Pronation and supination are important factors, and every runner should know these components of biomechanics at least in general terms. But, as it turns out, novice runners run into a number of inaccuracies. And sometimes there are gross and contradictory mistakes when describing the biomechanical processes that occur during running. We will try to correct the situation, to explain everything simply and without going too deep into medical terminology.
Pronation is a natural cushioning movement of the foot and ankle (when running) designed to soften contact with a hard surface and distribute the impact load. Pronation is not one movement, but three different movements that occur almost simultaneously (with complex names: eversion, abduction and dorsiflexion).
In simple terms, the pronation process involves:
- The arch of the foot is flattened
- A slight rolling movement of the ankle joint inward (toward the center line of the body)
- A slight eversion of the forefoot outward.
Pronation plays an important role when the foot lands on the heel. With the other way of landing, on the forefoot, pronation becomes less important.
The degree of pronation usually correlates with the height of the arch (medial longitudinal arch) of the foot. A low arch of the foot (various degrees of flatfoot) is indicative of strong pronation, while a too high arch is indicative of insufficient pronation.
The classic way to find out what kind of foot arch you have is a wet foot print on a piece of cardboard or paper, known among runners as the “wet test. But it’s worth remembering that this way we only know the structure of the foot. The height of the arch of the foot is a static measurement, and for selecting running shoes it is better to do a dynamic video analysis on a treadmill. You can also try to take a picture of the feet from behind when they are standing straight, and use it to assess how far the heel bone is tilted from the vertical axis inward or outward.
Types of pronation of the foot and selection of running shoes
Actually, the choice of running shoes is based on the fact that having a strong pronation (excessive, hyperpronation), it is necessary to use shoes with reinforced support on the inner part of the sole and, perhaps, with all kinds of wedge-shaped inserts and special insoles. And with insufficient pronation (hypopronation) – on the contrary, sneakers that contribute to better cushioning of the inner heel. In addition, the other parts of the sole also have some changes in design, because the “output” occurs through the different zones of the feet.
The purpose of all tricks is to compensate for the natural inability to absorb shock loads and prevent possible injury. If the ankle is severely abnormal, it also leads to unnatural strain on all other joints, back pain, head pain, etc.
This is mostly true for stiff, incorrect running technique with a heel landing.
If you run for a long time with hyperpronation (which is the most common case) without compensating for it with shoe design or running technique, it can lead to, for example, excessive displacement of the kneecap and the formation of the runner’s knee This leads to abrasion (erosion) of the knee-cap cartilage (chondromalacia patella).
Pronation always precedes supination, the inverse process responsible for pushing the foot away. These two processes are basic and coexist as yin and yang.
Supination combines all the same movements of the leg elements that occur during pronation, but now in the opposite order and direction. Supination can also be excessive, strange as it may seem. For example, hypopronation can be caused by excessive supination (hypersupination).
What you need to remember
Sometimes, so as not to confuse or confuse others, only two terms are used – hyperpronation and hypersupination. In between, of course, is the neutral type of foot, which is considered normal.
In the period of one step there are many actions, including the position of dynamic balance between pronation and supination. And the main muscle that controls all this is the tibialis posterior muscle. It works both in extension (when the foot is in contact with the surface) and compression (for powerful pushing during supination).
Other factors, such as X or O curvature of the feet, are added to all of this. This can also have a strong effect on foot placement (varus or valgus). So learn the nuances of the biomechanics of your feet, by all available means, including visits to sports doctors (ideally) and specialized running centers. And don’t skimp on running shoes, in case there are any peculiarities of your feet.