I must confess. Before I started the hunt for new shoes, I new practically nothing about pronation. I’d heard the word. I knew if you over-pronated, you were doing too much of something. I just didn’t know what. I figure I can’t be the only runner out there who is/was ignorant of what my feet are doing, so I’m going to share what I’ve learned.
Pronation is defined as the “rotation of the medial bones in the midtarsal region of the foot inward and downward so that in walking the foot tends to come down on its inner margin.” (Source: merriam-webster.com)
To simplify, pronation is how you move your foot when you walk or run. Everybody starts the motion by putting their heel down, and everyone’s next step is to begin to turn the middle of their foot inward before pushing off with the front of your foot.
Ideally, your foot will roll inward 15%, and you will push off evenly with the front of your foot. If you over-pronate, you are rolling your foot inward more than the ideal amount, and when you push off, you’re mainly using your big toe and second toe to push off and propel yourself forward. Some people under-pronate, which is not rolling the foot in enough and using your smaller toes to push off at the end of your stride. (Source: Runner’s World, “Pronation, Explained”)
I am pretty sure that I pronate normally with my left foot, as I have never experienced any toe or joint pain on that side. With my right foot, I most definitely over-pronate. It explains why my toes were sore in my old shoes. I never really thought about which toes they were, but I was mostly feeling pain in my big toe and its two nearest buddies. I think the over-pronation of my right foot was also causing my knee and calf pain. I’ll be more sure of this once I’ve put a few more miles on the new shoes, but I’m hoping the pain does not come back.
If you haven’t experienced any pain running or just want another way to check your pronation, look at the inside edge of your shoes. I’ll show you a couple pair of mine.
On my Nikes, which I’ve only been using for 6-7 months, you can look at the shoe on the left (which is my right shoe) and tell that the tread is a little bit more worn. It’s not super obvious, since these shoes aren’t really that old, but it’s still noticeable.
I have an old pair of New Balance that I used to run and cross-train for a while, but I’ve mostly been using as my walk-around, wear-with-jeans shoes for the last few years. On these shoes, it’s very apparent that I over-pronate on the right. The tread is really worn out on that side.
What are my new shoes doing to help me? For starters, the bottom is flat. The flat bottom makes it much harder for me to turn my foot inward too much. There is also extra arch support inside, kind of helping to create the arch that I don’t have, and again, keeping me from over-pronating. The only downside is that my left foot doesn’t really need it, so while it doesn’t hurt, it feels weird. I’ve put 7 miles on them now, and each time, it takes me a mile or two to really get going. I’ve been too consumed with thinking about what my feet are doing. I know I’ll stop doing this once I get them more broken in and am more used to the shoes, but it’s super-obnoxious right now. My brain is thinking about my feet too much!
In the past, I would have told you I didn’t think it really mattered what shoes you put on your feet to run, as long as they feel pretty good and don’t give you blisters. Now, I truly believe it can make a big difference between injuring yourself and not. Running distance is hard. People hurt themselves training for races all the time. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to give myself every advantage I can and take care of myself as best I can to prevent injury. If that means shelling out the big bucks for shoes, I’ll do it. (But to be completely honest, I had some gift cards left over from Christmas that paid for most of my shoes. Thanks, guys!)