Pronation is one of those buzz words that you hear bandied around from time to time. But do you know what it actually means? In the most basic terms,  pronating means that your foot rolls inward when you step on it. Ever capable of complicating a simple principle, the orthopedic community feels the need to say that pronation is a triplanar motion of the foot and ankle; involving abduction, eversion and dorsiflexion. To most people this is not a helpful explanation.

Let’s try to strike a happy medium between these two definitions and end up with some information that you can actually use in real life.

Below you can see a picture and a video of a pronating foot.

As you can see, when you pronate your arch lowers until your ankle gets closer to the ground and you put a lot of pressure on the inside of your foot.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that you need to pronate in order to walk normally. Pronation is actually one way that your body absorbs shock. Your foot spreads out as you stand on it and the arch of your foot is supposed to sink towards the ground slightly, stretching the muscles and ligaments of your arch like rubber bands.  If everything is working correctly, your foot springs back into its original shape and helps to propel you forward as you shift your weight onto your other foot.  If it weren’t for this shock absorption system, your whole body would jar with every step just like riding in an old truck with a worn-out suspension.

Since pronation happens in order to absorb shock, it should come as no surprise that you tend pronate more when you are doing high stress activities like running and jumping.  Once again, this is normal and acceptable as long as your feet are can handle it. The only reason we are even talking about pronation is that sometimes it becomes a problem.

Some people pronate excessively (or “overpronate”) when they walk.  Almost any type of person can have pronation problems; you might have a high arch foot or flat feet, you might be an athlete or a grandma, you might have one foot that works just fine and while the other side seriously overpronates. As I see it, there are two categories of people who pronate:

–          People with structure issues (their feet are just set up to pronate, they roll in naturally)

–          People with strength issues (their feet are not strong enough to support their body weight)

When you pronate too much, your whole body can be affected. It is common for your arches to ache, your big toes might hurt, your shins and knees will probably get sore and lower back might feel tight. You may notice that your legs are particularly tired at the end of a long day. You also might wear through your shoes faster than you think you should.

What is a pronator to do? Well, there are a lot of options. In the next few blog posts I will fill you in on solutions ranging from custom orthotics to exercise routines to corrective shoes. Feel free to comment below if you have specific questions about pronation. I will try to answer them in the weeks ahead.

Walk well.

Picture and video credits: