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Motions of the Foot: Pronation & Supination

The foot provides initial contact with the ground while running. As such, it is very important in mitigating forces up the chain. The foot is a complex structure consisting of 28 bones, 33 joints, and 29 muscles. Every time your foot strikes the ground while running the foot joints and muscles react to be able to accommodate the ground reaction force. Timely and efficient engagement of the muscles of the foot leads to better ability to mitigate forces up the chain as well as turn ground reaction force into power that propels a runner forward.


As a runner, it is not important that you understand how every muscle and joint interact in the foot. However, it is important to understand three fundamental concepts of gait: the foot as a base of support, pronation, and supination.


THE FOOT AS A BASE OF SUPPORT

The plantar aspect (bottom) of the foot forms a triangle from the great toe to pinky toe to the heel. Within the triangle are bones and ligaments that provide inert structural support to the foot as well as muscles that provide dynamic contractile support.


To best mitigate forces through the foot your muscles need to work together to create a wide and strong base of support.


By learning how to engage the intrinsic muscles of the foot a runner can increase the surface area of the triangle that makes up the base of the foot and better mitigate forces throughout the foot and rest of the body.



PRONATION

Pronation is a component of gait where from heel strike to midstance the forces through the foot go from the outer edge to the inner edge, the heel turns out and the inside arch of the foot falls in.


Pronation gets a bad wrap amongst runners as a motion that can cause injury. In reality, it is just a normal and necessary component in the gait cycle. Runners can develop an increased rate of pronation or stay in pronation too long during the gait cycle and this can contribute to injury.


Having a basic understanding of pronation and how to control pronation is important in both selecting shoes and strengthening your foot.


Make your foot more resilient over time by strengthening the muscles of your foot to be able to control pronation better.



SUPINATION


Supination is the opposite of pronation, from midstance to toe-off the arch of the foot locks in an upright position in order to generate power for foot pushoff. The heel points in and the inside of the arch lifts and locks into a power generating position.


Most runners are notoriously bad at using their supinator muscles. Weakness in muscles that supinate the foot contribute to excessive and prolonged pronation and disorders like adult acquired flat foot deformity.




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