Pronation, pronation, pronation… a recent buzzword associated with all bad things running. With so much attention paid to this word, what does it mean and why is it important? Do you need to control your pronation? Should you pronate?
Pronation is jargon for the flattening of the foot as you progress to midstance (point when your foot is right under your body). It allows the body to spin into the earth to shock absorb. Without it you will be lacking the ability disperse the forces associated with running. Pronation is not the bad boy it’s made out to be. We need it. It’s a good thing, but like most things, too much can be a problem.
Most running experts will tell you, “Strengthen your feet to control that pronation”, but what if you have strong feet? What if it’s not resting on the fault of your foot? Remember, your body fires muscles in chains, not selectively. Regardless of heelstrike, midfoot, or forefoot, we should land on the outside border of our foot. It allows us to spin into the earth (pronation) to shock absorb. The pronation itself is controlled by some extrinisic foot muscles known as your ‘anterior tibialis’ and ‘posterior tibialis muscle’. As your foot goes into pronation the knee will go into a knock kneed (genu valgus) position and the hip spins into adduction and internal rotation. So what if you can’t control the knee or the hip? Answer: It drags the foot with it.
You can be strengthening your feet this whole time hoping for better foot control and less injuries, but you could be missing the whole picture. The glutes, quad (particularly the VMO), and aforementioned extrinsic foot muscles fire TOGETHER! If your glutes can’t control their portion of the load (femoral adduction/rotation) it will cause your upper leg to spin inwards, which will drag the foot with it making it appear there is foot weakness. Most runners have weak glutes, we see it time and time again. We continually engage in quad dominated activities and spend the majority of our day sitting on our biggest assets, our glutes.
The glutes are the big guys, the movers. They can make or break your running. Without them bad things happen. The little guys (calfs, knees, feet) get overworked and become limiters in our running. If there is weakness in the chain of muscles that control pronation, the body goes flying into the ground and stays there, completely dampening your forces for push off all awhile increasing the strain on our body.
Here’s a video explaining it all: