Excessive over and underpronation (extreme motions of the heel) during running can be significant producers of most common injuries such as sore shin muscles (aka shin splints) and runners knee. One possible fixes of excessive under and overpronation is to run in motion control stability running shoes. But, do stability motion control running shoes actually stop pronation problems during running? Lines of research shows that some motion control stability running shoes may actually intensify or increase over-pronation which may escalate stress and strain on the knee-joint.
How to Stop Pronation Problems During Running? Not with Stability Shoes
Motion control running shoes may be in somewhat of a credibility crisis as there is evidence showing that some runners may overpronate more in stability running shoes as compared with running without shoes. For instance, a study by Stacoff et al., found that stability running shoes significantly increased pronation by restricting the natural torsional movement of the foot compared to barefoot running.
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.
- Some levels of foot torsional movements during running is nothing to worry about because its an indicator of good flexibility and healthy range of motion. However, shoe stiffness may prevent proper, natural torsional movements which may consequentially unleash a cascade of unfavorable, mechanically straining 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.
Running Without Shoes Puts More Control on Pronation Problems
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.
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:
- How to Run Better? Go Barefoot
- How the Feet Work When Barefoot Running
- Barefoot Running: The Secret to Success in Ethiopian Runners
- Barefoot More Promising the Shod
- Don’t Want to Go Barefoot? Read My Barefoot Running Shoes Reviews
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.
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.