What is Supination?

Supination during running refers to the biomechanical rolling movement that is outward in nature. The outward direction of the rolling foot is the exact opposite action of another common running term, pronation . We hear these terms bouncing around in running circles, but many runners have a hard time remembering which term refers to which motion. This can cause some obvious confusion and frustration, so here’s a (food related) tip that might help you to remember which is which!

  1. Start with your hands straight out in front of you as if you were performing karate chops. Your palms should be open, all 4 fingers of each extended and thumbs straight up pointing towards the sky (Picture A). Consider this neutral position.
  2. Next, let your thumbs fall right and left (outwards) until both of your palms face upwards (Picture B). When your palms are up, you are ready to receive SUPPER!
While in this example it’s your thumbs that turn outwards, your thumbs actually represent your legs and your fingers represent your feet.

As shown below, Picture C shows a neutral stance where Picture D shows a supinated foot. So, in terms of your feet, this outward turning motion is supination.

A certain degree of rolling both outward (supination) and inward ( pronation ) is a normal and essential part of the running gait.

As we bring our feet down to hit the ground with each running stride and move from the foot strike to push off phase, our body protects us by reacting in a certain way. When we first hit the ground the impact is absorbed as the load is distributed, while stabilizing and balancing us. We then continue rolling as we move into the push off phase.

So while some degree of supination is normal, supinating too much is a biomechanical imbalance that can cause pains and strains. Basically, a supinator lands predominantly on their outer sole so there is not enough impact absorption taking place. You can tell if you predominantly supinate if the bottoms of your shoes show significant wear along the outer soles. In addition to the cumulative effects of pounding on the joints, probably the biggest danger for an over-supinator is a complete ankle roll over causing a strain or rupture - OUCH!

What Can Be Done to Help?

Most specialty running stores will offer the service of watching you walk and run barefoot . This will help identify or confirm that you excessively supinate. Regarding running shoe selection, if you do supinate you would greatly benefit from shoes that provide really good cushioning in the midsole to provide some impact assistance. Also, it’s important to remember that good running form and efficient running economy means minimal ground time so working on running form can really help to lessen the impact of your supination. Finally, you can always benefit by putting some focus on the strengthening of your feet and ankles by doing hill repeats . Amplify the effects by doing them either barefoot or with minimalist shoes. Return to top of Supination page.

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