Supination and pronation are issues that can make running and walking painful. Normally, the foot should strike the ground straight, without rolling to either side, but supination and pronation prevent this from occurring. Supination refers to the outward rotation of your foot, a motion which can often occur on the push-off for running and walking and can make your foot very rigid. Pronation is the opposite of supination, and it refers to the inward rotation of your foot; this can happen as you strike the ground with your heel, causing your foot to flatten out.
Supination and pronation are habits that can lead to pain and other symptoms which may impede your running, in particular. They can be corrected by a professional gait analysis and by the wearing of properly cushioned shoes.
Supination results in reduced shock absorption, which can lead to pain. It’s particularly common in people who have highly arched feet or tight Achilles tendons, and can place extra stress on your foot. In addition to pain, supination can result in hammer toes, plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the foot’s connective tissues), tendonitis in the Achilles tendon, ankle sprains or other injuries, joint pain, and swelling in the knees.
Pronation causes an uneven distribution of the shockwave you get from each stride, with your inner toes forced to absorb the force, instead of it being distributed throughout your foot. This can lead to bunions, calluses, and corns, as well as more serious conditions like arthritis and tendonitis. Pronation is more common in people with low arches or flat feet, and older runners can be especially susceptible.
To find out if you have a habit of supinating or pronating your feet, you can assess yourself for the above mentioned symptoms. If, for example, you have bunions and calluses, it’s likely more likely that you struggle with pronation instead of supination. However, some of the symptoms of both issues are the same, so if you are unsure, visiting an orthopedist, podiatrist, physical therapist, or osteopath can provide an accurate diagnosis of the problem. These practitioners can analyze your gait patterns for problem areas and can provide specially-fitted shoes.
To treat mild pronation or supination issues, the first line of recommend self-care is to wear properly cushioned shoes, perhaps with orthotic inserts, if needed. These will help absorb the shock of your strides and can alleviate some of the pain you may be feeling. Try different styles and brands of running shoes to see which ones feel most comfortable for you. You can add gel cushions, too. Warming up slowly and stretching your feet, ankles, and calves before you set out on your run can also help in keeping the muscles flexible and avoiding injury. Keeping your legs and feet warm will allow the muscles and tendons to stretch more easily without pain, so consider wearing extra layers of clothing or legwarmers, especially on cold days.
Supination and pronation problems can be painful and debilitating, but they are perfectly treatable conditions that will improve with time and proper treatment. As always, early treatment is most beneficial, so don’t delay in visiting a health professional if you are struggling with symptoms. The sooner you get a diagnosis and treatment, the faster you’ll be back on the road. Take care of yourself, and enjoy your run!