Why Runners Get Overpronation Pain

Do cushioned stability running shoes actually provide more support by correcting over-pronation during running? Research is showing that stability running shoes may actually add an extra element of instability and may continue to injure runners.

Studies are revealing that runners tend to overpronate more in cushioned running shoes, resulting in overpronation pain as compared with running barefoot. A study by Stacoff et al., found that running shoes significantly increased pronation by restricting the natural torsional movement of the foot compared to barefoot running.

Overpronation Pain

Why Runners Get Overpronation Pain

The stiffness of the shoe at the transverse talar (the joint of the foot just below the ankle) and tarso-metatarsal joints (the joints in the top midfoot and forefoot) resulted in greater rearfoot movement compared to running barefoot. A stiff sole leads to a small angle of torsion (twisting force) of the foot during both forefoot and heel strike running.

  • High foot torsional movements is a good thing as it is an indicator of flexibility; however shoe stiffness prevents proper torsional movements, causing unphysiological movements of the foot during running.

The researchers concluded that running shoes influenced rearfoot instability by which problems, in terms of injury, are sure to arise.

Other studies have found that motion control running shoes did a poor job of correcting pronation. Yet, to overcome this challenge, barefoot running provides optimal conditions for self-control of the foot.

Going Barefoot

In barefoot running, a forefoot strike is utilized whereby movements in the forefoot are greater than movements in the rearfoot.

At touchdown, the forefoot naturally goes into eversion which is independent of the rearfoot, therefore the rearfoot remains stabilized or undergoes minimal pronation in barefoot-forefoot running.

Overpronation Pain
Because there is no mechanical interference from shoe cushioning, running barefoot creates a more stable landing, allowing the foot muscle to have greater control over pronation.

Foot strike also affects pronation of the foot. Heel strikers were found to pronate more than forefoot strikers, but pronation was reduced when heel strikers ran barefoot.

Even though pronation varies with foot strike, it is with shod conditions that larger changes in pronation takes place.

The problem with running shoes is that they do not accommodate the isolated movements of the forefoot and rearfoot. It would then follow that the forefoot and rearfoot of a shoe should be constructed independently from each other, according to Stacoff et al.

Most running shoes are designed to reduce pronation at the rearfoot, whereas the influence of the forefoot on pronation is never taking into account. But that doesn’t matter now because barefoot running reduces pronation if a proper forefoot strike is utilized.

The findings are promising for barefoot running, debunking the notion that our feet are extremely fragile units, when in actuality, the feet do a better job than shoes at making fine corrections in foot movements.

More on Barefoot Running:


References:

Kersting, UG. The role of footwear-independent variations in rearfoot movement on impact attenuation in heel-toe running. Res Sports Med, 2006; 14:117-134

Stacoff et al. The torsion of the foot in running. Int J Sport Biomech, 1989; 5:375-389.

Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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