Pronation is a word that I am sure you have heard at the podiatrist’s office and elsewhere in the foot and ankle world. You may even come across it when buying shoes or over the counter insoles. If you are an avid runner, you can find it used extensively in running magazines and other publications. Some say pronation is bad, or that you can “over pronate.” But what does it really mean?
An incredible amount of force is directed on your heel bone and foot joints while walking and running. Pronation is your body’s way of absorbing that force as you walk. There is a joint just below the ankle that moves in a way so that when you take a step, the foot is more mobile so it can adapt to the uneven surface that we are walking on. In podiatry, we say that your foot becomes a “loose bag of bones” or that it pronates. This allows the force to be shared equally across the foot and it spares our cartilage from being over stressed. In short, pronation is a good thing.
But just like anything else, too much of a good thing is bad. Once you have taken a step and your weight moves forward, you want to be able to push off that foot and propel yourself. At this point, you want your foot to be stiff and stable (or as we say in podiatry, in a supinated position). However, if your foot is still a “loose bag of bones,” meaning you pronate too much or for too long, you have nothing stable to push off of. This is one reason why some people develop bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis etc… You are pushing off of an unstable foot and the bones start to move in every direction, causing deformities. It would be similar to trying to hammer in a nail using a waffle. The waffle will twist and bend in every direction with nothing being accomplished.
The mechanics of feet are much more complex than the explanation I have given, but hopefully it will help you better understand how you walk.