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What is my Gait? Pronation explained

EXPERT COLUMNIST
Feature 03 Jul 2013, 01:05 IST
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pronate

So we all agree that the most important piece of equipment for a runner is a pair of shoes. Considering this would be the main investment that a runner will be making for the near future, it is important for them to understand their foot and their gait before they can make a choice of footwear that would be beneficial for their particular running style.

When describing an individuals gait style, experts would often use the terms – neutral pronation, overpronation and supination. It is extremely important for us to understand what these terms mean as most running shoes today are designed keeping in mind the different pronation patterns of individuals.

What is pronation? Pronation is a term used to describe the inward rolling motion of the foot just after it lands on the ground. This is the point known as the initial contact, which is part of the stance phase in the gait cycle. Pronation happens just under the joint of the ankle. Fact of the matter is that everyone pronates. Pronation helps the body to absorb the impact of high intensity activities such as running. It also helps the foot stabilise itself as we take off onto different tracks, trails, and other running terrain.

Pronation can be of three types: Neutral Pronation, Overpronation and Supination (underpronation).

Neutral pronation is when the you have a normal arch, the  foot absorbs impact efficiently and exhibits normal pronation pattern. The outside heel makes initial contact with the ground, the foot rolls inward at about 15% with even distribution on the ball of the foot. The weight is well distributed and the foot easily supports the weight at the point of take off. If you look at an old pair of shoes, the shoe will show an S-shaped wear pattern from the outer heel to the big toe. People with normal pronation have a wide range of shoes to choose from. It is mostly recommended that they choose shoes, which help with stability.

Overpronation usually occurs with feet that have a lower than normal arch (eg. flat feet). Just like in the case of normal pronation, the initial contact is the lateral heel. However, the angle of the inward roll in this case is greater than it should ideally be (15%). In this case, the foot is not able to absorb impact as effectively and the foot and the ankle have problems stabilising the body. Too much weight is transferred to the inner side of the foot, with the big toe and the second toe having to do most of the work when it comes to the point of take off instead of the ball of the foot.  Again, if you observe wear and tear in case of an old pair of shoes, it will show more wear on the inside of the heel and under the ball of the foot, especially the big toe. Overpronation is possibly the most normal stride that one would see among runners. It is recommended that runners who have this gait choose a pair of motion controlled shoes which are designed to stabilise their gait and reduce injuries.

Underpronation, also known as supination occurs with feet that have higher than usual arches. As we could conclude, this is the opposite of overpronation. In this case, again, the outer heel strikes first i.e. makes initial contact with the ground. So far so good. But the angle of the inward roll in this case is less than the accepted 15% and off-course, what this means is that the weight is not evenly distributed and the impact is taken by a smaller area. Again, at the point of take off, the smaller toes end up doing most of the work. As you can imagine, on observation, in case of an underpronator, the shoe will show wear and tear on the outer or lateral side of the shoe. It is recommended that runners with this gait choose a neutral shoe which provides ample cushioning.

Again, it is highly recommended that one consults a professional who is able to provide you with a detailed analysis of your gait style. Thereafter, it would be beneficial to go to a store which specialises in running shoes so that you would have a wide variety of styles and colours to choose from. That’s pronation simplified!

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