What is Pronation? What is Supination?
When trying to decide on a new pair of running shoes it’s a good idea to consider your stride. In doing so, pronation and supination are important to think about. But what exactly do these two fairly intimidating words refer to?
Definition of pronation and supination
Simply put, pronation can be defined as the angle between the runner’s tibia and their foot.
Pronation is also the term used when the foot makes contact with the ground and rolls inward. Supination, on the other hand, is when the foot rolls outward when it makes contact with the ground.
Pronation and supination are not always bad and there is no reason to think you need to systematically correct them.
These natural, rotational movements are due to many anatomical factors - like the flexibility of the ankle - and are necessary for providing the fluidity needed as your foot comes in contact with the ground during your stride.
Variable Degree of Pronation
We all have our own unique way of running due to the differences in our bodies, ability levels, and history of injuries. And we have different degrees of pronation as well.
As you move through your stride the degree of pronation changes but for comparison we can measure the angle when the foot is flat:
- Angle greater than 10˚: the foot is highly pronated.
- Inward angle between 7˚ and 10˚: the foot is in a pronation position.
- Inward angle between 1˚ and 7˚: the foot is considered to be neutral. Most runners are in this category.
- Angle between -3˚ and 0˚ outward: there is a hint of supination.
- Outward angle greater of more than -3˚: the foot is highly supinated.
Regardless of the degree of your pronation or supination there is no need to get it corrected unless a sports medicine specialist has diagnosed a cause-and-effect relationship with the appearance of injuries.
The degree of pronation will also vary during the course of your run and will tend to increase as fatigue causes your arches to sag and your ankles to flex further.
So even if it’s useful to know your what kind of stride you have it’s still not a good idea to try to pin a specific degree of pronation on it.
How to Know If You’re Pronator, Neutral or Supinator
If you want to learn more about your stride, the first thing to do is film yourself from behind while you’re running on a treadmill. A simple smartphone should do the trick nicely. Set it to slow motion when you are running and you’ll get all the detail you need. In fact, this is what most specialty running shops do.
Another good indicator is to look at the soles of your running shoes (Women’s | Men’s). If the shoe shows more wear on the inside edge of the sole you are a pronator. If there is more wear on the outside edge of the sole, you are a supinator.
No Injuries? No Problem!
Runners often want to correct their pronation or supination by using shoes that are reinforced on the inside of the foot, or by wearing custom-made insoles or orthotics.
However, as long as you are running without injury there is no need to correct your stride. On the contrary, by trying to modify your natural body mechanics, your muscles will be forced to adjust and will often be at the risk of dangerous new stresses.
We can’t say this enough: make corrections to your stride only when advised by a sports medicine specialist.
How to Choose Running Shoes for Pronators and Supinators
Today, most running shoes are neutral or universal. This category of shoes works great for a large number of runners.
Do you have a high degree of pronation or supination and you are regularly suffering from injury? A sports medicine specialist can point you in the direction of specific shoes or advise you to spring for a pair of custom orthotics.
Whatever the case, your shoe choice should not be based on solely on the pronating or supinating tendency of your stride. Other criteria such as drop, cushioning and feel should also come into play. Find out more by reading our article: How To Choose Your Running Shoes.