Best Shoes for Supination 2019 Reviewed & Rated
It is estimated that about 10% of the population has over-supinated feet, where the feet roll outwards in motion, and weight is borne on the outside of the feet. While the condition is closely related to high arches, the two are not the same, and over-supination has unique causes and effects. This condition has not yet been closely studied, except as a symptom of other medical conditions, and is little understood by itself.
Many people find themselves looking for solutions for over-supinated feet when they have unusual foot pain or discomfort on the job, or find that their feet impair their athletic performance. It’s important to understand the causes and effects of supinated feet, how they relate to the rest of the body, and how they differ from normal feet. That way we can find the best shoes for supination and prevent negative health consequences.
Some people have naturally supinated feet, where the foot curls inward and bears weight more on the outside of the foot than directly downward on the sole.
Many people with slight supination don’t experience any foot pain or problems unless they begin a physically strenuous exercise regimen, or get a job that puts prolonged stress on the feet. However, hyper- or over-supination (also called “under-pronation”) is one of the most damaging foot conditions, responsible for a large percentage of ankle sprains and injuries, and has negative effects for the biomechanics of the whole body.
Last update on 2019-08-20 PST – Details
Best Women’s Shoes for Supination
Last update on 2019-08-20 PST – Details
What are Supinated Feet?
Supination is a biomechanical foot problem. In the normal gait, with each step, weight is transferred evenly from the heel to the pad of the foot beneath the big toe with each step. The foot naturally has extra padding in these areas which help provide resiliency and impact protection, and the arch of the foot facilitates smooth motion and absorbs shock.
While most of the weight is transferred from back to front (heel to toe), some amount of the weight is also transferred laterally, from slightly to the outside of the heel, slightly toward the inside of the foot beneath the big toe. So the natural range of motion is not only back to front, but also slightly outward to inward.
If a person supinates when they walk, they tend to place the outside of their heel down first, and the weight stays toward the outside of the foot as it rolls forward, using less of the foot’s natural arch and padding beneath the big toe to absorb and disperse pressure and impact.
What’s The Difference Between High Arches & Over-Supination?
Supination is due to unusual body mechanics, and not always due to unusual foot anatomy. However, supination often goes along with usually high, tight foot arches, where the ball of the foot is pulled toward the heel. In severe cases, the toes can even be pulled either upward or downward, due to the tension in the tendons.
In other words, supination is potentially a problem with how you move, while high arches are potentially a problem with the foot is shaped. The two often go together; high arches can cause supination in the gait, and vice versa.
In both instances, mild cases are usually not painful or a cause for concern. However, an unusually high arch or an unusually supinated gait can put unusual pressure and strain on the feet, ankles, and knees. Many people only discover that they have unusual feet after an injury, when they have foot pain, or when they begin activities or careers that place unusual demands on the feet.
Why are Supinated Feet a Problem?
Over-supination can be a problem for a few reasons:
Gait Does not Effectively Use The Natural Foot Cushioning
The foot has natural fat pads in the heel below the ankle bone, and in the ball of the foot beneath the big toe. That natural padding normally functions to cushion the foot and the skeleton from the impact of walking, absorbing some of the impacts of each step. A stride that doesn’t focus pressure on these natural cushions has a greater impact on the rest of the body with every step.
Gait Does not Effectively Use The Arch of The Foot
The arch of the foot normally provides flexible, elastic support for the foot and the rest of the body. Its flexibility helps to provide stability, compensating for uneven surfaces and balancing the body.
Puts Excess Pressure on The Ankle & Outside of The Leg
Instead of putting pressure directly onto the heel, a supinated foot puts pressure on the outside of the heel. This forces the outside of the ankle and lower leg into a slightly unusual position and forces them to do more work for stabilization.
What are the Health Impacts of Supinated Feet?
This unusual wear and pressure pattern in the feet can have a number of health effects for the rest of the body, including:
Frequent Ankle Sprains and Strains
Over-supination puts pressure on the outside of the leg, straining the tendons and ligaments on the outside of the ankle. This causes the ankles to strain and sprain more often.
People who over-supinate and work on their feet or engage in high-impact or high-endurance athletic activities often experience stress fractures in their fourth and fifth metatarsal bones, the ones that support the fourth toe and the pinky toe. This is because their feet don’t transfer pressure to the more heavily padded areas of the feet.
Tight, Sore Calves and Lower Legs
Unfortunately, supination puts more pressure on the outside of the leg, which can tighten those muscles and tissues, and in turn cause more supination. The problem grows more exaggerated over time, not less.
When the arch of the foot is stressed, it can inflame the plantar fascia that connects the heel and toe. Plantar fasciitis results in sharp pain in the heel or arch of the foot, especially when bearing weight. It can be caused by a variety of foot stresses and strains but is often a result of over-supination.
What Causes Supinated Feet?
Because it only affects about 10% of the population, over-supination is not as thoroughly studied or well understood as overpronation. However, here are some of the causes that have been identified to date.
While not all people with high arches also over-supinate, the two tend to go together. If the high arches were acquired early in life, a person may have acquired a supinated walk as a consequence. Likewise, if a person developed a supinated walk-in childhood, the arches may have raised and contracted over time in response.
People with a tendency toward bow-leggedness or who have toes that turn inward also naturally over-supinate. These structural differences can be due to a variety of developmental differences and are occasionally caused by childhood illnesses or nutritional deficiencies.
Illness or Injury
There are a number of illnesses and injuries that can cause a person’s gait to alter and their weight distribution to shift in adulthood. Damage to the bones, ligaments, or tendons in the lower leg may cause them to contract unusually, forcing the foot into an unusual position to compensate.
What to Do About Supinated Feet?
If your supinated feet are causing pain and problems, it’s important to see a podiatrist. If your feet over-supinate due to an anatomical issue, then they can be supported with the right footwear and care, but the supination can seldom be corrected unless the health problems are so severe that they require surgery.
If your feet over-supinate because of a biomechanical issue and are causing health problems, then a doctor may refer you to a physical therapist or sports therapist who can work with you to try to correct your gait by strengthening your supportive muscles and loosening your tendons. It can be a long process, but with lasting benefits to alleviate foot, leg, and back pain, and live with less pain and greater endurance.
Almost all Supinated Feet can Benefit from Exercise & Stretches
Exercises that stretch and strengthen the arch of the foot, the ankles, and the lower leg are of great benefit for supinated feet. Some excellent exercises for supinated feet are:
- Standing on one leg, concentrating on keeping the whole foot flat on the ground. Standing on one leg challenges the foot and ankle to stay flat and stable, and strengthens the small supporting muscles in the arch of the foot and ankle. When it gets easy, close your eyes
- Stretching your calves and Achilles tendon. You can gently stretch these parts of your body by either placing your palms against a wall and stepping one leg backward into a stretch position, or by sitting and looping a towel around the ball of your foot and gently pulling it toward you
- While sitting in a chair, lift your leg so that your toe is pointed, with the tip of your big toe just touching the floor. Without moving your knee, use your big toe to “write” the alphabet on the floor. This exercise gently takes your ankle through its full range of motion without any pressure, increasing strength and control.
Wear The Correct Shoes for Supinated Feet
No matter how much or how little you supinate, the best shoes for supination will help to support your feet and prevent long-term injuries from stress and wear.
Best Shoes for Supinated Feet
Flexibility maximizes the inward rotation of the foot, helping to compensate for over supination. Most shoes are designed for those who pronate their feet normally, or over-pronate, so they have additional support and resistance on the inner arch and midsole. For supinators, this additional support tends to exacerbate supination, since the support in the shoe is resisting inward motion. Instead, look for shoes with a very flexible, cushioned midsole that allows as much inward motion as possible.
While most shoes offer their greatest support through the arch and midsole, supinators need greater support at the outer edge through the middle of the shoe, where they tend to wear shoes down first. Look for density, rigidity, and support on the outside sole of the shoe, and cushioning on the inside sole, to encourage your feet to roll inward.
Over-supinators usually have fragile ankles, so shoes that have greater support for the ankle can help to prevent strain and injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: How Does Pronation Cause Injury?
- A: Pronation can lead to various injuries like Plantar Fasciitis because the weight is distributed to certain parts of the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the foot.
- Q: What Features Should Supination Shoes Have?
- A: The most important features is proper arch support with cushioning and flexibility.
- Q: How Do I Choose the Right Size?
- A: You want your shoes to be tight but not too tight to the point where they hurt you. You want some room for your heel, but it should not be too loose. If you are unsure, always go half a size up.
Mildly supinated feet may not cause any pain or problems at all, particularly if a person doesn’t work on their feet, doesn’t wear high-heeled shoes, or doesn’t partake in high-impact or endurance athletic activities. It could be that supination is more common than we currently think, simply because mild cases don’t merit special care or treatment. However, severe cases of hyper-supination can be painful and difficult to manage without special care and treatment.
While extreme pain and discomfort, or sudden changes in body dynamics, should always be taken to a doctor for evaluation and advice, it’s possible for a person with supinated feet to practice healthy habits with their feet and wear shoes that will support their gait. Care and attention can help support supinated feet and prevent ongoing pain and potential injury in the body. Learn about the best shoes for supination and make the educated choice for your long term health.