A Runner's Guide to Understanding Pronation

If you've ever had your gait analyzed by a running store salesperson and suddenly found yourself swimming in a sea of motion control and stability shoes, it's because you do something that 80 percent of runners do: pronate. It may sound alarming, but both pronation and its functional opposite, supination, are necessary adaptations to allow the body to respond to the act of walking and running.

More: 3 ChiRunning Tips to Avoid Injury

Everyone pronates and supinates to some degree with every step; however, it is the excessive motion, or overpronation, that can lead to running injuries. The good news is that you don't need over-built shoes to fight pronation. Simply improving your form with the Chi Running technique can increase the stability of your feet and ankles naturally and for the long-term.

More: ChiRunning and the Art of the Long Run

What Is Pronation?

Pronation is the flattening of the arch when the foot lands on the ground. This flattening aids in balance and provides some shock absorption. As the foot flattens slightly, the ankle tilts inward toward the midline of the body, and the muscles of the lower leg help keep the ankle from rolling too far inward.

What Causes Overpronation?

Folks with flatter feet tend to have highly flexible arches, which are more likely to flatten too much. This is known as overpronation. In this case, the foot provides plenty of its own cushioning but does not retain enough of its own structure, so other parts of the leg, such as the medial tibialis (the "shin splint" muscle) and the knee, try to pick up the job of providing support. They aren't designed for this, and when they are overworked, they send pain signals indicating they can't keep doing the extra labor.

Conversely, people with high arches often have inflexible feet which limit the amount of natural motion the foot undergoes as it lands. These people don't get much natural shock absorption in the foot, and the ground forces will once again travel farther up the leg looking for a place to be absorbed, often in the shins, knees or elsewhere. However, not everyone with flat feet overpronate, and those with high arches may also experience excessive inward ankle rolling due to instability in the muscles of the lower leg.

More: Overpronation: How It Happens

Just as the structure of the foot can contribute to overpronation, so can poor stride mechanics. Heel striking, leading with your legs, a slow/long stride, or pushing off with the toes can cause excessive motion in the foot. Chi Running reduces these effects by emphasizing a midfoot landing and a shorter, quicker stride, both of which reduce the amount of time the foot spends on the ground and limit the amount of motion necessary to get the foot into position to lift off the ground at the back end of the stride.

How to Correct Pronation

Try introducing the following Chi Running Form Focuses into your workouts:

Maintain a constant cadence of 170 to 180 strides per minute (spm) no matter what speed you're running.

Practice landing with your feet below or even slightly behind your center of gravity (hips), not out in front. This is commonly called a midfoot strike.

Hold your pelvis level with each stride. This works to strengthen all the connective tissue that runs between the arch of your foot and your pelvis. It's a great way to strengthen and stabilize your ankles.

When you consistently apply these focuses to your running, you'll feel stronger, smoother and more relaxed. Eventually, your feet will possess just the right amount of strength, and motion control will no longer be an issue.

More: ChiRunning for Beginners

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