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Over-Pronation for Hikers and Trail Runners

<London Reflexology Poster

Over-Pronation Defined

Pronation occurs 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

  • Take a look at your hiking or running shoes; look for wear on the inside of the sole
  • While standing straight with bare feet on the floor, look to see if the inside of your arch or sole touches the floor.
  • 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 the 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 the 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 the added support of an insole like 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 trends 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.

Updated 2023.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Superfeet are the bomb. Interesting info Jeff. Thx.

  4. my foot dr recommended asolo fugitive gtx for pronation/supination

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. Easier said than done, as an over pronater I get great pain if I don’t wear my orthotics the muscles are just too small to build back up. My knees are bent and I’m nearly always in some pain so going flat foot is not an option.

    • Mary Van Hoomissen

      Ditto!! tried the flat/barefoot type and it took me another 8 months of recovery from PF that was just getting under control. Tried it based on similar remarks from running friends. NO GO!

  9. I disagree with those that say less shoe is better. Those people have not had SEVERE over pronation! I used to walk on the material above the arch of the shoe. It was very severe and I wore my shoes out when the nylon wore through. I no longer have this problem because of buying quality shoes with good support. Look for shoes that do not curve in on the inside of the sole.

  10. Ok so this is great except for many of us that have fused ankles. Hundreds of shoe brands to choose from and who has the money to try every style and brand. New balance , hookah, Keen, Brooks, Asics, Z-coil, Vionics , OLUKAI, Gravity Defyers, Orthofeet, Dr. Comfort for dress shoes, KURU, OOFOS, Dansko, and the list can go on.

    Ok great plenty of shoes brands to choose from. Now I need to know if my feet are over probate. What if on is over probate and one isn’t? Stability Control great! How does that effect foot pain issues? So many other factors such as durability, comfort, and so on. There is Cost.

    For me I have a fused right ankle, my right leg is 1 1/4 inches shorter than my left. I need 3 shoe types and 1 sandle or flip-flop. Cost cost cost cost.

    The very most frustrating thing is who is being honest? Why is it so difficult for men to get answers or advice on shoes/boots? I can read read and study study and still I live in an area that doesn’t have a place to try such shoe brands I listed. Lifts for shoes is a whole other frustrating task. Which sites can be trusted for scientific non bias information?

    I often see 5 main brands and a bunch that very few know about and why is that? Then we have these phoney sites that claim to know best shoes and you just get a link to Amazon high rated shoes. Garbage of information at times.

    Which Dr. Is a shoe to foot expert? Minimalist boots? Ankle support? Lift reviews? Give me a break.

  11. I think the argument here is valid if you have overpronation due to weakness or poor strides or similar. In some cases, body structure can cause this due to issues like lax joints syndrome and no amount of using neutral shoes or barefoot will bridge that genetic gap. Basically its not a one-size fits all solution and it would be very helpful if hiking shoes noted in the description if they were good for over-pronation, etc. Wouldn’t hurt people in the first category, but would vastly help those of us in the latter category.

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