Runner’s World Apparently Doesn’t Understand Feet: PART 3

Do you read Runner’s World?  They have definitely published many solid articles over the years, but there are also some that are so outdated in their “science” that I cringe.

This is Part 3 in a series of posts about a recent Runner’s World article titled “Everything You Need to Know about Pronation“.  You can find the previous posts here:

Part 1

Part 2

My last post ended with the Runner’s World video on “Normal Pronation”.  Next we’ll dig into their thoughts on Overpronation.

“As with the “normal pronation” sequence, the outside of the heel makes the initial ground contact. However, the foot rolls inward more than the ideal fifteen percent, which is called “overpronation.” This means the foot and ankle have problems stabilizing the body”

“Overpronation” does NOT mean the foot and ankle have problems stabilizing the body, this is a classic correlation does not equal causation issue. A person’s foot may pronate more than the “average” based on many things, some of them structural and some of them functional. I have been arguing for years that how MUCH you pronate is likely much less important than how FAST you pronate and how LONG you stay there. I have seen many strong, injury-free runners who are considered “overpronators” but have no problem stabilizing their body weight in stance phase because they are strong enough to pull back out of pronation just fine. They also have enough strength in the muscles of the hip, leg, and ankle to control excessive movements up and down the kinetic chain that would normally lead to injury.

“…and shock isn’t absorbed as efficiently. At the end of the gait cycle, the front of the foot pushes off the ground using mainly the big toe and second toe, which then must do all the work…”

Do all the work?  Those are some strong toes to take on all of the work that your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and tons of other muscles would normally be involved in! I will take a stab at interpreting and clarifying the important point here that I think they may have been trying to make. If a person ends up pushing off from a fully pronated position instead of re-supinating in the rearfoot prior to push-off, they will drive off too medially from the big toe (think of the area where someone would have a bunion), which can cause all kinds of issues in the foot, ankle, knee and hip. This is a common problem in a clinical environment, but unfortunately the solution is not just (as implied in this article) to stick them in a stability or motion control shoe and send ‘em happily on their way. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it ten million times…you cannot unload one area without loading another. If you stabilize the foot to unload the stress on that specific area, you are just sending the load up the chain to another structure. This may be fine, but it depends on the history, goals and structural/functional makeup of the runner and what area of the body they will best tolerate the load. The better option is to figure out why the person’s mechanics are causing them to move this way in the first place and help them solve any underlying functional issues.

“Preventing Overpronation Injuries: Overpronation causes extra stress and tightness to the muscles, so do a little extra stretching”

Oh good Lord…this is an entire blog in itself. I’ll spare you the entirety of my opinion on this statement but suffice it to say that people who “overpronate” (by this article’s definition) are often too flexible and the LAST thing they need is stretching!

“Too much motion of the foot can cause calluses, bunions, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.”

Remember how they just told you to stretch?  Stretching is definitely NOT a good idea if you have “too much motion of the foot”.

And now we get to my favorite part of the article: The Runner’s World suggestions on what you can do if you’re an overpronator:

  • “Wear shoes with straight or semi-curved lasts
  • Look for motion-control or stability shoes with firm, multidensity midsoles and external control features that limit pronation 
  • Use over-the-counter orthotics or arch supports” 

Or, you could ignore all of these things and actually find someone who understands biomechanics to help you figure out what’s happening with your body…

I did promise you their video about overpronation.  Whether or not you watch it – that’s up to you.

In Part 4 I’ll dig into the Runner’s World thoughts on Underpronation (hint, hint: they do suggest more stretching)

If you have questions, we’re here to help. We are dedicated to helping runners understand more about their bodies. If you’d like to chat with us or schedule an appointment, you can reach us at 512-266-1000 ext 1 or info@RunLabAustin.com. If you are interested in learning more about gait mechanics from a clinical perspective, check out  www.meetonthetrack.com or contact us for more info.

Happy Trails!

Dr. D