Pronation is a well-known running term; however, both its definition and application have been buried under pages of bad press from critics with little to no understanding of anatomy and applied function. Neutralist’s and minimalist’s have waged war on orthotics and stability shoes, overshooting from a period of time when your foot was given a stability shoe regardless of your foot type. You have a flat arch? Try this motion control shoe. Your arch is high? Try this stability shoe. We slowly evolved into a community of haters on the back of minimalist movement. Books and companies began flipping the script. El natural was the way to go. After all, who doesn’t like new technology? For a few years these absolutist’s touted human function, “our body was designed to run with minimal (if any) support.” But who’s right and who’s wrong? You’re likely not surprised to hear–it depends.
If you weren’t confused about the pronation thing already, then hold on tight. Research has been all over the board. Recent studies have concluded that shoes mean far less than what we once thought, while others prove their ability to control for foot motion and loading speed. Before we get all jumbled in shoe fit and name calling, it’s probably important for you to know the specifics about pronation and its importance. If nothing else, you’ll have a perfect understanding to argue through your next runner’s anonymous meeting.
The Gait Cycle
For simplification we’ll describe to foot to be either ‘supinated’ or ‘pronated’. Pronation is sandwiched between two phases of supination. When you hear ‘supinated’ I want you to associate it with rigidity. Our foot is supinated at the beginning and end of the gait cycle (initial contact and push off). Pronation is synonymous with a flexible foot. Our foot pronates as we load through mid-stance. This should make sense, right? When we land you ideally want a solid, rigid foot. A rigid foot is sturdy and solid, ready to accept up to three times your body weight. The transition through pronation allows your foot to adapt and disperse forces. Your foot with absorb landing forces, spinning into and off of the ground.