You may have heard the word before – but what does overpronation actually mean and why is it a bad thing?
Hopefully, having read this article, you will be better placed to assess whether you suffer from overpronation and to know what you can do about it.
But first – let’s explain what overpronation actually entails.
Overpronation is the inward rolling movement that the foot makes when it hits the ground. You have probably seen people in the street who have worn their shoes down on the inside of the uppers and at the heel (see picture).
Overpronation is extremely common and causes tension in the muscles and connective tissue extending from the pelvis and lower back. This affects the position of the knees, pelvis and spine, which in turn often leads to pains and problems in a variety of places, including the knees and back.
A number of painful complaints are associated with overpronation, including plantar fasciitis, hallux valgus (bunions), osteoarthritis, heel spurs and runner’s knee.
There can be many reasons why a person overpronates. Sometimes it is because your foot is too flexible, so it takes the line of least resistance when it moves – and that is generally inwards. This kind of incorrect positioning can easily have a knock-on effect, producing problems higher up in the body, such as the knees and hips.
It is also common to overpronate because the foot is trying to compensate for faults in its alignment, which may have been there since childhood. The foot therefore moves in a way that leads to overpronation. Other reasons can be tight calf muscles, slight differences in leg length, rotation of the hips/pelvis, or repetitive impact on hard, flat surfaces. Pregnancy and obesity also make people particularly vulnerable to overpronation.
How do you know whether you overpronate?
There are several ways to check whether you overpronate. The most obvious is to look at yourself in the mirror as you are walking, and see whether the foot rotates inwards a great deal. You can also ask someone else to walk behind you to see if your feet roll inwards.
Another method is to look at the arch of your foot in the mirror. Those who overpronate often have a very low arch. Footprints can also be used as an indicator. If the whole foot makes contact with the surface, it could be that you are overpronating. See the illustration of arches and footprints in the picture below.
A good tip is to look at the pattern of wear on your own shoes. Are they worn down on the inside of the heel so that you don’t put your foot down squarely on the sole? If so, it is highly likely that you overpronate.
And last, but not least, you can consider any symptoms you may have. If you often experience a feeling of tiredness under your foot that is painful when you put weight on it, that should sound a warning bell. People who overpronate often also suffer from plantar fasciitis – an inflammation of the tendon under the arch of the foot.
What about supination?
Supination can be seen as the opposite of overpronation – in that the foot rolls outwards. However, this is relatively rare compared with overpronation. It is estimated that around 5–10 per cent of the population supinate.
Both supination and pronation share the same causes and consequences. While GaitLine shoes are undoubtedly recommended in cases of overpronation, it is more uncertain whether they will be as effective in cases of supination. If you supinate you should try the shoes and see for yourself whether the result feels positive or not.
How do you eliminate overpronation?
Overpronation is often the result of many years of incorrect use – generally from childhood. But it is perfectly possible to reduce the pain it causes – and even eliminate the problem altogether. It is a good idea to have the way you walk properly assessed. The majority of foot specialists (podiatrists), physiotherapists and sports therapists can do so, in addition to some specialist sports equipment stores. Here you will also be helped to find a good solution for the problem.
One important measure is to ensure that you wear the right shoes. This means shoes that are stable, that are built up or have a firmer sole material on the inside of the foot, so that the inward rolling movement is prevented. Other measures include strengthening the muscles in the foot, ankle and calves, and avoiding a lot of repetitive impact.
If you are overweight, shedding a few kilos can help alleviate the problem. If you are a keen runner, you could consider alternating this with other activities, such as cycling, swimming or skiing, to reduce the amount of repetitive impact.
Overpronation is therefore no reason to feel disheartened. And we hope you are now better equipped to know how you can deal with this problem.