How does your foot hit the ground when you run?

Pronation is the natural way your foot rolls inward when it strikes the ground and then propels forward. There are three different types of pronation, and you may want shoes with features that support your pronation level. Brands use different footwear technologies and features that reduce excess movement. The technologies are meant to guide the foot through a smoother transition.

Basic Pronation

(Also called Neutral Pronation) When your foot rolls inward a typical amount. It helps you absorb impact and relieve pressure on knees and joints. It is a normal trait of neutral, biomechanically efficient runners.

An illustration showing what basic pronation looks like

Overpronation

When your foot rolls inward excessively, leaving you at risk of injuries. Overpronators may want stability or motion control shoes. Look for patterns of wear near your big toe and the inside sole at the ball of your feet. 

An illustration showing what overpronation looks like

Supination

When your foot rolls outward when it hits the ground. Relatively few runners supinate, but those who do may want shoes with more cushion and flexibility. Look for signs of wear along the outside edge of your shoe.

An illustration showing what supination looks like

Determining Your Pronation

One way to determine your pronation is to have a footwear specialist observe your gait when you run. Another way is to examine the wear pattern on a well-used pair of running shoes. Use this guide to figure out your pronation and the level of shoe support you might consider:

Basic Pronation

Your foot rolls inward a typical amount.

Pattern of Wear on Shoes: 
Centralized to the ball of your feet and portion of your heels.

Shoes to Consider:
Neutral shoes or stability shoes with light structure.

Wear pattern on shoes caused by neutral pronation

Overpronation

Your foot tends to roll in too much.

Pattern of Wear on Shoes: 
Concentrated along the inside edge of the shoe.

Shoes to Consider:
Stability shoes with structured support. In extreme cases, motion control shoes.

Wear pattern on shoes caused by overpronation

Supination

Your foot tends to roll outward excessively.

Pattern of Wear on Shoes: 
Concentrated along the outside edge of the shoe.

Shoes to Consider:
Neutral shoes may work well.

Wear pattern on shoes caused by supination

Finding Your Level of Support

Once you’ve decided what kind of ride you’d like to experience from your shoes, depending on your biomechanics, you can find a level of support in your shoes to bolster your gait. There are three categories of running shoe support: neutral, stability and motion control (high support).  

Neutral shoes:

  • They can work for mild pronators but are best for neutral runners or people who supinate (tend to roll outward).
  • They typically do not have motion control features such as “medial posts” that reinforce the arch side of each midsole. 

Stability shoes:

  • These shoes have stability devices that help control pronation.
  • They often include guide rails which control side-to-side motion.
  • Good for runners who exhibit mild to moderate overpronation.
  • Shoes are not as rigid as motion control shoes.

Motion control shoes:

  • These are the most stable of running shoes to counter moderate or severe overpronation. (Note: These are less common and most likely to be carried in specialty running stores.)
  • Best for runners who exhibit moderate to severe overpronation.
  • Features include firm posts that reinforce the arch side of each midsole, stiffer heels and a design built on straighter lasts to counter overpronation.
  • Special internal construction such as stiffer heel or denser foam.