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Understanding Supination

April 30th, 2013

When you shop for running shoes, it’s common to hear about pronation support, but what if you’re a supinator? Since less than 5% of runners supinate, the topic is frequently neglected. If you’ve been feeling like the redheaded stepchild when you shop for running shoes, we’re here to help. Here are the basics on what supination is, how it affects your running and how it should impact your running shoe choice.

What Is Supination?

Supination, sometimes called underpronation, means that when you run your foot remains planted on the lateral side (the outside edge) for the duration of time while the shoe is on the ground. In the typical heel-to-toe foot strike transition, the foot supinates prior to ground contact, pronates (rolls inward) after ground contact to absorb much of the impact, and supinates again at toe-off.

Runners with very high, inflexible arches frequently supinate. To determine if you pronate, take a look at the bottom of a pair of running shoes after you’ve put a few hundred miles on them. If the midfoot of the shoe is worn primarily on the outside edge, then you might be a supinator. We can also help you complete an online gait analysis to determine whether or not you supinate.

How Does Supination Affect My Running?

If you supinate, your feet must absorb a greater impact when you run. While overpronation can lead to a variety of alignment-related injuries in the joints, supination can contribute to an increased risk of impact-related injuries like stress fractures.

How Does Supination Affect Shoe Selection?

While there are plenty o’ running shoe technologies out there to help correct overpronation, there aren’t any to correct supination. A runner who supinates should look for three things when shoe shopping: a neutral shoe, a softer shoe and a curved shoe.

  • Neutral Shoe: Shoes designed to correct overpronation have a tendency to encourage the foot to remain more toward its outer edge. Avoid them in favor of a neutral shoe, which won’t encourage additional supination.
  • Softer Shoe: Supination increases the impact placed on your foot, so it’s a good idea to look for a shoe with a little extra sumthin’ to protect you from the ground. Many supinators want a ‘soft ride’ to help absorb some of the impact from their foot strike. That said, some supinators prefer a lower platform so there is less to “roll off of.”
  • Curved Shoe: We classify shoes into four shape categories, based on the shape of the outsole as viewed from above. These categories are: straight, semi-straight, semi-curved and curved. Curved shoes typically do not inhibit pronation as much as straight shoes can. If you supinate, a curved shoe or semi-curved shoe should do the best job of at least not making your supination worse.

One other factor you may want to consider when shopping for shoes is the placement of outsole rubber. Shoes with a good amount of rubber on the lateral side of the outsole, particularly from the mid-to-forefoot area, will likely be a bit more durable over the long haul, since you’ll be less likely to roll onto the softer foam midsole that can easily be chewed up by pavement and other ground surfaces.

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  • AMH

    I supinate pretty dramatically and have been running in the Adidas adios 2, but it’s a little narrow. Can you recommend a curved shoe that won’t pinch my pinky toe?

  • Matt

    Your best bet is probably the Asics Gel Lyte33 2 (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageWRS-AL332W1.html). We don’t carry any other minimum neutral shoes with a curved shape, a bit more width in the forefoot, and a similar weight/stack height/heel-to-toe offset as your adios 2′s. Hope that helps!

  • Andrea Palmer

    What do you suggest for someone who is not a runner but does a lot of hiit cardio?? I supinate pretty bad!! Thanks!!

  • Matt

    Hi Andrea, you have a lot of good options for HIIT workouts. Check out the Brooks PureConnect 2, Inov-8 RoadXTreme line, Asics Gel Lyte33 2, New Balance 1010, and Saucony Kinvara, which are all popular shoes with our customers who supinate.