's also important to pay attention to the wear pattern on your shoes. If you notice wear on the inner side of your shoes, it may be a sign of overpronation. If you notice wear on the outer edge of your shoes, it may be a sign of underpronation.
In addition to shoes, orthotics can also help manage overpronation or underpronation. Orthotics are custom-made inserts that fit inside your shoes, providing extra support and cushioning where you need it most. They can help correct foot mechanics issues and alleviate pain and discomfort. If you're experiencing foot pain or discomfort, talk to your podiatrist about whether orthotics might suit you.
Your running stride can also play a role in overpronation or underpronation. If you're an overpronator, avoid heel-striking, which can exacerbate the problem. Instead, focus on landing midfoot and pushing off from your big toe. If you're an underpronator, focus on landing on the outer edge of your foot and rolling inward slightly. It's important to work with a coach or trainer to develop proper running form, as poor form can lead to a range of injuries.
Understanding foot mechanics and pronation is crucial for preventing injury and choosing the right footwear. If you're experiencing foot pain or discomfort, talk to your podiatrist about whether overpronation or underpronation might be the issue. They can help determine your foot type and recommend the best shoes and treatments. Remember, taking care of your feet is essential for staying healthy and active, so don't neglect this important aspect of your overall health and wellness.
What is overpronation and underpronation of the feet?
Overpronation and underpronation are common foot mechanics issues that can lead to pain, discomfort, and injury. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls inward excessively, while underpronation, also known as supination, occurs when the foot rolls outward excessively.
How do I know if I have underpronation or overpronation?
There are a few ways to determine whether you have underpronation or overpronation. One way is to look at the wear pattern on your shoes. You may have overpronation if you see wear on the inner side of your shoes. If you see wear on the outer edge of your shoes, you may have underpronation. Another way to determine your foot type is to do a wet test. Wet your foot and step onto a piece of paper or a surface showing your footprint. If you see a complete footprint with little to no curve, you likely have overpronation. If you see a narrow footprint with a distinct curve, you likely have underpronation.
Is overpronation and supination the same thing?
No, overpronation and supination are not the same thing. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls inward excessively, while supination occurs when the foot rolls outward excessively. Underpronation and supination are often used interchangeably but are not technically the same. However, both overpronation and supination can lead to pain and discomfort, and it's important to understand the differences between them to choose the right shoes and treatments for your foot type.