Running shoes 101: Pronation and shock absorption.

Do you need a shoe that cushions your foot or one that supports it?

If  you want to chose the right running shoe, the first concept you need to be familiar with is pronation.

Every time you stomp your foot on the ground, either by running, jumping or walking,  you apply a force to the ground.  As we know from Newton’s third law of Motion, the ground will respond by applying an equal and opposite force upwards towards you. This force is what propels your foot up and forward. This force makes you run.

The problem is that when you run, you apply a force as high as 8 times your body-weight. This force then gets back to you through your foot, ankle, knee and hips. No different than a car, your body has natural suspensions to help you absorb the shock. The basis of this natural suspension system is a process called pronation.

Pronation is the natural rolling of your foot inwards during the running (or walking) gait. The arch of your foot collapses towards the floor in order to absorb the impact.

Pronation is part of the natural bio-mechanics of your gait, and is there to protect you from injuries. Problems (injuries) can occur when you either pronate or supinate too much. Going back to the car suspensions analogy, problems occur when your suspensions are either too stiff or too soft.

Given this premise, we can differentiate three different conditions:

  • Neutral Pronation when the foot naturally rolls inwards during the heel-to-toe transition of the gait. 20-30% of runners are neutral pronators.
  • Over Pronation when the foot rolls excessively inwards and the arch collapses in a way that is detrimental to right shock absorption.
  • Under Pronation (or  Supination) when the foot does not roll inwards enough during the running gait, leading to insufficient shock absorption.

Knowing if you are a neutral, over or underpronator is the first step towards choosing the best running shoe for you.

Here is a quick test to determine if you are a neutral, over or under pronator (supinator).

If you already know, click here to find out which is the best kind of running shoe for you.





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