Walking is something we all do and in the process, our feet go through the natural movement known as pronation.
Pronation refers to the side-to-side motion of the foot as we go about our daily activities. However, this normal pattern can sometimes deviate from the standard, resulting in either overpronation or underpronation.
Both overpronation and underpronation (oversupination) can exert stress on the feet, potentially leading to significant foot problems if left unaddressed.
Let’s delve into the nuances of these conditions, explore their similarities and differences, and provide valuable insights into their effective management.
What is the difference between supination and underpronation (oversupination)?
- Supination refers to foot movement during the gait cycle, where the foot rolls outward. It also involves the front of the foot pushing down.
- It is a normal foot motion in the later part of the gait cycle. The foot pronates or rolls inwards during the first half of the gait, absorbing the shock of heel contact. Once the foot has maximally pronated, it transitions to what’s referred to as a rigid level and supernates to propel the body forward.
- Feet fixed in a supinated position offer less shock absorption.
- Normally, during the stance phase of gait, there is approximately twice the degree of motion in supination (feet rolling outwards) than in pronation (feet rolling inward).
- Excessive supination, or oversupination, occurs when the foot rolls too far outward and for too long during the later half of the gait cycle.
- Oversupination involves the weight being distributed to the outer edge of the foot, preventing it from pronating adequately during the second half of the stance phase of gait.
- Excessive supination can result in less than adequate shock absorption, leading to increased stress on the metatarsals, the tibia and the hips, resulting in issues like ankle pain, plantar fasciitis and shin splints.
How do I know if I have supination, underpronation, or a combination of both?
Supination refers to foot motion where body weight is transferred towards the outside of the foot.
In practical terms, the key point is to identify the issue and choose suitable footwear or orthotic support to address it. Whether you call it supination or underpronation, the main concern is the outward rolling of the foot, which can lead to issues like high arches, outer edge calluses and discomfort.
Here are some steps to help you identify your foot motion type, and determine whether you have a supinated foot type.
Examine your footwear
- Wear patterns: Check the wear patterns on the soles of your shoes. If you have a supinated foot, you may notice excessive wear on the outer edge of the sole, particularly at the heel and the small toe area.
- Shoe tilt: Place a pair of your old shoes on a flat surface, such as a table, and check if they tilt outward (supination) or inward (overpronation). This can be a good visual indicator.
Pay attention to any discomfort or pain in your feet, ankles, knees, or hips. People with supination or underpronation may experience symptoms such as ankle pain, calluses on the outer edge of the foot, or issues like plantar fasciitis or shin splints.
Wet the soles of your feet and step onto a piece of cardboard. Examine the footprint it leaves behind:
- If you observe a clear imprint of your entire foot, including the arch, you likely have a neutral pronation. This means your foot is functioning in a balanced manner.
- If the arch imprint is minimal or not visible, it may indicate supination (underpronation).
- On the other hand, if you see a complete footprint with a wide, flattened arch, it could suggest overpronation.
Consulting with a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist can provide a more precise assessment of your foot type and address any specific foot concerns. They may conduct a gait analysis and other assessments to determine the extent of the issue and recommend appropriate solutions.
Which is more common: overpronation or underpronation?
Underpronation is less common. This is because the foot naturally rolls inward when weight is placed on it. There are several factors can contribute to underpronation.
- High arches: People with high arches tend to have less natural shock absorption. This makes it more likely for their feet to underpronate, because they have a reduced ability to absorb the impact forces as they walk or run.
- Tight Achilles tendon: A tight Achilles tendon, often caused by high-impact sports or activities that place strain on the Achilles tendon, can lead to underpronation, because when the Achilles tendon is tight, it limits the foot's ability to roll inward.
- Foot or leg injury: Injuries like hammertoes, shin splints, or knee injuries can alter a person's gait and foot motion. This can lead to underpronation as the body compensates for the injury by changing the way it moves.
- Unsupportive shoes: Wearing shoes that lack proper arch support and cushioning can exacerbate underpronation. Proper footwear with adequate arch support is essential for individuals prone to underpronation as it helps to counteract the outward rolling of the foot.
On the other hand, the more common overpronation can be caused by:
- Foot structure: The most common cause of overpronation is a flat foot or a low arch. When the arch is low, the foot rolls inward more easily when weight is placed on it. This can lead to overpronation.
- Muscle weakness: The muscles in the foot and ankle also play a role in pronation. If these muscles are weak, they may not be able to support the arch of the foot properly, leading to overpronation.
- Foot or ankle injury: Injuries to the foot or ankle can also cause overpronation. For example, a sprained ankle can weaken the muscles in the foot, leading to overpronation.
- Weight: Carrying extra weight can also put stress on the feet and lead to overpronation.
Do I need different types of shoes or orthotics to accommodate supination and underpronation?
The choice of shoes or orthotics to accommodate overpronation or underpronation depends on your specific foot condition. Here are some guidelines:
- Excessive supination: Orthotics can be highly beneficial for people with excessively high arches. Orthotics for supinated feet are designed to provide distributed support, cushioning and flexibility tailored to one's unique foot shape. They help reduce the strain on the foot and provide additional shock absorption
- Overpronation: Orthotics can also be a valuable solution for overpronation. They are designed to correct the excessive inward roll of the foot, providing support and alignment. Orthotics can help redistribute the pressure on your foot and improve your gait.
- Underpronation: People with underpronation should look for shoes with a few key features. These include a flexible and cushioned midsole, as well as good arch support. The shoes should also have a wide toe box to accommodate the outward rolling of the foot.
- Overpronation: For overpronation, the ideal footwear should have a firm heel counter and a wide support base. A firm midsole provides the necessary support and stability to address overpronation. In addition, overpronators may benefit from shoes with motion control or stability features.
*For more details about proper footwear for under and overpronation, scroll down.
It's important to consider your specific foot condition, the severity of pronation, and any recommendations from a medical professional, such as a podiatrist, when choosing shoes or orthotics.
Custom orthotics can be particularly effective for addressing individualized needs. The right combination of orthotics and appropriate footwear can help alleviate the issues associated with supination or overpronation, and improve your overall foot health and comfort.
Orthofeet’s Anti-Supination Device
Orthofeet takes a significant step forward in foot care with its cutting-edge Anti-Supination Device.
Designed to provide superior comfort and support, this innovative device is particularly beneficial for people with high arches or those experiencing supination.
Here's a closer look at the benefits of this device:
- Improved foot and body alignment
The device works by transferring weight from the outer edge of the foot, promoting a more aligned, neutral position. This, in turn, leads to better alignment of the entire body, helping to counteract the natural tendency of supination to roll outwards while enhancing stability and balance.
- Reduced stress on joints
By effectively countering supination, the device helps alleviate stress on the feet, knees, hips and lower back. This can be particularly helpful for those who experience discomfort or pain in these areas, due to supination.
- Pressure and pain relief
Supination often places excess pressure on the heel and the ball of the foot. Orthofeet's device mitigates this pressure, reducing the risk of discomfort and potential injuries in these areas.
In addition, people with high arches or supination may often experience heel and foot pain. The device provides targeted support to address these issues, potentially reducing pain and discomfort associated with these conditions.
- Enhanced support and stability
The device provides additional support, promoting greater stability and comfort, particularly for those who need specialized support due to supination.
Real user experiences
“The anti-supination device is really working to keep me aligned! I walk and exercise with it in my shoes. It has been helping me feel less pain in my feet and hips - I almost didn't get it but I'm glad that I did!”
“Excellent - they work! Gives added stability. Too many years of rolling my ankle but this product has helped. I will get these for my other shoes.”
“Works Great! I have very high arches and walking became difficult with feet rolling outward causing balance issues. The anti-supination device has handled this problem. So glad I purchased this.”
Practical tips for preventing injuries when dealing with supination and underpronation
By following the practical tips below, as well as seeking professional guidance and help when needed, you can effectively prevent or manage overpronation and underpronation, reducing the risk of associated injuries and discomfort.
Preventing and managing overpronation
- Good footwear
To prevent or correct overpronation, it's crucial to choose the right footwear. People who overpronate should opt for flexible and lightweight shoes. When purchasing shoes, look for the following design features:
- Premium orthotic insoles with anatomical arch support to prevent the foot from rolling inwards, enhancing comfort and support.
- A firm heel counter for increased stability and control of overpronation.
- Wide soles that also help improve stability and mitigate overpronation.
- Lightweight cushioning soles with a mild rocker design to reduce impacts and improve walking comfort.
In addition, avoid tight-fitting shoes with the expectation that they will stretch over time. And remember to replace shoes regularly, with a general guideline of every 6 months or sooner if they show signs of wear and tear.
Insoles designed for overpronation can provide valuable arch and heel support to control foot motion. These can be purchased in stores or online, or you can consult a podiatrist for custom-made orthotics that are tailored to your specific needs.
- Proper form
Correcting poor posture is essential to address excessive supination. When running or walking, try to:
- Land softly on your feet.
- Make contact with the ground close to the midfoot rather than the heel.
- Land with a flat foot and avoid curving the toes.
- Maintain a short stride to facilitate proper form.
There are some exercises that can keep your muscles flexible and strong, promoting a more neutral gait:
- Calf stretch. Stretch the calf muscle and ankle by placing hands on the wall and bending forward at the front knee. Hold for 30 seconds on each leg, repeating three times.
- Plantar fascia stretch. Cross one ankle above the opposite knee, hold your toes with one hand, and gently stretch them toward the front of the ankle. Maintain this stretch for 10 seconds and repeat up to 20 times for each foot.
- Knee stretch. Cross one leg behind the other and bend over to the side without bending forward or backward. Hold for 10 seconds, repeating three times on each leg.
Preventing and managing underpronation
- Proper footwear
People with underpronation can benefit from shoes that are constructed with:
- Heel counters for stability and resistance against excessive rearfoot motion.
- Midsoles with appropriate density to absorb shock (important for high arches).
- A wide base of support through the midfoot to provide added stability.
2.Strengthen your feet
Perform foot-strengthening exercises like arch lifts, calf raises, pen lifts, and more. These exercises can improve the overall strength of your feet and promote better weight distribution, helping to mitigate supination or underpronation.