Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2

The Pronation Debate

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pro·na·tion

[proh-ney-shuhn] 

noun

1. rotation of the hand or forearm so that the surface of the palm is facing downward or toward the back (opposed to supination ).
2. a comparable motion of the foot consisting of abduction followed by eversion.
3. the position assumed as the result of this rotation.
4. any similar motion of the limbs or feet of animals.
(dictionary.com)

Pronation. It’s something all runners hear about, but as emerging research suggests, it’s something few runners – or physical therapists, or shoe fitters, or trainers, or anyone – fully understand.

I’ve written on this topic a number of times, usually in frustration alongside a bad shoe experience. I have long been of the belief that if my foot over-pronates on its own, and gets me through life without injury every single day, why do I suddenly want to change that simply because I am running? What other up-chain effects is that change in natural motion having on the rest of my body?

It seems like every time I go online lately, there’s a new study regarding pronation making the rounds. The most recent one, from Runblogger, highlights much of the same frustrations I have and discusses some of the newer research as well. If you have a chance, I strongly recommend giving this a read – if nothing else, I hope it at least begins a conversation among runners regarding the utility of using “pronation” (and its close cousin, arch height) as a knee-jerk primary means for determining which shoe to choose.

I have been told that I need everything from a neutral shoe to a motion control shoe. How’s that for a conclusive model of pronation control? I have found, however, through trial and error, including picking a pair of shoes on my own out of frustration, that for the distances I am running, I do best with a touch of stability. Too much stability? It feels like I’m walking on the outsides of my feet (remember when we were kids and used to do that to be silly? Fun then, not so fun when running 13.1 miles). Too little stability? Well, it turns out that my problems with too little stability aren’t at all related to my feet – that’s simply where the weakness manifests itself most visibly (because, let’s face it, that’s where all eyes are when watching runners, especially when watching runners trying on new shoes). No, my stability issue actually lies in the hips. It took a slow-mo analysis of my gait after a stress fracture to figure this out. But how many people actually go through a gait analysis like this? Sometimes it can be difficult to see, or feel, exactly where a weakness lies.

Shoes are too expensive to be ignorantly fitted, and PT isn’t a bargain, either!

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