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Pronation and Supination: Critical but Underappreciated Aspects of Your Life
Both pronation and supination are critical but underappreciated aspects of your life. They are critical because they play a big part in whether you can walk and run without pain. They are underappreciated because not many people have even heard of them. Let’s compare supination vs pronation and see what is the difference between the two.
You have pronation if, when you walk, your foot rolls inward when it makes contact with the ground. It is normal for your foot to roll inward by no more than 15 degrees. Beyond that, you have a problem. Excessive rolling inward of your foot puts excessive weight on the inside of your foot, increasing your risk of injuries. This is called overpronation. Overpronation can lead to plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, chronic lower back pain, tendonitis, and bunions
Supination is simply the opposite of pronation. You have supination if, when you walk, your foot rolls outward when it makes contact with the ground. This puts excessive weight on the outside of your foot and your outer toes. This could increase your risk of injury and lead to ankle sprain, back pain, hip pain, plantar fasciitis, and knee pain.
Overpronation and Supination Questions Answered
How do I know if I have overpronation or supination?
There are a few ways to test if you have overpronation or supination:
- Standing Test: Look at your feet while standing straight up. If there is no clear space between the foot and the floor where the arch should be, you likely have overpronation. On the contrary if there is excessive space between the foot and the floor where the arch should be, you are likely to have supination.
- Wet Feet Test: Wet feet thoroughly. Step onto a brown paper bag or any firm service that can show wet footprint clearly. Wait 10 seconds then step off. Examine the wet footprint you left behind.
If half the arch is visible in the footprint you have normal pronation. If the arch is at the full width of your foot you likely have overpronation. If only a small fraction of the arch is visible you likely have supination.
- Old Shoe Test: Take an old shoe you have been wearing for at least several months. Look at its sole. If you see more wear on the inner side of the sole, you may have overpronation. On the contrary if you see more wear on the outer side of the sole, you may have supination.
An alternative way is to put that shoe on a table. If it tilts inward that means it has more wear on the inner side of the sole. That means you may have overpronation. On the other hand if it tilts outward that means it has more wear on the outer side of the sole. That means you may have supination.
What causes overpronation?
Overpronation is usually caused by flexible, flat feet. Sometimes people are born with flat feet. Other times people can develop flat feet as a result of non-genetic factors such as being overweight or obese, being pregnant, or being a runner who has repeatedly hitting their feet on a hard service over a prolonged period of time.
What causes supination?
Supination is less common than overpronation. Supination is usually caused by inherited structural problems in your feet. As a result, supination may run in the family. Supination can also be caused by weakness in specific muscles in your foot, ankle, and leg. This muscle weakness can in turn be caused by non genetic factors such as prior foot injuries or wearing shoes that are too tight or rigid.
What can I do with my overpronation or supination?
There are various options you can choose to treat your overpronation or supination:
- Wearing Orthotics: Orthotics are specially designed inserts that you put into your shoes. They offer additional support to your arches as well as minimize the impact the way you walk has on your feet. Generic orthotics can be purchased online or at retail stores without a prescription. For more severe cases of overpronation or supination you may need to see a podiatrist who can analyze your gaits and prescribe a custom orthotics just for you.
The Best Shoes for Overpronation and Supination
- Best Shoes for Overpronation: If you suffer from overpronation, the best shoes for you are stability or motion control shoes. They have a firmer midsole on the arch side of the foot and a softer midsole on the outside of the foot. This maximizes shock absorption and minimizes effects of overpronation. These shoes offer improved support for your arches and a firmer construction to steer your foot to a more evenly distributed stride, resulting in an increased level of comfort and a reduced risk of injury for you.
- Best Shoes for Supination: If you suffer from supination, the best shoes for you are cushioned or neutral shoes. Compared to stability or motion control shoes, cushioned or neutral shoes are more lightweight and flexible. They usually offer extra cushioning, increased arch support, and a roomy toe box. This improves shock absorption and increases comfort level. Ultimately, these shoes can help lessen your risk of stress related injuries.
All these types of shoes can be easily found online or at shoe stores. Make sure you measure the length, width, and depth of both feet while wearing socks to get the best fit. Take the measurements at the end of your day when your feet are at their largest. Do not choose tight-fitting shoes in the hope that they will stretch out over time.
It is also important to replace your shoes frequently. A good rule of thumb is to replace shoes every 6 months, or more often if the soles show signs of wear and tear.