Whether you’re classified as a ‘pronator’, ‘neutral runner’ or ‘supinator’, depends on whether your feet roll inwards or outwards as they strike the ground.
What’s a pronator?
With pronation the foot rolls inwards and nearly everybody pronates to some extent, and that’s how feet are designed to work, with the foot rolling slightly inwards as your bodyweight is taken on the ball of the foot.
A mild pronator will probably find a neutral shoe ideal, providing a good arch support but no additional stability devices.
Over-pronation is when the outside of the heel makes the initial ground contact before the foot rolls inward, putting pressure on the ankle and foot. Your foot and ankle don’t just roll, but actually collapse inwards as your weight goes over the foot – you may need some extra support from the shoe or from an orthotic device.
There’s a large selection of anti-pronation shoes designed to compensate for this weakness but beware: too much correction will transfer your weight to the outsides of your feet. And although this will limit (and may even prevent) your pronation, it may cause problems higher up your legs, to your knees, hips or lower back.
Whatever solution you choose, don’t insert an orthotic device into a motion-control shoe. Either go for an orthotic in a neutral shoe or for a stability shoe without the orthotic.
What are supinators?
Less than 10% of us are supinators – where the foot rolls out and the weight is taken on the outside of the foot as opposed to the ball of the foot – and the choice of shoes available to these runners is considerably more limited. In which case an orthotic device (basically a bespoke insole) inserted into a neutral shoe might be the answer.
How do you know whether you’re a supinator or a pronator? Mild or severe?
Many specialist running shops now offer some form of gait analysis to help you choose the most suitable type of shoe, in terms of support and cushioning. However, running across a pressure mat and trying to get one foot to land on the mat doesn’t always give the most representative pressure pattern. Running on a treadmill gives an observer a better chance of accurately analysing your running gait. But also don’t discount the value of simply examining the wear pattern on the sole and heel cup of your old shoes. Alternatively, you could get a friend to video you running from the front and behind.