Pronation in the foot

Dear Tracie,

I went to a running shoe store and the person working there said I was a heavy pronator.  What does that mean and should I be worried?


Dear Jean,

There is no need to be worried. The sales associate is referring to the way you move bio-mechanically in your foot.  Pronation in the foot is defined as ‘the inward roll of the foot (medial malleolus) while walking or running. Another way to look at pronation is the degree of inward roll in terms of where the foot pushes off at the end of each step, or at the end of the gait cycle.’ Wikipedia 2016.  You should have a certain degree of pronation in your gait but if you pronate more than 15 degrees you are considered an ‘over-pronator’ and this could cause foot, knee, hip and spine problems due to misalignment from the foot up.  Most shoe companies have designed shoes for over pronators that correct the pronation to within acceptable levels to avoid problems and that may be advised for you.

There are exercises that you can do to control over-pronation, strengthen your feet and improve your walking and running mechanics.  The plantar muscles on the bottom of your feet can be strengthened with a few focused bare foot exercises. 

The ‘towel scrunch’ can be performed by placing your bare foot on a towel while seated with knees and hips at a 90 degree angle. Grab the towel with your toes gradually pull the towel towards you by repeating grab/release actions.

Calf raises and stretches performed with neutral mechanics [keeping your feet level] will stretch and strengthen your lower leg but this should be done with good knee and pelvic stability.  Eg. use your stabilizing muscles to keep knees in line with your hips, your core stable and your pelvis level.

Sand walking is a great foot strengthener.  The unstable surface forces you to use muscles you normally wouldn’t to effectively move.  Again, try to keep your foot in neutral glide when sand walking and use your plantar muscles to avoid over-pronating.

Stretching the plantar muscles should also be done if you are strengthening your feet.  Trigger point release of the plantar muscles can be done by rolling a golf ball or racquetball under your foot with downward pressure.  Barefoot stretching off a step can also work well.

If you have more questions about your over-pronation then you can consult with a foot/gait specialist.  They can assess your stance, walk and run and make specialized  orthotics to correct the mechanics.

It is a good idea to seek advice if you are an over-pronator and have any knee, joint or back pain.  No need to panic but look into it if any pain resulting when running or increasing mileage.  Thanks for the great question!

What will you conquer in Summer 2016?    Set your fitness goals & conquer them

Kind regards, Tracie

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