There are a number of factors that contribute to running injuries, and over pronated feet is said to be one of them.
Foot pronation is the natural side-to-side motions of the hindfoot (back of the foot) during the touchdown and stance phase of running. When it stays within a safe range, foot pronation during running does what nature intended: Its one of the body’s natural mechanical defenses that reinforces sturdier ankle stability while at the same time, it attenuates shock (reduces impact). So, always know that foot pronation puts you on a really strong foundation and is needed for shock absorption during running.
However, most consequential, cushioned running shoes may push foot pronation beyond a safe, tolerable range (over pronation) which may cause the ankle to work harder in keeping foot-steps balanced. Not to mention, this increased mechanical work at the ankle may seep into the shins and knees and such mechanical conflicts may be a net contributor to many common running-related injuries, such as ankle sprains, shin splints and runners knee.
Some studies have found that thick cushioned running shoes doubled pronation-inducing torque during running by causing a longer ground-contact duration period of the foot which spurred on increased shifts in straining foot motions as compared with running barefoot or in barefoot-inspired running shoes.
This piece of data suggests that footwear strongly affects how the foot interacts with the ground during running whereby immobilizing the foot too much with motion control stability running shoes may cause mechanical displacements at the foot/ankle complex that may also alter the kinetic chain of events up the leg, easily setting the stage for injury. Bottom line, this line of evidence makes it clear that not all running shoes play the role that they are marketed to play!
Comparatively, in barefoot running, even though the feet have full freedom of movement, pronation is sharply limited. This is because when you run barefoot, it often naturally brings into line functional, low-impact mechanics, such as a forefoot strike landing, a higher cadence and a shortened stride length which collectively have proven to reduce ground-contact time of the foot, thus keeping a tight rein on foot pronation. This is one of the important reasons on the mechanical front, you’re always making progress when you run barefoot.
This is what makes barefoot and minimalist running so effective, is the narrowing of time the foot lingers on the ground during running, making the foot able to avert, or at least blunt disordered foot motions, like over pronation.
Lastly, this finding can be added to the seemingly growing list of injurious risk factors caused by most conventional running shoes and how such footwear may progressively tear down the proper function of the feet. The findings also remind us that less protection may be the best protection on the feet when it comes to safeguarding and improving your footstep mechanics.
If you want to know more about the health and performance benefits of barefoot running, you’ll love my content on my YouTube, here!
Daoud et al. Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2012; DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182465115
Denoth J. Load on the locomotor system and modeling. In Nigg BM, editor. Biomechanics of the Shoe. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics, 1986. p. 64-116.
More From Run Forefoot:
Non-Heel Strike Landing Helps Back Pain – Find out why the farther you land away from your heels during running, the less impact on the back.
Why Older Runners Need Barefoot Shoes – Learn how barefoot like running shoes can help any runner, especially older runners, stay injury-free.
How to Make Your Stride Smooth – Research suggests that stride smoothness depends on foot strike.
Running with Rigidity – Find out why heel strike runners have a more ‘choppy’, rigid gait than forefoot runners and why gait rigidity may cause injury.
More Bad News on Traditional Running Shoes – Here I talk about how traditional running shoes influence poor performance.
Proper Running Shoes – Need help finding the right shoe for forefoot running? Here are my reviews on barefoot like running shoes that will help you maintain your forefoot strike and keep your legs and feet strong.
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BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.