Stability Shoes, Pronation and What The Science Actually Says

Stability Shoes, Pronation and What The Science Actually Says


How many of you have walked into a running store for a shoe fitting, only to walk out feeling labeled? You have been handed the “overpronator” card;  forever cast into a world of “custom” store orthotics and stability shoes.

Well, get ready to have your world rocked! No, seriously. First, we’ll spend some time exposing the science and then use it to sift through some of the shoe industry confusion.


Our Awesome Arches      


Feet are pretty rad. Our feet have 28 bones. Some of which are weight bearers and some that are suspended through the 4 (yes 4!) different arches of our foot. The arch you are probably most familiar with is the medial longitudinal arch. This is your most prominent arch and the one that has likely given you a label (high, flat, neutral). Long standing belief says that high arches move very little during gait and flat arches are hypermobile. The truth is our arches are designed to move and the difference between a structurally high arch and low arch is muted during running. In fact, research shows the difference is only 1.9 millimeters (super tiny). So the whole idea of overpronation as a result of arch height just got debunked!


Pronation – Let’s Dig A Little Deeper


When our foot first contacts the ground, the rear and forefoot are fairly locked out in a supinated position. As our foot is loaded, the rearfoot twists on the forefoot, which allows the foot to unlock and our arches to drop. In order for this to happen, we need pronation to show up to the gait party!

Pronation is actually a very good thing. It provides us with a natural shock absorption mechanism (as it flexes it spreads out force) and enables us to get our big toe down to the ground (the big toe provides 80-85% of primary foot support).


But I Overpronate!


Runners with mobile feet can have an increased incidence of shin splints, achilles issues and potential for stress fractures of the tibia and metatarsals, but not because they move too much! Mobile feet have muscle control issues. Your muscles are firing but they’re a little behind the ball…literally. They are delayed in controlling the twisting of the rearfoot on the forefoot. But wait, there’s more! It’s not just the feet, the entire lower body moves as the foot pronates and supinates. In fact, the control challenges you have in your foot can actually be caused up the kinetic chain by weak hip stabilizers. Starting to sound funny that you were assigned a category based on someone just staring at your feet?


So Stability Shoes Can Help With This, Right?


The shoe industry has created and evangelized a shoe feature called posting. Posting is supposed to solve all of the stability and motion control challenges that we as runners face. Well, let’s peel this back a bit. Posting, is generally classified as different density materials on the inside of the shoe that stop the foot from moving too much. However, maximum pronation occurs just after midstance- after our heels have left the ground! What this means is that the posting under the rearfoot isn’t even in contact with the ground when we would need it most. Mind blown yet? In fact, medial posting can cause problems by making it easier to allow the contact point to drift too far inside- causing a terrible chain reaction of stress to the medial aspect of the knee. Osteoarthritis anyone? Not worth it.


Get An Expert Opinion


Hopefully, some of the points above will inspire you to dig a little deeper and arm you with a few extra tools to navigate through the marketing. Remember, shoes don’t stop the arch from moving and they will not improve the timing of your muscle control. This is your role. Speaking from experience, I can say this is often easier said than done.  

If you have been told you are an “overpronator” and/or find that you are in and out of a pattern of injury, you are not a lost cause. It is extremely helpful to get a professional gait analysis to identify where you may have weak links and where there may be opportunity to build smarter muscles. An investment in yourself, that enables insight into the “big picture” is worth a lifetime of healthy running. If you are interested in having a personal run/gait analysis performed, feel free to give us a call, stop on in or contact us here!


Hungry For More?


Hitting topics on: The Cushion Craze, Tight Toe-Box, High-Heel-Stack-Height and Call Me Minimalist, Maybe? Coming at you soon!

Until we chat again – Here’s to healthy running!