Don't Fear Foot Pronation

exercises feet feet pronation feet supination posture alignment posture therapy pri standing posture walking walking form Sep 29, 2016
Walking on the Beach

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pronation as “rotation of the medial bones in the midtarsal region of the foot inward and downward so that in walking the foot tends to come down on its inner margin.” If you look at the image below, you can see an image of pronation.

Pronation is a normal part of the gait cycle. It happens from the time your heel hits the ground to mid-stance. The following video provides more information. Now, the video is quite technical. However, if you only listen to the first few seconds, you will hear the explanation of why you need for healthy walking biomechanics. This is actually the point that I want you to remember.



Unfortunately, for many of us, pronation has become a dirty word. So, we try to avoid it. During my physical therapy treatments, my therapist said that I overpronate. Let’s not forget that qualifier “over.” Regardless, I didn’t really know the difference between pronation and overpronation. So what did I do? I purposely tried to walk without letting my feet collapse inward. After working with many clients, though, I realized that I was not the only one who had adopted this faulty technique to control overpronation.

While attending the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI)® course, Impingement & Instability, last winter, the instructor and clinic director, Ron Hruska, MPA, PT, described the importance of feeling your big toe when you walk. Big toe awareness is an indicator or proper foot pronation during gait. During the course, I checked it out on myself. When I did this, I found that I had no connection with my big toe as I strode around the room.

So, I talked with Ron about it. We discussed how so many people, like me, become afraid of pronating their feet. We have all associated pronation with something very bad, so we consciously avoid this movement. Instead, we force ourselves into a position of supination, as shown in the middle picture on the image above. When you supinate, your foot actually rolls outward.

From an impingement and instability perspective, this is a problem. Your body needs stability. That starts at the ground. You gain stability when structures of your body contact or impinge on one another. So, you need pronation--rolling the foot inward--for correct impingement of the ankle bones. In the class, I learned that these bones need to stack appropriately on top of each other to support your structure and for proper foot biomechanics. If you tend to walk on the outside edge of your foot (supinate), your foot bones don't touch on the inside. This causes your foot and your entire body to become unstable. 

Can you feel your big toes as you walk?

Now, look at the middle image above showing supination. Here, you will not feel your big toe upon push-off when your foot is in this position. Instead, you are directing the pressure to the outside area of the foot. This is depicted by the red contact patch in the image. In neutral foot alignment, though, the weight is distributed over the big toe as you take a step. This is also true for overpronation. However, the red contact patch is positioned more inward than forward (as shown in neutral foot alignment) and is also accompanied by rotation of the rear foot inward (as noted by the arrow).

It is always a good idea to have a professional analyze your gait analyzed. They can then give you foot orthotics, if needed. I use orthotics to correct my foot overprontation. For more information on shoe inserts, check out my blog: Foot Orthotics and Joint Pain. Any foot orthotic should allow normal pronation. One of my client’s orthotics was so over built she couldn’t pronate and was stuck in supination, which prolonged her pain and disability.

Embrace foot pronation and ankle impingement for a pain-free active lifestyle supported by stable, well-aligned, and functional feet!

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