Everyone’s Feet pronate. Pronation is when your foot rolls inward to distribute the forces of impact as your foot makes contact with the ground. Normally, this is about 15%. The arch of your foot is the biggest factor in your pronation.
There are three basic types of shoes as far as stability goes. A neutral shoe, which allows your foot to move in its natural way; a stability shoe, which gives your foot some assistance to not over pronate; and a motion control shoe, which gives your foot maximal support to not over pronate.
If you go into a running store to purchase your shoes, they are likely to watch you run and walk in bare feet and then with various shoes on. They are trying to determine if you pronate, supinate beyond what’s normal. Their recommendations for shoes typically follow this pattern:
People with normal arches will typically run in either a neutral or stability shoe.
Those with low arches or flat feet typically use a stability or motion control shoe. Flat footed runners typically overpronate meaning their foot rolls in farther than it should toward the big toe. Because of this, a stability shoe is usually a good option. However, if you see that the outside of your shoe’s sole is being worn faster than the rest, you’ve got too much control going on in the shoe and need to switch to something neutral.
Heavier runners (men between 160-180 and women 140-160) who over pronate will likely need more than just the average stability shoe. Look into the motion control shoes to help with the overpronation.
Those with high arches under-pronate (supinate) and so typically do best in a neutral shoe. A little note here: Women have a greater quadricep angle and wear down the outside of their shoes more quickly than men, but it doesn’t mean you supinate.
Over or under pronation can place you at high risk for particular types of injuries. Overpronation causes extra stress and tightness in the muscles. Too much motion in your foot can cause calluses, bunions, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.
Under pronation (supination) places extra stress on the foot, which could lead to you developing ITband syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar faciitis.
The problem with all of this information is the research doesn’t really support it. It’s all theory. Now, I’m not saying you should throw out your tried and true running shoes and go with something different as far as stability. What the research supports is choosing the amount of stability that you are most comfortable in. This may take some trial and error. You can pull on a pair of shoes and they feel great in the store, but when you take them for a run, they just don’t work. This is why you should always check the return policy of a store before you buy the shoes.
Pronation can change as you become a more experienced runner because the muscles and tendons of your feet and ankles become stronger. When I first began running, I overpronated, then I supinated for a while. When you go to get new shoes, try some different things on. You may find your feet have changed and you’re more comfortable in a different shoe.
The stability of a shoe won’t necessarily impact your ability to run faster either. The issue will be the weight of the shoe. Heavier shoes are going to slow you down. For every 100 g of shoe weight you can anticipate a 0.8% decrease in speed. The more stability you have in a shoe, the heavier it’s going to be.
The big take away from all this is, the stability of a shoe isn’t going to reduce your injury risk. Go with what is comfortable, but check in every once in a while to make sure your favorite shoe, is still your favorite.
Happy running. Next up is heel to toe drop.