Pronation and supination

Among all the biomechanical processes that occur in the legs of a person while running or walking, pronation and supination are considered to be the main ones. We believe that we should start from the definition of these two concepts:

Pronation is a universal amortization mechanism created by nature and
adapted for bipedal (two-legged) human movement. What is the key to this process? When the foot touches the surface, its arch starts to become flatter and flatter, thereby damping the shock load (medical name is dorsiflexion). Its operation is somehow similar to that of an automobile spring.

In addition to the work of the arch, the tibia is also included. It shifts inwards (Eversion) and turns around the foot (Abduction), which also increases amortization. The overall increase in the contact surface provides additional stability and improves repulsion. When the extra energy was damped, and the center of gravity of the running (or walking) human started to move forward along his movement, it means that it’s time for the second phase of the step cycle.

The supination can be described as follows. Along with the shift of the athlete's center of gravity, the muscles of the foot and tibia start to strengthen their work and become included. From a mobile system, they become rigid but elastic support that accumulates energy for a future push. Supination has the opposite phases in relation to pronation, namely inverse, which is the return of the tibia to the usual way of functioning; adduction, which is when the foot stops being mainly on the inner surface, the support on it is shifting towards the metatarsal bones (i.e. forward); and the supination itself which is the tension of the muscles and ligaments of the foot arch, and the restoration of its deflection.

If the pronation process is aimed at softening and correct positioning of the foot, then supination promotes to the active phase of the push. It‘s very important not to confuse these two concepts, because they are oppositely different. However, in many sources the supination concept is omitted, thus all step phases are simply called pronation. With the help of the above-stated material, you can easily navigate this topic.

In addition to the normal demonstration of pronation and supination described above, their abnormalities can also be met quite often. There are three main groups of people with different pronation:

 - Hyperpronators
 - Neutral pronators
 - Hypopronators

Displacement of the foot from the neutral position by more than 4° can already be called an abnormality. This in turn leads to changes in the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system, which is fraught with injuries, irrational distribution of load, and inefficient use of physical resources.

Hyperpronators usually have a significant lowering in the longitudinal arch of the foot. This unavoidably reduces the amortization effect. The ligaments are constantly in a stretched position, so the coefficient of their free movement is low. Under the conditions of the same load, the hyperpronator may be injured, while a person with a normal leg position may not respond to it at all.

As it always happens, the problem exists together with some other problem. So the general weakening of the foot muscles leads to flat feet (reduce of amortization), increased load on the knees, back, and so on. A key peculiarity of hyperpronation is the lack of foot deflection. It’s the phenomenon which is the opposite of hyperpronation, however, the result is the same: bad amortization and a high degree of injury. In the first step phase, the tibia moves not inwards, but outwards. The foot rests on the outer edge of the foot instead of resting on the arch. As you know, this part of the foot literally doesn’t spring, and the geometry of the locomotor apparatus doesn’t allow it to sufficiently move the weight of the human body on the arch itself. In common parlance, this is called pigeon toe.

Why are these things important?

If you have normal pronation and feel no discomfort when running, then shoes without any additional corrections will perfectly suit you. However, if there are any abnormalities, you need a correction that brings your pronation closer to the normal state. In order to do this, special compensating sole mechanisms are created. Their task is to protect the runner from injuries, overexertion of muscles, and make running more comfortable. Some people may believe that this is not serious, as all technologies have been invented long ago, and innovations are just a marketing trick. However, professional athletes and advanced amateurs have no doubt that this is all extremely important. You can also make sure of this by digging into the subject a little bit.

We will discuss practical tips on choosing shoes for sports in another article. Now, as you armed with a piece of new knowledge, you have to understand what kind of pronation you have. There are two very popular methods that will help you do this. They are super easy and won’t take much time.

Determining the height of the foot arch

The normal height of the foot arch (given that you‘re standing on two feet) allows you to put your index finger under the foot by 11-25 millimeters. Anything less than 11 mm indicates of the insufficient arch height, everything more than 11 mm indicates the excessive arch height. The second option is to stand with a wet or painted foot on a piece of paper. It also will be good to put on a wet sock and stand up on the paper right in it, thus the result will be more accurate. With this print, you can visually evaluate the longitudinal arch of the foot and its bridge.

Determining the pronation

Ask someone to take a picture of your feet from behind. You need to stand with your bare feet on a flat surface. By comparing the pictures and images, you can determine the pronation. Of course, the degree of pronation should be determined while running, as it’s the best option because while you’re standing, the load on the feet is not that big, and the tendency to hyperpronation will not show anyway.

Congratulations! Now you became wiser and literally one step ahead of all other buyers. With the received information, you can go on to the next stage, which is the choice of the right shoes for your child in our Twiki children's shoe store. Enjoy your shopping!