In this guide, you will learn about running from an overpronator perspective. You will learn more about the causes and symptoms of overpronation, as well as some prevention and treatment tips. Anything and everything you’d like to know about overpronation will be found in this guide. Let’s dive in.
Different Kinds of Pronation
Pronation is the natural motion of your foot as you walk or run. Your gait can show a pattern of neutral pronation, overpronation, or supination (under pronation).
There are three main varieties of pronation, normal or neutral, under pronation or supination, and overpronation.
- Normal pronation occurs when your foot rolls in naturally to absorb the shock of walking or running and keep you balanced. A neutral foot rolls inward around 15%.
- Under pronation (supination) happens when the foot rolls out as it strikes the ground. This is most common for people with high arches and can cause the following ailments: Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and even IT band syndrome.
- Overpronation occurs when your foot rolls inward by more than 15% and downward each time you step. Overpronators have ‘flat feet’ and may be at higher risk for injuries like IT band syndrome.
What is an Overpronator?
Overpronation happens when your gait (the way you walk or run) eventually causes the arches of your feet to flatten more than they would normally. This strains muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your arches. Overpronation may increase the risk of foot and leg injury. But you can correct the problem with exercise and by adding orthotic insoles to your shoes.
To see if you overpronate, start by looking at the soles of your shoes as your first clue. If the inner section of your shoes’ soles has more wear than the outer section, you might have overpronation.
If you overpronate the shoe will show excessive wear along the inner edge from the big toe toward the ball of the foot.
You can also do a water test. All you need is to wet your foot and examine your footprint on a dry surface
Wet your foot and step down on a dry towel. If you overpronate you’ll have a very wide footprint in the middle as more of your foot comes in contact with the ground. By contrast, a neutral footprint will have a thinner midsection.
Other Overpronator Symptoms
Other signs are conditions you might develop due to overpronation. Overpronation is linked to several conditions and symptoms, such as:
- Achilles tendonitis or too much stress on your Achilles tendon.
- Bunions are painful bony lumps on the outside of your big toe.
- Heel pain is pain behind, under, or within your heel bone.
- Iliotibial band syndrome (IT Band), is inflammation of a ligament on the outside of your knee.
- Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tendon stretches from your heel to your toe.
- Shin splints, pain in the shins, a common injury caused by overuse.
- Hip pain. Overpronating can cause your hips to hurt.
- Knee pain. You can develop knee pain if you overpronate.
- Back pain. Sometimes, overpronation may cause differing levels of back pain.
Overpronation can cause your feet to flatten. Most overpronators start with slightly flattened feet. If you already have flat feet, you’re more inclined to develop overpronation.
There are some conditions and activities that can increase the risk of developing flat feet and weak arches, leading to overpronation. Adult-acquired flat foot can occur if you:
- have inflammation or damage to the tendon.
- are obese.
- participate in high-impact sports, like football, basketball, or running.
- have arthritis affecting the cartilage and ligaments in the foot.
- have an injury that impacts the alignment of the joints in a foot.
- have nerve issues that prevent you from feeling your arch collapsing. The most common example would be due to diabetes.
Can also occur during pregnancy, but typically resolves itself after delivery.
Diagnosing the Overpronator
Most people can self-diagnose overpronation with simple at-home tests. You can also check with a specialty running store, a podiatrist, or an orthopedic surgeon. In many cases, specialty running stores have sales associates trained to check for overpronation.
A podiatrist, orthopedic surgeon, or physical therapist can provide a definitive diagnosis. Doctors start by checking your arches, including how well your arches function when you put weight on them. They may evaluate your gait and how you walk.
If you’re experiencing pain or chronic injury, especially if you have tried to self-correct the problem in the past, consult a doctor.
If your doctor suspects another underlying issue, such as sensory neuropathy or ligament damage, they may recommend an MRI, a nerve conduction study, or a radiograph.
When to See a Doctor for Overpronation
Most people don’t need treatment for flat feet, but a specialist can offer advice on orthotics and other strategies for maintaining foot health.
You should seek medical advice if you have any of the following:
- ongoing pain, weakness, numbness, or stiffness in your feet
- continued injuries to the feet or ankles
- difficulty with balance
- only have one flat foot
For a child with persistent pain that hasn’t developed an arch by their teens, they may need to consult a doctor. The doctor may check for an underlying problem, such as tightness in the Achilles tendon, or diagnose a more serious condition, like rigid flatfoot.
Diagnosing Other Foot Conditions
There are other conditions that can resemble overpronation including a prominent fat pad, which can occur in children, fluid retention, causing the bottom of the foot to touch the floor, or growth or tumor affecting the structure under the foot.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Overpronation
- Do I have flat feet?
- How did I develop flat feet?
- What is overpronation?
- How can I avoid overpronation?
- Will my flat feet go away with exercise?
- Can I still run with flat feet?
Treating the Overpronator
Treatment for overpronation typically involves the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevate) method and the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Supportive taping or bracing
- Physical therapy
Shoes and Inserts to Treat the Overpronator
Overpronation can be treated and reduced by wearing the right shoes and arch supports. Proper footwear provides the right support to ensure you are not overpronating as you step. Supports and shoes also help prevent injuries caused by excessive pronation.
Choose the Right shoes
When shopping for shoes to help with overpronating, look for motion-control shoes to position your foot properly as run. This will encourage the foot to function with a more posturally correct balance of pronation and supination.
If you overpronate and need anything other than a running shoe, make sure you look for maximum support and structured cushioning, such as “motion-control” or “stability” shoes.
Test for Stability
One way to test for stability in a shoe, try to bend the shoe in half. If it’s too flimsy it may increase your risk of injury. Wearing stability shoes or slippers around the house can help to reduce the tension overpronation causes on the feet and legs.
Supportive Orthotics or Insoles for Overpronators
Motion control insoles or orthotics help to position your foot properly as you walk or run. The good thing with insoles is they can add structure and support to weaker shoes. This ensures your foot is secure so you have the proper form as you walk and run.
Preventing overpronation is not always possible, but you can reduce the impact by:
- Using orthotics and supportive footwear
- Implementing an exercise plan to strengthen the foot and lower the risk of injury
- Maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce the risks of overpronation
Wearing shoes that fit well and support your arches or orthotic inserts can help to prevent overpronation. If you’re still concerned, ask your healthcare provider for a formal diagnosis.
Stretches for Overpronators
While you may not be able to prevent overpronation completely, exercises and stretches can minimize the pain and discomfort.
Standing Heel Stretch
- Stand with both feet flat on the floor.
- Step forward with one foot, so it is around one step in front of the other.
- Keep your back straight, bend your front leg, and push forward so that all your weight is on the front foot.
- Feel the stretch in the back leg and in your Achilles tendon.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
- Switch feet and repeat the process 3-6 times.
Tennis Ball Foot Rollers
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Put a tennis ball under one foot.
- Keep your back straight and roll the ball back and forth under the foot for 2–3 minutes.
- Next, switch and repeat with the other foot.
- Stand straight with both feet on the ground.
- Lift your heels as high as possible, hold for 5-10 seconds, then lower them.
- Repeat this process 20-30 times.
- For a deeper stretch, stand on a step and let your heels rise and drop below the step level.
- Stand with both feet flat on the floor.
- Push your big toe into the floor and lift your other toes.
- Hold for 5-7 seconds.
- Now, do the opposite. Press your four small toes into the floor and lift your big toe for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise 5–10 times.
- Switch and repeat with the other foot.
If you overpronate, you can also try these exercises while sitting in a chair.
- With your feet on the ground, lift your arch without lifting your toes.
- Hold for 3-5 seconds
- Release and repeat 10-12 times.
- Put a towel underneath your feet.
- Keep your heel stationary and pull the towel toward you.
- Put 10 – 15 marbles on the floor in front of you
- Use your toes to pick them up one at a time.
- Repeat 10 times.
Big Piggy Stretch
- Put your left ankle on your right knee.
- Grab your big toe and slowly pull it back.
- Hold for 15 seconds and release.
- Repeat on the right side.
What is the difference between overpronators and flat feet?
Overpronation refers to how you walk, which can cause flat feet. Flat feet (flat foot) is a medical condition when you have little to no arch in your foot. It can be hereditary or develop over time.
In some cases, people have flat feet because they never developed arches in their feet. In other cases, your arches suddenly fall or collapse after injuring the leg tendon that supports your arches. This condition is fallen arches or adult-acquired flat foot.
What is the difference between overpronation and under pronation?
Both terms describe the way you pronate or walk. Overpronation and under pronation happen when your foot lands on your heels’ outer edges. Ideally, your feet transfer the landing impact to the balls of your feet.
In overpronation, your feet shift the impact too far and your foot rolls in when you walk. In under pronation, or supination, your feet don’t shift the impact far enough and your foot rolls out when you walk.
Bottom Line on Overpronators
Overpronation — or flat feet — is when your foot leans too much toward the center when running. Many people are born with flat feet, but they can also develop over time due to obesity, tendon damage, and other conditions.
Your doctor can diagnose an provide advice on suitable footwear and orthotics to help support your feet. And may even recommend options to help alleviate pain and prevent injury.
Overpronating is not a running career-ending diagnosis. It’s treatable and manageable. If you are an overpronator, like I am, you can still train for and run a marathon. I’m an overpronator and I’m also a runner. And you can too.