Pronation is part of the natural movement that helps the lower leg deal with shock. Everyone has it to some degree, and it is a good thing. It is important to understand pronation as running shoes are designed today specifically for different pronation patterns.
Pronation describes the way the foot rolls inward when you walk and run. Some runners will pronate more (i.e. they overpronate) or less (underpronate) than others. Though this is not bad in itself, it does affect the way you run and it may increase the likelihood of injury. This makes your pronation pattern a vital factor in choosing the right running shoes.
When you walk or run, pronation helps to negate the shock of initial contact. Without it, the full impact of each step would be transmitted up the leg and affect the normal mechanics of the lower limbs. Besides acting as a shock absorber, pronation also helps the foot 'recognise' what type of ground it is on by stabilising and adjusting the foot to the terrain type.
Every running shoe listed on this website has been categorised according to the pronation type it is suitable. This ranges from shoes designed for the under pronator, the neutral pronation, the moderate overpronator, and the severe overpronator.
Underpronation, also known as supination, is when the foot hardly pronates. The outer or lateral side of the heel hits the ground at an increased angle, and little or no normal pronation occurs, resulting in a large transmission of shock through the lower leg. Evidence of underpronation is likely in the form of excessive wear on the outer heel and forefoot of the shoe, and also the upper part of the shoe may be pushed over to the lateral side.
Underpronators are more likely to be susceptible to shock-related injuries like stress fractures, and therefore should choose a neutral running shoe with plenty of cushioning. The extra cushioning will lessen the impact of landing the legs have to endure when running.
Associated footprint for an underpronator
On a wet footprint, a high arched foot will show a forefoot and a heel with a very narrow band or no band connecting the two.
For underpronators we recommend a Cushioned Neutral Shoe.
You are likely to be a neutral pronator if the soles of your shoes show wear in an S-shaped pattern, from the outer (lateral) heel to the big toe. When you have a normal pronation pattern you can run in a wide variety of shoes, but specialised neutral running shoes offering cushioning and support are most suitable.
The neutral foot type has the correct amount of pronation and supination during the contact phase of the gait cycle.
Associated footprint for a neutral pronator
On a wet footprint, a 'normal' neutral foot will show a forefoot and a heel connected by a band.
For neutral runners we recommend a Cushioned Support Shoe.
Generally speaking, this foot type will strike on the outside of the heel (like it should), but then rolls inward excessively. This is called over pronating and can lead to overuse injuries. This foot type has a low arch and usually does not have enough stability. But don't worry too much if you fall into the overpronation category... you are in good company as 70% of all runners will overpronate to some extent. Normally, running with overpronation won't cause you adverse problems just as long as you select the right trainer.
If pronation is moderate then a shoe which has a degree of stability and cushioning, is preferable - best to opt for a Moderate Support/Structured Cushioning shoe.
If pronation is severe then a shoe that offers maximum support and has excellent levels of stability are the most important considerations - best to opt for a Maximum Support/Motion Control shoe.
The process of overpronation can be more fully explained as follows: Too much weight is transferred to the inner or medial side of the foot, and as the runner moves forward the load is borne by the inner edge rather than the ball of the foot. This destabilises the foot, which will attempt to regain stability by compensating for the inward movement. In a kind of chain reaction, this in turn affects the biomechanical efficiency of the leg, especially the knee and hip.
Associated footprint for an overpronator
On a wet footprint, a flat low arched foot will show the sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground.
For moderate pronators we recommend a Structured Cushioning Shoe.
For severe pronators we recommend a Motion Control Shoe.