Over-Pronation for Hikers and Trail Runners

London Reflexology Poster

Over-Pronation Defined

Wystiria here again! Earlylite suggested I give a brief write up about over-pronation since I mentioned it in my previous Roclite 260 review and it may be an unfamiliar term to some. First I want to say I am not a doctor so if you think over-pronation may affect you, I recommend seeing a podiatrist for a diagnosis.

Simply put, over-pronation is an excessive or poorly timed pronation which is part of the regular stride. Pronation is when the foot rolls inwards and the arch compresses as part of your normal walking motion. Pronation is necessary for shock absorption to transmit forces up and down our legs. When someone over-pronates, the foot rolls inwards to a greater degree and the arch flattens: this causes the knee and hip to come out of alignment and reduces the function of all the bones in the feet.

Over-Pronation Self-Diagnosis

A quick way to see if you over-pronate is to look for these signs

  • While standing straight with bare feet on the floor, look so see if the inside of your arch or sole touches the floor.
  • Take a look at your hiking or running shoes; look for wear on the inside of the sole
  • Wet your feet and walk on a surface that will show the foot mark. If you have a neutral foot you should see your heel connected to the ball of your foot by a mark roughly half of width of your sole. If you over-pronate you will see greater than half and up to the full width of your sole.

In my case, I have a neutral foot standing and walking without weight. For me to over-pronate I have to either run greater than 3 miles (give or take) or carry weight on my back. I also do not over-pronate to the extent that simple over the counter insoles, or shoes with gentle correction can’t correct the issue.

This means I look for shoes that have extra or strong Medial support. Many running shoes have extra firm material on the inside of arch, meaning this area of the shoe will compress less than the other areas. 

I have had a more difficult time finding this support in hiking boots and trail runners. While Superfeet are a great help, they are not enough alone for most hiking footwear that I have tried.

Hiking Shoe Manufacturers

My personal hope is that hiking shoe manufacturers will make it easier to identify which shoes and boots provide extra support for pronators in future hiking footwear. As hiking footwear trend towards running shoes, it should follow the running shoe innovation towards correcting for the non-neutral foot (over-pronation & over-supination.) Someday, we should be able to easily “know” which brands correct for which condition, just like it is common knowledge with running shoes today.

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10 Responses to Over-Pronation for Hikers and Trail Runners

  1. Damien Tougas July 9, 2010 at 2:55 am #

    I tend to approach this from the other side. I think that less shoe is better than more shoe for resolving some of these foot/knee/back issues that people experience from physical activity.

    The more stiff and supportive the shoe, the less we use our foot muscles and the weaker they become. The weaker they become, the more prone we become to additional problems in the future.

    I used to hike hike and run in very supportive footwear and had no end of problems. I now run/hike/backpack in minimalist footwear (i.e. Vibram FiveFingers) and have no problems whatsoever. I have written (and continue to write) a lot on the topic here: http://www.adventureinprogress.com/minimalist-foo… if you are interested in learning more about this philosophy.

    When it comes to over-pronation, I don't think that it is as simple as getting a supportive shoe. You should check out this discussion thread to see some of the controversy on the topic: http://groups.google.com/group/huaraches/browse_t

  2. wystiria July 15, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    Thanks Damien, I am very aware of the philosphy you present and I follow much of it myself! I am a barefoot girl at heart and the only time I look to my footware is when I run significant distances and hike with weight. I am always looking to strengthen the muscles in my feet (and the rest of my body!) and find that it is the best and first way to approach any issue, with supportive gear whether it be a brace or shoe, or tape, second. Love your links! thanks for sharing them

  3. Kay July 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    This is an intresting discussion to me. I grew up a barefoot girl, but began to have knee pain. When I went to an orthopedic doc for another problem, I mentioned it to him and he told me I over-pronated and sent me to get orthotics. As long as I either wear my orthotics or shoes with at least a 1" heel, my knees don't hurt. Soon after I start out barefoot, wear out my waling shoes or wear flat shoes with no orthotics, my knee pain returns. I haven't tried the Five Finger shoes, but can't imagine that they would work for me.

  4. Jeff July 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    I work at an outdoors store in the DC area, and we had training from podiatrists to recognize over-pronating customers and recommend correct shoe for them. We were trained to have them stand barefeet, with equal weight on each leg. Then they lift one leg, and you see how much the bone, which protrudes slightly below the ankle on the inside of the foot, drops as a response to adjusting your balance. If it is under 1 cm or so, then you'd need a neutral running shoe. If it was 1-2 cm you'd need a medium range support shoe. And if it was more than 2 cm, you'd need a full out guide shoe. We also sold superfeet, and I am really in love with them myself. They've helped me become less fatigued after hiking long hours.

  5. Earlylite July 19, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Superfeet are the bomb. Interesting info Jeff. Thx.

  6. Damien Tougas July 21, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    I highly recommend reading this article on the subject of pronation/motion-control:

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/phys-ed-

  7. Kerry March 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    my foot dr recommended asolo fugitive gtx for pronation/supination

  8. bobber October 27, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    ive been hiking for 30 years,

    Enjoy walking in minimal footwear, as this is what I did and now I cant walk at all without an over pronation shoe due to the pain of fallen arches, my foot Dr told me that had I listened to the experts/friends and worn OP walking boots from an early age, my arches would never have dropped, I cannot walk in bare feet at all now.

  9. Tourist May 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Just diagnosed with over pronation after several years of painful blisters and callouses after hiking as little as 5 or 6 miles. As a kid, I never wore shoes, running around on the farm and in the woods with tough little feet. It seems I still have issues with the pronation regardless! Glad to see the positive comments about “Superfeet” as my doctor prescribed them as a first level intervention. Happy trails!

  10. K10202 December 17, 2012 at 4:39 am #

    Hey all– I’m looking for a good pronation control hiking boot, as I have a bad ankle and have to have support for the foot. Let me know of any that you know of…
    On the trail running shoe end of it- Brooks has 2 great shoes 1) Brooks Adrenaline ASR- water resistant and a deeper tread for trails make this a great shoe for anyone who has a neutral or mild pronation foot. They run about $110, but you can find online sales for cheaper. 2)Brooks Adrenaline GTX-same basic technology as the ASR, but made with Gortex so it is completely waterproof.
    They run about $135.
    I wear these shoes and love them. I recommend them to many of my athletes as well (I’m a high school Athletic Trainer) and they all love them. Hope this helps someone!

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