Overpronation is more common than you might realize.
In fact, there are thousands of runners out there who don’t even know that they’re overpronating. And can’t understand why they regularly experience foot pain during or after running.
Here’s what runners need to know about overpronation, how it impacts your running, and how to manage if you do overpronate.
What Is Overpronation?
To understand overpronation, it’s important to first know about pronation. When you walk or run, your arch flattens and your foot rolls slightly inwards as you step on the ground. This is pronation.
It’s normal and most people pronate when they walk or run. The average foot pronates about 15 percent, and this plays a huge role in absorbing shock as you land.
A slight inward rolling of the foot is not an issue, but when that motion becomes excessive—more than the typical 15 percent—it’s known as overpronation.
Not only does this reduce how your feet naturally absorb shock, but it also places excess strain on your big toe, ankle, and travels up your leg to your knees and hips.
The strain on your foot and leg muscles and joints can lead to injuries that you may not experience if don’t overpronate.
How Does Overpronation Affect Your Running?
Overpronation causes your body weight to be distributed unevenly as your foot rolls inward.
Your muscles and joints need to compensate for this to try and prevent injury. This means they’re working harder than they usually would, increasing the risk of overuse injuries.
As your foot rolls when you land, it’s less able to absorb shock. As a result, the impact force affects your feet and legs more than normal, which can increase your pain mid-stride. You’ll also experience more impact up the kinetic chain, which could potentially cause injury to your knees or hips.
Common running injuries from overpronators include Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and IT band syndrome. Each of these injuries has the ability to keep you from running for weeks or even months.
But it’s important to note that if you do overpronate, you can reduce the chance of getting injured by protecting your feet – something we’ll cover in a minute.
How to Tell If You Overpronate
Before we look at solutions, you need to find out if you overpronate.
It’s almost impossible to test yourself for overpronation while walking or running. That being said, there are a few ways to figure out whether or not you may be overpronating.
This test will determine what kind of arch your foot has, but it won’t necessarily tell you if you overpronate. However, it can tell you if you have flat feet, which means you’re more likely to overpronate.
It’s easy to do. Place a piece of cardboard on the floor, wet both your feet—not soaked, but covered in water—and stand on the cardboard. Stand firmly and like you normally would on any other ground. Don’t do anything unusual with your feet!
Once you step off of it, you should be able to see the imprint of your feet. If there’s a thin strip down the outer edge and then an empty area in the middle—where your arch is—then you have high arches and most likely don’t overpronate.
However, if your footprint looks pretty flat and there’s hardly any empty space, then it’s likely you have flat feet—which means you’re likely to overpronate.
The wear on your current pair of shoes is probably a more accurate way to tell if you do overpronate.
Grab an old pair of your shoes—preferably running shoes—and flip them upside down. Where do you see the most wear on the outsole?
If there’s a lot of wear on the inner edge of the foot, then overpronation is likely to be the reason. From heel to toe, your inner side of the foot will wear away quicker due to your feet rolling in from overpronation.
How to Protect Your Feet If You Overpronate
The main thing runners need to know about overpronation is that if you want to perform at your best and lower your risk of developing injuries, you need to protect your feet.
Here are some steps you can take to do just that.
Get Stability or Motion Control Shoes
Stability shoes or motion control shoes are a must for overpronators. These shoes are made with features that are designed specifically to keep your feet in a neutral position—that is, to prevent them from rolling excessively inwards.
Stability shoes usually feature what’s called a medial post or guide rails. These help prevent your feet from rolling in. Motion control shoes do the same but are designed for severe overpronators who need extra support. These shoes are often heavy and clunky.
Either way, find a pair of stability shoes that will work for you. They keep your feet in the right position so there’s no extra pressure on the tissues and ligaments of the foot and leg, and the kinetic chain stays aligned.
Choose a Robust Insole
If you’ve just got yourself a brand new pair of neutral shoes and you don’t want to go out and buy another new pair of stability shoes, you can opt for an insole.
Choosing an insole for flat feet can help to realign the foot muscles and bones, keeping your feet safer and helping you walk or run with a more natural, less injury-prone gait.
You may be able to get one over-the-counter, that’s designed for overpronation or flat feet.
Or you can get one custom-made for your feet. This may cost more, but it will last you longer and you can switch it between multiple pairs of shoes so you’re always supported.
Work On Your Running Form
Improving your running form can help to improve your pronation. Although you should still be wearing stability shoes or an appropriate insole, getting your form right may help you to lessen the effects of overpronation quite significantly.
Do your best to maintain a cadence of between 170 and 180. Work on landing on the front part of your foot, rather than your heel. It may feel strange at first, but this will prevent overstriding, which can help to take the strain off your feet.
Getting your form right also means you’ll be strengthening your feet, so you may find that your overpronation improves over time.
The best thing about overpronation is that it’s not hard to fix. The first step is figuring out if it’s something that you’re doing.
Once you know that, it’s a simple matter of finding the right shoes or using an insole until you can replace your shoes with stability or motion control shoes.