What Is Supination?
Supination in the foot occurs normally in the gait cycle when the foot returns to a stable position before push off of. Excessive supination is associated with high arches and is a tendency for the foot to roll outward…or not to move inward (pronate) enough during the gait cycle. As your heel lifts from the ground and the weight moves to the ball of foot area and toes to push the body forward, a natural amount of supination occurs. Over-supination may cause you to appear bow-legged.
The natural movement that is the opposite of supination is called pronation. This occurs when the outer edge of your heel hits the ground and the foot rolls inward. If overpronation occurs during standing, an individual may appear knock-kneed. Pronation and supination are natural movements in your gait cycle, however, with overpronation or over-supination occur, foot problems often follow.
Overpronation is more common than over-supination, but either problem needs addressed. Too much supination causes an issue because the foot is less able to provide shock absorption. It also causes extra rotational force on the feet, shin, knees and thighs, adding further stress on muscles, tendons and ligaments.
What Problems Can Excessive Supination Cause?
Supination places extra strain on both muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle. This can lead to a number of foot problems which may include:
– Ankle sprains
– Ligament ruptures
– Arch pain
– Heel pain
– Knee pain
– Hip pain
– Back pain
– Corns and calluses
– Achilles tendonitis
– Shin splints
– Stress fractures
– Plantar Fasciitis
– and more…
How Can I Tell if I Over Supinate?
To see if supination could be a problem for you, look at your feet while you are standing to see if there is a high arch at the inside of the foot that doesn’t move toward the floor much when you stand or walk. This is one clue. Also, look at your shoes. If your shoes are worn mostly on the outside of the sole, especially around the ball of foot area, you may have excess supination when you walk.
Another method is to examine a wet footprint. If the area between the heel and ball of foot shows only a thin strip at the outside part (little toe side) of your foot and you see no print at all in the arch area, supination may be occurring. A normal footprint should have a strip that is approximately half the width of the foot. Pronated feet often fill the footprint all the way through the arch.
Can I Prevent or Treat Supinated Feet?
Excessive supination (or pronation) is a biomechanical and foot alignment issue. A pedorthist or podiatrist may complete an assessment and gait analysis to determine the specific alignment and biomechanical problems and prescribe foot orthotics (arch supports) to help you. Foot orthotic insoles work to distribute your weight more evenly and to correct or accommodate abnormal foot posture. They are usually the best option for treatment of supinated feet.
Your choice of footwear is also important when supination is a problem. You should search for shoes that match your foot type. A general rule of thumb is more stability for pronators and more cushion for supinators, but reasonable shoe stability is still important. Make sure they are the most appropriate size and are not too tight or too loose. Try on shoes in the later half of the day because your feet swell a bit as the day goes on and will be slightly larger. Also try both feet, because one will be a bit bigger than the other and you should fit to the larger one. Wear the socks you plan to wear when using your shoes. Feet with over supination often have a high instep, so laces are important for the ability to adjust this area. Running shoes tend to be best for supinated feet to give a good combination of cushion and stability.
These are just a few measures that may be necessary to decrease your risk of injury due to supination. One of the best ways to deal with supination problems is by using arch supports or foot orthotics designed for high arches or supination. These redistribute pressure away from the pressure points of supinated feet and provide better shock absorption. Custom foot orthotics are an option, but expensive. The best over the counter foot orthotics providers offer specifics for different conditions and different areas of pain.