What Is Underpronation? Understanding the Mechanics of Supination in Running

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David Dack

Have you ever come across the terms underpronation or supination and wondered what they actually mean? Well, today is your lucky day because we’re about to dive deep into the world of underpronation and uncover why it has some folks concerned.

Okay, let’s break it down. Underpronation, also known as supination, is a fancy way of describing how your foot behaves when you’re pounding the pavement. It’s like a secret language that only your feet speak, and i’m here to translate it for you.

Now, why is underpronation considered a potential troublemaker? The plot thickens! When you underpronate, it means that the outer edge of your foot bears the brunt of the impact while you’re striding along. It’s like your foot is a diva, hogging all the attention and leaving the other parts hanging. And you know what happens when divas take over the stage? Chaos!

So, here comes the burning question: why is underpronation considered a “bad” thing? Well, when your foot doesn’t absorb shock properly, it can put extra stress on certain areas, like your ankles, shins, and feet. It’s like throwing a wild party but forgetting to invite the bouncers. Things can get rowdy, and injuries might crash the party.

But fear not! Today I’ll provide with the tools you need to handle underpronation like a pro.

Are you excited? Let’s get started.

Underpronation Meaning

So, what exactly is pronation? Picture this: as you walk or run, your ankles engage in a mesmerizing rolling-in motion, and your arches gracefully flatten out to absorb the shock of each step.

Believe it or not, some level of pronation is crucial for optimal biomechanics. Studies show that ideally, we should experience around 15% roll-in collapse at the ankles to ensure proper shock distribution while moving around.

But here’s the fascinating part: every one of us pronates, but in different degrees. Think of it as a personal pronation fingerprint—a unique marker that sets you apart from the running crowd. Some folks may pronate a little more, while others keep it subtle. It’s this diversity that adds flavor to our running experiences.

Now, let’s shine a spotlight on the troublemaker of the pronation world—overpronation. When the pendulum swings too far and our ankles collapse excessively, it’s like a dramatic opera reaching its climax. The arches of our feet may suffer, leading to flat feet and potential issues in our hips, knees, and, of course, those delicate ankles.

But today, our focus is on the opposite end of the pronation spectrum—underpronation, or as it’s also known, supination. It’s like flipping the script and exploring the uncharted territories of foot mechanics. Underpronation comes with its own set of challenges, and boy, are we ready to dive into them!

Under Pronation Defined

Ah, supination—underpronation’s alter ego. It’s like a secret identity, revealing itself through the intricate positioning of your feet.

Imagine your foot as a skilled acrobat, gracefully landing on the ground during each stride. In a perfect world, it would perform a slight inward roll, distributing your body weight evenly and finding balance on the heel. From there, it would propel you forward, pushing off with precision from the mighty big toe.

But alas, the supinator’s tale is a different one. Instead of embracing the natural order of things, their feet rebel, refusing to roll inward as they should. Instead of resting their body weight on the ball of the foot, they rely on the outer edge, and it’s the toes that bear the burden of propulsion.

This peculiar foot positioning is what we call supination. It’s like a delicate balance disrupted, as the outer edge of the foot takes center stage. But here’s the catch—it’s not just a quirk of movement. It can cause a world of trouble for runners and athletes engaging in high-impact sports.

Picture this: with each stride, the weight of your body pounds down on the outer edge of your foot, particularly on the pinky side. Over time, this constant stress can lead to a host of problems, affecting your performance and overall foot health.

Now, let’s explore the factors that can contribute to supination. One of the main culprits is having naturally high-arching feet. It’s like having the deck stacked against you from the start—a genetic predisposition that tilts the odds in favor of supination. But wait, there’s more! Muscle imbalances in the lower leg can also throw a curveball, disrupting the delicate balance of pronation and supination. And let’s not forget about the role of footwear—the wrong shoes can be like a mismatched dance partner, pushing you further into the realm of under pronation.

But here’s the silver lining—awareness is the first step towards finding a solution. By understanding the causes of supination, you can take proactive measures to address the issue.

The Issues of A Supinator Runner

the consequences of under pronation—like a domino effect, one misstep can set off a chain reaction of discomfort and challenges. Brace yourself as we explore the various conditions that may arise from this elusive foot positioning.

First up, we have the mighty knee pain, a formidable foe that can hobble even the most determined of runners. With each stride, the improper distribution of forces places undue stress on the knees, leading to aches, soreness, and potential long-term damage.

But wait, there’s more! Ankle sprains lurk around the corner, like mischievous tricksters waiting to catch you off guard. The lack of natural inward rolling of the foot during the gait makes the ankles vulnerable to sudden twists and turns, increasing the risk of sprains and strains.

And let’s not forget about the telltale signs of trouble—the swelling of the ankle or foot. It’s like a red flag, waving frantically to signal that something is amiss. The improper alignment of forces places excessive pressure on specific areas, resulting in unwanted puffiness and discomfort.

But wait, there’s a twist to this tale—lower back pain enters the scene, like an unwelcome visitor crashing the party. The altered mechanics of under pronation can throw off the natural alignment of the body, placing strain on the lower back. It’s like a ripple effect, with pain radiating from the feet all the way up the spinal column.

Now, let’s turn our attention to a condition that brings pain to the soles—the notorious plantar fasciitis. This arch enemy is the inflammation of the sole, causing sharp, stabbing pains that can leave you limping in agony. The repetitive stress placed on the plantar fascia due to under pronation is like a relentless bombardment, weakening the tissues and setting the stage for this painful condition.

But wait, there’s more trouble brewing—the formation of calluses, those hardened patches of skin that serve as a painful reminder of the ongoing battle. The abnormal distribution of forces creates friction and pressure points, leading to the formation of these unsightly and uncomfortable patches.

And let’s not overlook the plight of our dear toes. Hammertoes and clawed toes make an appearance. The imbalanced forces exerted on the toes during push-off can result in these deformities, adding yet another layer of discomfort to the mix.

But wait, we’re not done yet—running bunions make their presence known, like unwelcome guests crashing the party. The relentless pressure on the outer edge of the foot during under pronation can cause the development of painful bunions, impacting not only your comfort but also your running performance.

And finally, let’s shine a light on the infamous shin splints, like sharp jabs of pain that can leave you gasping for breath. The altered mechanics of under pronation can place excessive stress on the shins, leading to inflammation and discomfort.

The Main Signs Of a Supinator Runner

Ah, the telltale signs of excessive supination—the secret language of your worn-out shoes, whispering tales of your unique running style.

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of shoe wear patterns and unravel the clues they hold.

Assess Your Running Shoes for Supination

Imagine your used running shoes laid out before you on a table, like artifacts from a well-traveled adventurer. I’ll embark on a visual expedition to decipher the story etched into the rubber.

Begin your investigation by directing your gaze towards the back of the heels, like a detective searching for elusive clues. Examine the wear and tear on the outer edge, the lateral portion of the shoes. If you spot significant signs of battle on this side, it’s a strong indicator that you may indeed be an underpronator.

You see, as a supinator, your foot makes its grand entrance on the outer edge of the heel, like a daring acrobat landing on a tightrope. But here’s the catch—the foot fails to perform its inward roll, leaving the force of impact concentrated on this precise spot. It’s as if the weight of the world is squarely resting on the outside of your foot, demanding attention.

And what about the forefoot, you ask? Ah, that’s where the second act of this shoe-wearing drama unfolds. Just behind the toes, you’ll notice additional wear and tear in this area. It’s as if the stage is set for a vibrant performance, with each push-off and toe-off leaving its mark. The forefoot bears witness to the intensity of your supination, like a canvas displaying the brushstrokes of your unique running style.

But wait, let’s bring in the supporting cast—research papers, studies, and experts—to solidify our findings. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science, a high correlation exists between excessive supination and wear patterns on the lateral aspect of running shoes. The data speaks volumes, providing scientific validation to our visual inspection.

Check Your Foot Print

To do the classic foot print test, gather your tools: water to wet the soles of your feet and a flat surface that will capture the truth of your footprints.

With anticipation, step onto the stage—preferably a piece of sturdy cardboard or thick paper. Allow your feet to make their mark, leaving behind a trail of secrets and revelations.

Now, take a moment to examine the imprints left by your feet. Are they mere footprints, or do they hold deeper insights into your foot type? Let your eyes wander to the arch—the mystical bridge that connects the forefoot to the rest of your sole.

For those blessed with a normal amount of pronation and healthy arches, behold the arch’s appearance—a visible curvature, gracefully connecting to the forefoot by a strip that spans roughly 1-2 times the width of the foot on the outside of the sole. It’s as if the arch confidently reveals itself.

But what if your arch is shrouded in mystery, barely visible, or even absent altogether? Ah, my friend, you may have stumbled upon a clue—a sign of high arches, a possible indicator of underpronation. It’s like finding a rare gem hidden in the sands of the beach—a discovery that sets you on a path of self-awareness.

Additional Resource – Overpronation vs Underpronation

Tight Achilles and Calves

Tightness of the calf muscles tends to reinforce the movement pattern caused by under pronation, which, in turn, magnifies the effect of supination.

This usually results in plantar fasciitis, which is a common overuse injury that manifests as sharp pain or aches along the arch of the foot or in the middle of the heel.

How to Deal With Under pronation While Running

Don’t fret, for there is a glimmer of hope shining through the cloud of underpronation. It’s time to roll up your sleeves (or should I say lace up your shoes) and take action to ease your woes.

Here are some measures you can embrace right now to find relief.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the power of strength training. 

But where should you focus your strengthening efforts? Let’s dive into the critical areas that will provide the stability you seek. Direct your attention to your ankles, feet, and hips.

Imagine your ankle as a pillar of strength, unwavering and resilient. Strengthen it with targeted exercises that will enhance its stability and endurance. And don’t forget your feet—they deserve some love too.

By engaging in exercises that target the muscles within your feet, you’ll build a solid foundation that can withstand the challenges of underpronation.

But wait, there’s more! We can’t neglect the mighty hip muscles. These powerhouses play a vital role in maintaining balance and proper alignment. Strengthening your hip muscles will contribute to the stability of your entire kinetic chain.

Now, let me share with you some exercises that will help you on your quest for strength:

  • Lunges: Imagine yourself lunging forward, like a fearless explorer venturing into uncharted territory. This exercise engages multiple muscle groups and builds strength from the ground up.
  • Calf Raises: Rise up on your tiptoes, defying gravity like a ballet dancer in mid-air. Calf raises target the inner calf muscles, rebalancing the forces within your lower leg and enhancing stability.
  • Crab Crawls: Channel your inner crab as you scuttle sideways, working those hip muscles. It’s a quirky and fun exercise that will bring a smile to your face while strengthening your body.
  • Squats: Ah, the classic squat—a foundational move that builds strength and stability throughout your lower body. Sink down low, like a seasoned weightlifter, and rise up with power and control.

These exercises, my supinating friend, are your allies in the battle against underpronation. Embrace them with enthusiasm and incorporate them into your training routine. But remember, every superhero needs guidance.

Consider consulting a certified professional—a coach, physical therapist, or experienced runner—who can provide expert advice and ensure you’re performing these exercises with proper form and technique.

Underpronation Running Shoes

When it comes to addressing supination, choosing the right pair of shoes is like finding the perfect dance partner—they need to be flexible, lightweight, and oh-so-comfortable.

Experts in the field strongly advocate for flexible and lightweight running shoes for those who tend to underpronate. Picture these shoes as nimble companions, allowing your feet to move freely and naturally with each stride. They provide that extra flexibility and cushioning to counter the challenges posed by supination.

But hold your horses! Before you embark on a shopping spree, I must urge you to seek wisdom from the wise—a podiatrist. These foot wizards will guide you to the most suitable shoe type for your unique supination needs. Trust me, their expertise can make all the difference in finding your perfect sole mate.

And here’s a friendly reminder for you: don’t wait until your shoes are hanging by a thread before replacing them. It’s essential to bid farewell to your trusty steeds before they’re drastically worn on the outer side. Think of it as bidding adieu to an old friend who has served you well but is now ready to retire.

To navigate the vast world of running shoes, head to a specialty running store. These treasure troves of knowledge will provide you with expert advice and guidance to ensure you make an informed purchase. They understand the intricacies of supination and can help you find the shoe that will support and protect your unique gait.

Try Orthotics

Ah, orthotics, the unsung heroes in the battle against underpronation! These nifty inserts can provide the extra dose of support and comfort that your precious feet crave. Think of them as your foot’s personal bodyguards, ready to cushion and stabilize every step you take.

When it comes to finding the perfect orthotics for underpronation, experts emphasize the importance of cushioning and a spacious surface area. These orthotics are like little clouds for your feet, offering a soft landing and reducing the impact on your arches and heels. They work their magic by controlling the motion of your foot, ensuring it stays in the optimal alignment.

You can find underpronation-friendly inserts in stores, both physical and virtual, where they patiently wait to be chosen as your foot’s trusted ally. However, if you want to take things to the next level, consider going the custom-made route. A visit to a podiatrist can lead you to orthotics tailored specifically to your feet, taking into account your unique gait and any history of underpronation issues you may have. 

Especially if you’re a seasoned runner, logging in serious mileage and pushing your limits, investing in custom-made orthotics is a wise move. Research papers and studies have shown the potential benefits of orthotic intervention for managing underpronation and reducing associated discomfort. So why not give your feet the royal treatment they deserve?

Additional guide – Running with bunions guide

Stretch Regularly

Stretching is the key to unlocking the potential of your muscles and keeping those underpronation woes at bay! While the scientific verdict on stretching may still be inconclusive, I firmly believe in its power to prevent injuries, especially for my fellow underpronators.

Imagine your muscles as elastic bands, waiting to be stretched and primed for action. When your muscles have a full range of motion, they become flexible warriors, ready to move with efficiency and grace.

To target those areas that are often affected by underpronation, it’s crucial to incorporate specific stretches into your daily routine. Focus on your shins, calves, ankles, and Achilles, as these areas can benefit greatly from a little extra TLC. By reducing tension and increasing flexibility in these regions, you can help alleviate the strain that may contribute to supination.

Now, let’s talk about some stretches that will become your new best friends. Imagine yourself gracefully touching your toes, reaching for the sky with your quadriceps, and raising your legs like a triumphant gymnast. These stretches may seem simple, but they hold the power to release tension and improve your range of motion.

Here’s a lineup of stretches that will make your daily routine a little more flexible and exciting:

Toe Touch: Picture yourself in a blissful moment of reaching down and touching your toes, feeling the gentle stretch in your hamstrings and calves.

Quadricep Stretch: Embrace the warrior within as you stretch those mighty quadriceps, allowing them to release any tightness.

Leg Raises: Elevate your leg, raise it to new heights, and feel the gentle pull along your hamstrings. This exercise will keep your legs limber and ready for action.

Lifted Toe Step: Imagine taking confident steps forward, lifting your toes with purpose. This stretch targets your shins and ankles, helping to ease tension and promote better foot movement.

Remember, my fellow underpronators, consistency is key when it comes to stretching. Make these exercises a part of your daily routine, and you’ll gradually unlock a world of flexibility and resilience. While research papers and studies may still be exploring the full benefits of stretching, I believe in its power to keep our bodies in optimal condition

Proper Running Form

Let’s talk about the importance of proper running technique. Just as a painter needs the right brush strokes to create a masterpiece, we runners need to fine-tune our technique to address excessive underpronation.

To guide you on this journey, here are some key guidelines to help you embrace the proper running technique:

Light as a Feather: Picture yourself gracefully landing on the ground, as light and gentle as a feather. Instead of pounding your feet with excessive force, aim for a soft and delicate touch. Imagine you’re running on fragile eggshells or even on the surface of water. This imagery will encourage a light and nimble landing, reducing the impact on your feet and allowing for a smoother stride.

Midfoot Magic: Shift your focus to landing closer to the midfoot rather than striking the ground with your heel. This slight adjustment in foot placement can make a world of difference. Imagine the midfoot as your sweet spot, the point of balance where your body weight is evenly distributed, helping to alleviate the strain on the outer edge of your foot.

Short and Sweet: Lengthen your stride? Not this time! Instead, focus on shortening your stride and increasing your running cadence. This means taking more steps per minute while maintaining a quick and light tempo.  By shortening your stride, you’ll encourage a quicker turnover and reduce the stress on your feet, ankles, and legs.

Underpronation Explained  – The Conclusion

There you have it. If you tend to under pronate during the running gait, then the above guidelines are exactly what you need to help you soothe—and prevent—any potential pain or issues.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Keep running strong

David D.

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