Runner’s World Apparently Doesn’t Understand Feet [Part 1]

old-runners-worldThere was a time, back about 20 years ago, where people used to read these things called Magazines. They arrived in the mail about once a month and it was typically the only long-form journalism that people had access to (back before the Internet). Runner’s World was one of those publications and a lot of people subscribed. I was even one of them for a while.

Unfortunately, it appears that RW has gotten lazy in their ability to stay up to date on certain topics. Their social media department is cranking out more than 25 tweets a day so they’re constantly going to the well to dig up stuff to make their “advetorial” content seem less sale-sy.

One such article showed up on December 10th, 2016 and, while I don’t even know how to get to Twitter, I have a team of people that monitor news sources and they brought it to my attention.  If this had shown up on Facebook they probably would have flagged it for being “Fake News” given the fact that the article takes about ten steps back from our current understanding on the topic.  Here’s the tweet:

Runners World Pronation Story

I’m obviously opinionated but I also do, on occasion, pick up a book and read about what has changed since the 90’s when they started writing about this subject.  The link to the article is buried behind the image of the tweet but you don’t need to feel obligated to click.  Instead, I’m going to devote a couple of blog posts to debunking this baloney:

Pronation is the inward movement of the foot as it rolls to distribute the force of impact of the ground as you run

OK, though this is the most simplistic explanation of what pronation is in the history of….well, ever, we ARE dealing with a publication meant for readers without any kind of science or anatomy background so we’re off to an OK start  (“pronation” for those of you who are interested, is actually a tri-planar movement that, when combined causes the two major joint axes of the midfoot to move relatively parallel to each other and allow the foot to become flexible so that the body can adapt to and absorb shock from the ground).

The foot “rolls” inward about fifteen percent

annnnnd we hit our first speedbump. Not sure where they (“they” being the person(s) who actually wrote the article, which for some reason remains ambiguously unidentified) got this number but it is highly variable depending on the individual. For instance, someone with a very flexible foot often goes through a lot of pronation (more on that later) versus someone with a high rigid arch who often has difficulty with adequate pronation and relies on more rotation through the tibia instead of movement through the foot and ankle joint.

comes in complete contact with the ground, and can support your body weight without any problem.

Sort of. While it’s true that pronation does help your foot make full contact with the ground, the concept that it can support your body weight “without any problem” is pretty misleading. Problems supporting your body weight are exactly where the issues begin, not because the foot is structurally unable to accomplish the task, but because it is not an easy endeavor for many reasons. Excess body weight being one obvious one, but weakness in any muscle group up the kinetic chain is another one. Did you know that the Glute Max is actually one of the most important muscles in controlling pronation at the foot? Yep, that’s right. Your hip strength has as much, and I would even argue based on what I have been preaching about clinically for years, MORE impact on the pronation of your foot than anything in your lower leg, but I digress…

is critical to proper shock absorption, and it helps you push off evenly from the front of the foot.

Well, ok, except now we’re talking about pronation of the forefoot when we are talking about push-off phase. The rearfoot has moved into supination (or should have) by this point to create a rigid lever for propulsion. In actuality, the statement by RW might lead you to believe that you would WANT to push off with a fully pronated foot to help you “push off evenly from the front of the foot” which entirely contradicts the entire point of their article. This statement also makes no sense from a biomechanical perspective unless you separate out and address pronation in the various parts of the foot, which they don’t even attempt to discuss, despite the total confusion it causes for anyone trying to understand whether pronation is good or bad. Which, if you haven’t already guessed it, is neither. Pronation isn’t good OR bad…it just is. Any movement in the body can cause injury if there is too much or too little of it. And every movement affects other movements up and down the kinetic chain. You can’t isolate one issue as being the cause of a problem, you HAVE to take the whole body into account to solve the puzzle.

But that’s a story for another day…and another blog post.  The continuation of this 4-part blog will is linked at the bottom of this post.

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

Part 2: “Normal” Pronation

Part 3: Overpronation