Is 'Overpronation' in Runners a Problem?
Posted: Aug 30, 2020
One thing you find in the running community is a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding training, running injury and running shoes. This results in a lot of bad advice being given by those unqualified to give it and the taking up of that advice by those who are in not position to judge if the advice is good or not. One of these misconceptions is the concept of "overpronation" and what that has to do with running injury and running shoes. If you read in some areas, overpronation is evil and is an enemy to the runner and must be eliminated at all cost. On the other hand, you can also read that it is a non-event and nothing to worry about.
Pronation is a normal healthy motion in which when the foot hits the ground the ankle rolls inwards and the arch collapses. There is nothing wrong with this motion and it is how the foot absorbs shock and adapts to the ground. Overpronation is obviously when there is too much of this motion. The first problem with that is that there is no definition or consensus as to what is too much, so that is an issue. Overpronation is thought to be risk factor for a wide range of overuse injuries that runners get due to the biomechanical problems that it is supposed to cause. The problem is that many who overpronate do not get any problems, others do get problems, so this is considered an issue. Foot orthotics and other different types of interventions were developed to deal with the issues. As this was considered a big problem, then a whole category of running shoes, the motion control running shoes have design features that are supposed to help control the overpronation motion of the foot and prevent these injuries. The evidence that this is what actually happens is not very good. As a result, this leads to a lot of debate.
In the context of these debates it is important to look at what the meta-analyses of all the research are showing. The most recent ones do confirm that overpronation is a problem, however, it is only a small problem, but that is still statistically significant. This means that there are many other factors involved in the overuse injuries in running than just the overpronation.
The other problem with the issue is that everyone thinks they are an expert on it and each of them knows how to fix it. There are multiple causes of overpronation and because of that there is not going to be one treatment that can fix it. Many like to suggest that strengthening the hip and those proximal muscles are the solution. That will only work if that is where the problem is. If the problem is due to tight calf muscles, then nothing you do at the hip is going to fix it. Foot orthotics will not work for them either. The only thing that will work for them is heel raises in the short term and stretching in the longer term. If you have overpronation and it does need to be dealt with, ignore the nonsense online and go and see someone who actually knows what they are doing.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.