What is Over-Pronation?

Over-pronation, also known as ‘hyper-pronation’, refers to an excessive rolling in motion. Of course, like virtually all things in life, excess is rarely good! The root word pronation as it pertains to running, is the opposite of supination and refers to the ‘rolling in’ of the foot during the foot strike phase of running. This rolling-in motion that happens as a runner lands and moves through to the push-off phase, is both a natural as well as necessary biomechanical action. Some degree of pronation by the feet is good as it serves to absorb impact and hence provide protection to the runners lower limbs and back with every strike. It can be likened to the way in which stunt professionals break their fall as they hit hard ground and immediately move into a roll.

Over-pronation while running is most prevalent in runners with flat feet because they are born with little to no arches. The absence of an arch allows the entire sole of the foot to roll towards the ground upon foot strike. This allows excessive rolling in as a runner’s ankles buckle and knees move close together. If left unaddressed, running this way for prolonged periods can lead to a long list of ailments that could easily affect the muscles and ligaments of the feet, ankles, shins, knees and lower back. The exception would be flat footed runners who are forefoot strikers.

How to Identify Over-Pronation

The first thing to do is determine if you have flat feet! The easiest way to do this is the wet foot test. If you simply wet the bottom of your feet, then step on dry pavement or indoors on a piece of construction paper, you will see the results. A flat foot that over-pronates will reveal the entire sole of your foot while a regular arch will only show a strip along the outside of the foot connecting your heel and forefoot.

The next thing to do is have someone (experienced) watch you walk or run barefoot from behind. Most running stores offer this level of service as a part of helping select the right running shoes. If you do over-pronate, the excessive collapsing of your foot and knees should be quite obvious. You might also be able to tell from your previously worn running shoes. Over-pronation causes the inside edge (where your arches should be) to show signs of wear.

What Can be Done About It?

Needless to say it can be very frustrating for a runner who cares to make the effort to run with good form but genetically provided with flat feet. However, all is not lost!

The first thing that can be done is ensure that you have the right shoes for your foot type. Shoes with a bit of extra medial support help to prevent or minimize the inward rolling motion.

The second thing to do is give serious consideration to incorporating some barefoot running into your training. There is documented evidence of runners actually developing arches by running barefoot. Of course, be extremely careful to take it slow and infrequent to start to give yourself time to adapt, like any new routine or program.

You can also promote excellent foot and ankle strengthing and arch development by running barefoot or with minimalist shoes while doing hill repeats. Make sure to walk or jog lightly on your feet on the way down to minimize the pounding.

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