by Bob "Wish" Wischnia on August 31, 2011
Does this sound like something which has happened to you? You went to your local running store in search of a good, basic shoe (hopefully, a Mizuno). You were probably asked to take off your shoes and jog around the store or on a treadmill. Your stride was closely scrutinized by one of the experts on the shoe floor who pronounced that you are a pronator. In fact, the shoe expert said, you are an overpronator.
A what? For crying out loud, you just wanted to get some shoes so you can begin running and before you even start, it appears that you have some strange condition, requiring special shoes.
Don’t fear. We’re here to explain this pronation/overpronation (and supination) mystery in clear, simple terms and set you up in the perfect Mizuno for your foot type.
Before we even begin, let’s set the record straight: Pronation is not a bad thing. In point of fact, pronation is good. It’s perfectly natural. It occurs when the foot contacts the ground. After that, as part of the natural gait cycle, the arch then collapses—pronates—and acts as your body’s shock absorber.
Nearly everyone pronates to some extent. The difference is some folks pronate much more than others; some less. If your feet didn’t pronate at all, they wouldn’t be able to absorb shock.
The opposite of pronation is something called supination. You will hear some runners who claim to be supinators, but that’s very misleading. Just like pronation, everyone supinates. You must supinate in order for your feet to push off and move into the next step.
Without getting too technical, when you supinate, the bones in the foot form a rigid lever which is necessary to push off in the running or walking gait.
When we walk or run, we land in a supinated position, move to a more pronated position to absorb the shock of contacting the ground. From there, the foot then moves into a final supinated phase which leads to the foot pushing off into the next stride.
So pronation and supination are not only good, both are necessary. What is not good is when the foot pronates too much--or too little.
First, too much pronation is called overpronation. This occurs when the arch collapses either at too much of an angle or it stays collapsed too long through the gait cycle. Overpronation is fairly common and it occurs in more than half of the running population.
If the foot overpronates during the gait cycle, there is a distinctive inward collapse of the arch. It’s hard to see with the untrained, naked eye at full speed, but on video it’s very apparent.
When overpronation is not corrected, energy is lost and even worse, torque is placed on the lower part of the body, especially the legs. Unchecked overpronation is most often associated with all sorts of lower leg injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, hamstring strains and hip pain.
Don’t despair. Many of today’s modern running shoes are designed to reduce the rate of overpronation while still allowing the feet to pronate and still work as shock absorbers.
These types of shoes are labeled as either support, stability or motion control shoes. Though the terms are different, the end result is the same: These shoes will reduce the degree of overpronation and thus, minimize the injuries associated with it.
At Mizuno, we attack overpronation with our exclusive Wave technology. All of our running shoes have Mizuno Wave Plates that both cushion and stabilize the foot. By using different Waves (different sizes, shapes and materials), Mizuno running shoes are designed to accommodate different foot types. For example, our support shoes utilize a Wave which stabilizes the foot and reduces the amount of overpronation to a safe, acceptable level.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from overpronation, is something which is typically called supination or oversupination, but really should be termed underpronation. This is when the foot is too rigid and doesn’t pronate enough. Often, the runner who underpronates has a foot with a high arch (or no arch) which is simply so rigid that it doesn’t absorb shock well. The runner tends to run on the outside edge of the foot and doesn’t roll inward enough (pronate) like a normal foot does. Injuries commonly associated with an underpronating foot are an exceptionally tight Achilles tendon, knee problems and tight hip muscles.
Underpronation is much less common than overpronation. But getting the right shoe type is just as important. For a runner who underpronates, the shock absorption (i.e., cushioning) from the shoe is critical since the foot doesn’t do a good enough job of it.
The type of shoes that work best for this runner is often called a neutral, cushioned shoe. These shoes emphasize cushioning and flexibility without restricting the foot’s movement. At Mizuno, our family of neutral shoes use entirely different Wave shapes than the support shoes to encourage a natural foot movement.
There’s no reliable way for the average runner to discern whether he or she overpronates, underpronates or has a normal foot (i.e., one which pronates an acceptable amount).
Contrary to popular belief, shoe wear is not a reliable indicator. The best way to determine your foot type (and thus, the type of shoe you need) is to go to a specialty running store and have a shoe expert watch you run. Many stores offer a treadmill and will tape you while running. If you underpronate or overpronate, this will immediately become apparent (more so if you’re running is taped) and the shoe expert will fit you in the proper type of shoe.
Mizuno running shoes fall into these foot type categories:
- Maximum support (for overpronators): Wave Alchemy and Wave Nirvana
- Moderate support (for mild overpronators and/or runners with a normal foot): Wave Inspire, Wave Nexus and Wave Elixir
- Maximum cushioning (for underpronators and/or some runners with a normal foot): Wave Creation, Wave Enigma and Wave Prophecy
- Moderate cushioning (for underpronators and/or runners with a normal foot): Wave Rider and Wave Precision