What is Pronation? - Definition, Causes & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

If you walk or run or stand, you need to read more about pronation! What is it? What causes it? What are the long-term effects if it goes untreated? What are the treatment options? Read below to make sure you aren't unknowingly stressing out your feet!

What Is Pronation?

Are you a runner? Or a walker? Chances are you have done one or the other at some point in time, so you should learn about pronation! Pronation is when the foot rolls inward (about 15%) when weight is placed on it.

If you are just standing still, the foot will roll inward and the arch will flatten out - this is pronation. If you are walking or running, the first part of your foot to hit the ground is the outside of the heel, and then the weight is distributed and your foot will naturally roll inwards to absorb the impact. A little bit of this is natural, but too much causes problems in the foot, leg, and knee.

The normal amount occurs as a sort of shock-absorption for the foot - think about how much pressure your poor feet deal with every single day! On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also have too little pronation (too little rolling of the foot); this is called under-pronation (or supination). When this occurs, the force of impact is not distributed to a wider area of the foot, and over time this causes extra stress on the feet as well.

Examples of pronation (left), normal gait (middle), and under-pronation or supination (right)

What Are the Symptoms of Improper Pronation?

A little bit of pronation is normal, but when the inward rolling becomes extreme, it can cause problems.

Over-pronation is commonly seen in runners, causing extra stress on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot and leg (especially the knee). This can lead to strained or torn muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the foot, ankle, or leg. Soreness or stiffness in the lower extremities may also occur, as well as shin splints, bunions, or other foot conditions due to the imbalance of how impacts are distributed. When the body isn't moving the way it was meant to, pains will develop as warning signs that something is wrong. Finally, the back or hips may also be sore from the unnatural gait.

If you tend toward under-pronation, your small toes and heel may start to suffer. Under-pronation causes inflammation or soreness in the knees, ankles, and feet because the body is not properly absorbing the impact of movement.

How Can I Tell If I Have A Pronation Problem?

Stand upright and take a look at your feet. Are your feet arched or does the inside of your sole touch the floor? If you have sole hitting floor, you are likely over-pronated.

Another trick is to look at the bottoms of your shoes - are there patterns to where they are the most worn out? If your shoes are especially worn out on the inside of the sole, you may have a pronation problem. If your shoes are especially worn out on the outer sole, you may have under-pronation.

Worried you might be rolling a bit too much or too little? Go see a podiatrist who can perform throughout testing to see if pronation is a problem for you.

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