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Do You Pronate?: A Shoe Fitting Tale

Hoka PronationLast week I stopped by my local Dick’s Sporting Goods store one evening to pick up a pair of shoes that had just been released (yes, I know, that was my first mistake). It seemed that there was only one person working the shoe department, so I was sitting on a bench waiting for her to finish helping another customer who had arrived just before me. Listening to their conversation made me cringe.

When asked if she needed help, the woman told the clerk that she was looking for a pair of sneakers similar to the ones she was currently wearing. They were some model of Saucony, I think she called them Sonomas or something like that, so she clearly wasn’t a shoe geek. She just wanted a pair of comfortable shoes that weren’t too brightly colored.

The clerk’s next question for her was “Do you pronate?” It was all I could do to not intervene. The clerk told her that “If you pronate, you should get one of the shoes labeled stability.” The customer clearly had no clue what the clerk was asking her, and she was looking at her like she had three heads. The clerk attempted to clarify by saying something along the lines of “Do your ankles roll in?” Again confusion. I bit my tongue. No further attempt to explain, no attempt to assess. The clerk walked to the shoe wall and picked a few suggestions.

I always struggle in situations like this because I think a lot about this topic, and it was a perfect moment to help someone out and maybe educate a bit in the process. But at the same time, I’m not a confrontational sort (at all) and you never know how someone will react when you call them out [I once tried talking to the owner of a local shoe store - not a run specialty store - about his fitting process (they have a fancy arch scanner machine). I don’t think he appreciated my thoughts.]. It was pretty clear that the woman was not going to be running in the shoes based on her comments when trying them on, so I opted to keep my mouth shut.

This entire exchange reinforced for me why I hate the whole pronation model of fitting shoes. First, the question “Do you pronate?” revealed that the clerk didn’t really understand what pronation is, and was probably just repeating something she had been told to ask by a manager, brand, or store fitting procedure. The reality is that everybody pronates, and pronation is a completely normal movement. (I should note that the term pronation as used colloquially is typically equivalent to rearfoot eversion, the actual movement is a bit more complex) We might vary in how much we pronate, but asking someone if they pronate is like asking them if they breathe. I’d actually be much more concerned if the customer had revealed that no, she doesn’t pronate. At all. That would be worrisome.

The second thing that bugged me is that the customer had no clue what this clerk was talking about. So we have someone who doesn’t understand what pronation is asking a question about pronation of someone who seems to have never heard the word used before.

Third, asking someone if they pronate and expecting an accurate response is kind of silly. If you’re going to go so far as to use the level of pronation to help fit a shoe, shouldn’t you at least try to assess it somehow? Did she expect the customer to say “Why yes, I have 10 degrees of eversion.”

And finally, even if there was an accurate assessment of how much this customer pronated, I still have yet to see strong evidence saying A) how much pronation is too much for a given individual, B) that any given shoe is effective at controlling pronation when you look at the actual movement of the foot inside the shoe (and there are no data I’m aware of showing the relative pronation-controlling effectiveness of the various shoes on the market), or C) that fitting a shoe based on amount of pronation is warranted or effective from an injury prevention standpoint. I like this statement on the topic in the newly released guidelines on selecting running shoes from the American College of Sports Medicine (an interesting document that I should write about – I have mixed feelings about it on the whole):

“Be aware that all runners pronate, or drop the foot inward. Pronation is a normal foot motion during walking and running. Pronation alone should not be a reason to select a running shoe. Runners may be told while shopping that because pronation is occurring, a shoe with arch support is best. In fact, the opposite may be true. Pronation should occur and is a natural shock absorber. Stopping pronation with materials in the shoes may actually cause foot or knee problems to develop.”

For another example, Dr. Benno Nigg of the University of Calgary, one of the most widely respected experts on running shoes and biomechanics, had this to say in his 2010 book Biomechanics of Sports Shoes:

“…the perceived dangers of overpronating and the expectation of resulting injuries resulted in technologies (e.g., dual density midsoles and orthotics) being developed to decrease both the maximum pronation as well as the time to maximum pronation. These products were (wrongly) assumed to be methods for the treatment and prevention of pathologies such as plantar fasciitis, tibial stress fractures, and patella-femoral pain syndrome. Evidence for the effectiveness of such strategies is currently unavailable. It is speculated that there is no such evidence because “overpronation,” as it occurs in typical runners, is not a critical predisposition for injuries.”

“Pronation and supination have long been the “danger variables” hanging over the sport shoe community, but their time as the most important aspects of sport shoe construction is over. Pronation is a natural movement of the foot and “excessive pronation” is a very rare phenomenon. Shoe developers, shoe stores, and medical centres should not be too concerned about “pronation” and “overpronation.”

(For more along these lines, read this great article on pronation by Ian Griffiths.)

This pronation business frustrates me on a personal level because I was “diagnosed” as an overpronator when I first started running (and at the time I didn’t have the knowledge to know better). My diagnostic procedure involved me being eyeballed while trotting about 10 feet across the floor of a store. I’ve since come to realize that I do pronate a fair amount, but I seem to do better when I let the movement happen.

I’m also frustrated because I often see clients in the clinic who tell me they were sold a specific shoe because they are “overpronators.” Often these clients have very average pronation when considered in the context of the range of pronation that I have observed. Many of them are scared to try something else because they were told that they are an “overpronator” and thus need added support/stability. That’s what bothers me most. Once you get pigeonholed as a dreaded “overpronator,” fear of injury dictates your future shoe options (Don’t you dare try a neutral shoe!). It prevents you from trying something different that might be  a better match for your stride.

Coming back to the store clerk, I don’t blame her in this situation. She was probably just doing what she was told to do by management. I blame store management, or whoever helped them develop their fitting protocols. I blame brands that continue to promote this method of fitting shoes on their websites. I don’t think pronation should be the first thing asked about when fitting shoes. And if you are going to ask about it, at least explain to your employees what it is, when it might be relevant to an injury history, and train them how to assess it in a somewhat meaningful way (e.g., while someone is actually running, recognizing that there are limitations even here when you can’t see what the foot is doing inside the shoe). If you can’t do these things, don’t even bother bringing it into the fitting process. 

Are there times when attempting to control pronation with a shoe is warranted? Sure, absolutely. But assigning a shoe based on asking someone “Do you pronate?” is just plain silly.

For more, you can read a free chapter on pronation from my book, Tread Lightly. Access the chapter here.

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Pete –

    Great post! It addresses a fantastic issue that even running specialty stores could learn from. I started running in the Newton 5th lug Distance, and LOVE IT (stability by ground contact) which seems to address the issue above from a ‘shoe mechanics’ perspective.

    My question is how much inward role during the ‘crash’ portion of the gait cycle is too much in your opinon? I’ve noticed a lot of my fellow runners that have an higher amount of inward role, that are placed in a shoe with a strong medial posting (plastic or otherwise) develop pain on the lateral side of the knee.

    Is there a happy medium to be found?

    -rc

    • I think it depends on the individual. I have some thoughts that I need to write up, but basically for myself I don’t like a shoe that increases initial pronation velocity too much (e.g., to hard in the lateral heel like the Mizuno Sayonara) or that caves medially in the forefoot too much just prior to re-supination (like the Hoka in the picture at the top of the post, or the Nike Pegasus). I don’t care how much I pronate, I want shoes that work with my natural range of motion and don’t try to control it or exacerbate it.

      • Hi, my name is Jake, I tried posting on the forum, but could not figure it out. I have been told that I over pronate, which is why i switched out of kinvaras after a stress fracture. I now have run in the pure cadence 1( which give me arch pain) and the asics gt2000(which just don’t work for me fit wise). I am thinking about the brooks launch, but am worried that it will increase my pronation because of one article recently stating that some neutral shoes increase pronation because they are meant to combat supination? I am asking you for help because all of your articles have made so much sense and are reasoned out. I will be running at the collegiate level next year and need a good shoe to consistently train. I am 5’11″ 140 lbs with a midfoot strike. Thank you so much for your help!

  2. Excellent points, as usual, Pete! My wife wants to try on a lot of different shoes as she starts getting more serious about running. But, the prospect of sending her to a running store makes me nervous, because I know she’ll get put through the “pronation” test. But, that’s the best place for her to try on a variety of shoes. It’s a dilemma. ;)

  3. Years ago I was fitted for some plastic-chunk Nike control shoes, AND even worse, big-arched insoles to help all of that pronation. A bout with physical therapy for terrible ITBS later, I started with Saucony Mirage’s, moved to Kinvara’s, and now Virrat’s, GoRuns, and A5′s. I’m 100% convinced that all of the extreme added pressure to my legs caused the IT band stuff, and I find myself hinting to people who didn’t solicit my advice in stores to stay away. I can’t help it.

  4. Lindsay Knake says:

    I cringed just imagining this scene and feel your pain at not knowing whether to get involved. In casual chats with runners and non-runners about shoes, I’ve mentioned the fact that perhaps not every single person needs “support” in their shoes, and that varying degrees of pronation is actually normal. Most of them looked at me like I was crazy. I tried simply convey the message that different shoes work for different runners, and that’s OK. But we like things that fit into neat little packages. “Your foot is shaped like this, so buy this shoe.”

    Unfortunately, employees at several running shoe stores I’ve visited have been (seemingly) know-it-alls trying to convince my not to buy certain shoes when they don’t know anything about me. Not that I take their advice. But the new runner might be a little intimidated by their attitude, and it’s too bad. Is there a way to change that conversation? I’m not really sure what it is.

    When runner friends and acquaintances have asked me about shoes, I basically told them the same thing you do in your fairly recent blog post about it. Now I’ll just send them the link!

  5. I “pronate” quite a bit and have found myself on multiple occasions arguing with running store employees to try on the shoes I’m interested in trying on – they don’t want to even bring out anything but stability shoes for me. Even when I persist, and explain that I’ve been running in neutral shoes for several years with no injury, they still tsk tsk that I want to try on a racing flat or lightweight cushioned shoe.

    So frustrating that this is still the standard way of selling shoes, even in specialized running stores in an active city like Denver. Why should I be made to feel ashamed or like I’m putting myself in danger for wanting to try on a variety of the products that THEY STOCK on their shelves?

  6. Years ago, before I became a more competent and experienced runner, I went to Dick’s to purchase some new running shoes. I talked to the salesguy about shoes and he brought out some Asics that he said were good for “overpronators”–now, this was before he even saw my gait or asked me about pronating (not that I would have known what he was talking about). I guess there was something about me that just said “overpronator” to him. I do pronate a bit more than what might be considered optimal, and I don’t have a pronounced arch, but I say embrace your pronating, flat feet because they help absorb shock. I only race in flats and do most of my training in them, and am still not injured.

    With the easy returns from online retailers, I see no need to bother with the salespeople at brick and mortar stores. I can try as many crazy minimalist shoes and flats as I want without listening to useless advice.

  7. Seems that pronation is to running what fat was to eating: It’s something that is feared to death, to be avoided at all costs, and any means to stop it are justified. Fortunately, we’ve seen that naturally occurring fat (including saturated fat) is not the vile poison we once thought it was. It’s a healthy component of all sorts of food.

    Similarly, posts like this are informing us that in fact pronation is normal! Everyone does it! Trying to block this natural process by way of fancy foam and plastic may cause more problems than it solves.

  8. I appreciate Jon Gugala’s guest posts viewing vintage running shoes through a sneakerhead fashion perspective (being a vicarious sneakerhead myself) but I thought it somewhat ironic (or is it appropriate?) that this post would come so soon after Jon’s article on the 1977 Brooks Vantage with its “varus wedge” and other “stabilizing technologies.”

    • Ironic and appropriate I think :) I think there are times when a varus wedge might be of benefit, I just don’t like the shoe fitting model that shoes like the Vantage spawned.

      • Yeah, I imagine with the variability inherent in runners’ anatomy and running form, chances are that just about any “shoe technology” will actually serve its stated purpose for at least certain subgroups of runners.

        Like a lot of shoe geeks, though, I’m often guilty of holding on to pairs long after I realize that they don’t work for me as running shoes, and use them for casual wear instead. (For me, this mostly applies to Nike, Adidas, and Reebok shoes—say what you will about their products’ durability, pricing, weight, heel-toe offset, and extraneous “technology,” but their designers really know how to make what are essentially good-looking “fashion running shoes” for just kicking around the neighborhood. Except for the Adidas Springblade. No one looks good wearing that.)

  9. My first time to a running store landed me in motion control shoes. I have bunions (I have since I was a kid), and flexible feet, and I believed that I had low arches (what I have are high-arched, low volume feet.) The shoes were okay but had flared heels and I felt clunky.

    I went to the running store’s competition to get a pair of trail shoes. The sales girl took one look at my giant motion control blocks and observed that I was way too small of a runner (~130 lb) to be in a shoe meant for heavyset people.

    Another store thinks, based on arch height, that I should be in a cushioned neutral shoe.

    Through some trial and error, I’ve found that I do better with a low (less than 4mm offset), with a firmer shoe, and with some stability. Rather a tricky combination! (Currently running roads in Altra Torins + blue superfeet (too squishy), trails in Saucony Peregrine (new shoes but I think I’m in love)

    But what I’ve really learned — the shoe is far less important than maintaining hip strength and core strength, at least for me.

  10. This is so familiar, and well written. Having been running now for 8 years and with an interest in shoes and gear it always amazes me, the conversations I hear in sports retail stores and even running speciality stores. I really really have to focus elsewhere not to take part in the discussions. Among the most frustration thing is that there is no other “short and handy” method available and judgeing only from how comfortable a shoe is is very difficult as most modern shoes are very very comfortable on initial try-out.

    • I agree, and the lack of a better model is part of what is holding us back. I honestly think, as unsatisfying as it may be, that a bit of trial and error is going to be necessary for most people. And that’s part of why I don’t like the pronation model, because once you are assigned to a category, the range of shoes you might “trial” gets unnecessarily restricted to that one category.

      • Peter,
        I’m relatively new to running and was told I over pronate and directed to wear x,y, or z shoes. I wore them and had a lot of injuries. I switched to Newton’s. They helped me switch from heel running to mid-foot running. I’d like to try some other shoes, but I have no idea what to purchase. I don’t want to go to a running store. How do I really know what shoes I should be running in?

        • Have you had any injury issue in the Newton’s? Which specific pair/model do you have.

          • For the past few years I’ve been wearing the
            the Newton Motion 2011’s. My left knee gets sore when I run too fast down hill and my right foot has plantar fasciitis, off and on.

            Thanks for your advice!!!

  11. Peter, I Think I somehow understand where you getting at, but could you come a little closer to when (how many degrees eversion) one should choose a pronation shoe or not? Is it just a trial/error, and if unlucky you’re getting an injuri??
    Kindlly
    Jan

    • I think it’s highly individual, and don’t see a lot of value in putting a threshold value to apply across the board. There is an interesting concept called the pronation buffer that has appeared recently, and it focuses not so much on how much someone pronates (which is highly variable), but rather how much of their passive range of movement they use dynamically while running (which is also variable). I think individualized approaches like this are more valuable, but are also more difficult to implement, particularly in a store setting. Given that, I tend toward leaving stuff like this to clinicians and not trying to do it in a store.

      Here’s a link to an article on the pronation buffer idea: link to lowerextremityreview.com

      • Thx for your reply Peter :-) – ok then Peter, I’ll have to go by without an “threshold” then :-D , the info/link to the pronation buffer is apparently more valuable to me, indeed interesting reading by the way! I’ve been consulting a physiotherapist, specialized in runners problems/injuries. He has made several test with me on the treadmill, capturing my running style/over pronation on the right foot. I recall that my over pronation was around 5 deg. He also placed insoles, with sensors to measure the pressure from my feet when landing on them, in my shoes, and from these measurements( shown as colored areas, indicating where the highest pressure was) he made new insoles for my shoes to equalize the pressure. Back then I was a heel striker, but the last year I’ve been trying to change to mid foot/fore foot running.
        As I recall it, he only measured the dynamic pronation. Maybe I should suggest him to measure the passive pronation next time I’ll consult him… I’m hoping for an “approval” to try one of the Skechers running shoes, sounds great, AND light, yummee :-D
        Sorry for the long post :-/
        Kindly
        Jan

        • What injury are you seeing the PT for?

          • Well, at first(several years ago) it was because of an injury in my R groin muscle. Back then he suggested a treadmill test/foot position test as described above, to see if there was any “failures”. Until then I’ve been running in neutral shoes, but after the tests, he advised me to use a pronation shoe and the special made insole, because of my moderate over pronation on my R foot. In the following years I did, on and off, have some difficulties with my calf muscle on the L leg, and in the past two years I’ve had a sore Achilles’ tendon on the L leg, and that caused me to slow down/reduce mileage. I haven’t consulted my PT for a couple of years by now. In fact, I just had surgery on my left heel, a bone had grown out on the in side of the Achilles’ tendon, the bone was removed, and I’m looking forward to begin running again in July. Loooong history :-/

          • Good luck!

      • Solid link to LER. However, I think it’s strange they dont reference Dr. Powers research that orthotics have no impact on tibial rotation when using bone pins and a X Ray. Hmmmm. Selective science?

        One addition to Jan’s question and Petes response: I think coming up with an absolute number is tricky because there is a huge difference in pronation/arch drop/heel eversion between men and women, and when people run at different paces.

      • Phil Shaw says:

        The pronation buffer concept seems very similar to the classic biomechanical concept of resting calcaneal stance position (RCSP) versus neutral calcaneal stance position (NCSP), albeit in a dynamic model. The goal of both is to find whether the patient’s rearfoot is at its end range-of-motion, then shift them away from end ROM through motion controlling techniques like strengthening/PT/ gait modification or through devices like shoes and orthotics.

        Though its hard to define excessive pronation in relatively young active runners, clinicians can clearly recognize excessive pronation in its later stages when we see severe midtarsal and subtalar joint arthritis. These joints have jammed at the end ROM for years and have developed severe spurring and cartilage degeneration. Now its too late.

        The point, though not very helpful clinically, is that pronation is excessive when it is symptomatic. I know, its tautological. PT tendonitis? I’d call that excessive pronation. Talonavicular arthritis? Excessive pronation. But simple plantar fasciosis? Not so much. I find myself telling patients frequently that flat feet and pronation are not a problem, until they are a problem. Until we can predict these things reliably, let symptoms be the guide. In the meantime, experiment with all types of shoes because you might be surprised.

        • “…pronation is excessive when it is symptomatic. I know, its tautological. PT tendonitis? I’d call that excessive pronation.” Agree with all of this, thanks Phil!

  12. Timely post, Pete.

    Please elaborate on the times when a pronation control shoe is warranted.

    I’m a “new” runner this year—running in Pearl Izumi road and trail N1s , Kinvaras, MT110s—and am nursing my way around post/ant shin splints from TMTS syndrome.

    I actually tried running a couple of years ago, but gave myself a stress fracture (fit cyclist + TMTS).

    So now that I’m ramping up again—feeling the splints coming on—I went proactive and picked up Pearl Izumi M3s for recovery or for when I expect my form to fatigue. Hoping it’ll help, because restraint hasn’t been my strong suit.

    Thanks!

    • So interesting that you mention the MT110. That is a shoe that caused an injury for me (tib posterior tendonitis), and I think the reason why is it exacerbated my max pronation. The shoe had a slanted sole, thicker along the outer border, and caused me to roll in excessively on the right side. Stopped using the shoe and the pain went away. This is a case where I think a shoe caused excessive pronation beyond my normal range, and that’s when I start to worry.

      Issues like tib posterior problems, maybe medial shin splints, maybe ITBS (though typically more concerned with hips here) are times when I might look at what is going on at the foot with regard to pronation. For anterior shin splints I look more to excessive pre-tensing of the anterior tibialis prior to contact, followed by a big heel strike and foot slap.

      Do you notice any of your issues being worse in any of the shoes you mentioned?

      • I have the revised MT110s which are supposed to be flat. But because of the lug pattern there’s a little lateral lift. I’ve only used them for 5k races though; my form doesn’t get a chance to fall apart.

        When I got the posterior stress fracture (self-diagnosed, couldn’t cross the street to the car from the track!) I was in the Pure Connects. I could definitely feel an inward roll in those; the pod placement exaggerated the speed and range of pronation. Too bad too, such a nice midsole.

        This year, the posterior splints rear its ugly head whenever I run fatigued, run too slow, most likely both. Not really shoe specific.

        The anterior splints show up after faster runs, I think when my legs are too tired to keep up with the pavement; perhaps from lifting my forefoot for ground clearance and then dragging on contact?

        Always thought I was flat-footed—lifetime of poor posture, duck-footed, arches collapsed—but from running I’ve begun to develop my arches. I considered myself a mid-foot runner but after seeing the animated foot-strike maps—thanks for those—I learned I’ve been running on my forefeet.

        The weak arches plus the strain from forefoot running is why I wanted to try the M3s. Will it give the tibialis posterior a break?

        Totally different discussion: I wonder if hours on the saddle, considering the mechanics of bike shoes and cycling, is undoing the progress my feet are making. The reason I got into running is to strengthen my feet for cycling; I used to get arch cramps from long, hard efforts. Totally interested in your thoughts on this.

        • Carl, I think you hit the nail on the head when you’re talking about your shin splint coming when you’re fatigued, change your speed, etc.

          Our lab findings support using “pronation control” more like a guard rail–something to prevent you from going too far into pronation when you get tired, change speeds or surfaces, etc.

          Peoples rates of pronation do change over the course of a “real world” run. Just like I think it is wrong that Pete’s initial diagonsis of being an overpronator by having a naked eye exam in a 15yd run, I also think it is wrong to think that no one needs support or control during some part of their run training.

          As for bike cramps–we’ve seen a lot of those come from stress on the sciatic nerve during cycling, usually from a swollen or tight piriformis but it could be from a number of things. If it is caused by something in the foot, it’s usually not foot weakness but instead a poor fitting shoe or a cleat that isnt optimally aligned…

          Hope this helps your journey!

  13. Mike Graber says:

    I have never quite figured out this pronation question. I have flat feet. I run in 0-drop, neutral shoes: PureDrift (with a flat Altra insole) and Cursoris. I actually twist my foot inward to land on the first metatarsal. But I have no wear under the first (big) toe; all the wear on the front of the shoe is under the second, third and fourth toes. So I seem to be twisting laterally, after my foot contact. This is opposite to pronation. It all seems very strange.

  14. Mike,

    I’m very like you. I think the whole flat feet, pronation thing is at best generally true but frequently utter rubbish. If I was to choose shoes based on my ‘wet footprint’ I’d be wearing shoes with steel girders in them for support – flat as a pancake. As a matter of fact all the wear on my shoes is right at the point of the toe, I use only racing flats and and PureFlows, and have only very minor overuse injuries now and again. Having said that – right from the beginning specialist running shop diagnosed me as neutral – but to be neutral my feet and ankles seem to do all sorts of twists and turns.

  15. Kevin Grant says:

    Everything looks like a nail when you’re holding a hammer.

    Until recently, “stability” and “motion control” were the primary selling points for most of the shoes in the market. It’s no wonder so many of us have been steered toward those sorts of shoes. I’m a high-arched underpronator and I’ve had many salespeople tell me I need a motion control shoe, even after they watched me run.

  16. That’s a very well written article and a very interesting observation.
    You are absolutely right that everyone pronates and it’s natural. But when the ankle and foot are not strong enough to sustain that pronation, that’s when the injury strikes. I hope I am right in this sense.
    So, I believe it is all BS which surrounds the motion control or pronation control shoe hoopla. Basically any shoe which gives a comfortable fit is the best shoe for running. Rest is taken care if the lower extremities are strong.

  17. Shawn Slaven says:

    Great post Pete. I was also pigeonholed early and moved away from the clunkier Brooks models to the midway Saucony Mirage. After spending virtually all winter on the treadmill, I ran about 25 miles on pavement during a work trip to Florida when I brought only a neutral shoe (Brooks Flow). I came back with tendonitis in my ankle and had to rest for two weeks. I am not sure if to blame a quick move to pavement, running too much in a “neutral” shoe or both, so I quit running in the Brooks.

    My point is I agree with your philosophy here but it is tough for a layman to know the cause when you pick up an injury like that, and much easier to stick with a shoe I like anyway rather than stepping outside of your box. Is this a way for shoe brands to promote brand loyalty? Probably.

    • Thanks Shawn! MY guess is a combo. Going from treadmill to pavement is as abrupt a change as a sudden change in shoe, if not moreso. You could always rotate the Brooks in on occasion and see if the problem crops back up.

  18. In my experience how much you “pronate” is just one small piece of the puzzle when choosing a good shoe for yourself. I have pretty flat feet and undoubtedly pronate more than average, but if I run relatively slow and focus on form I can get away with a very minimal, zero drop shoe.

    The issue is that I don’t want to run slow and with good form all the time!

    I want to train for full and half marathons and set PRs. That’s just where I am right now with running and so with those goals in mind I need supportive, cushioned shoes to prevent injury to tendons in my lower legs. And yes, I learned this the hard way. So running goals, frequency of training, and competitive mindset are just as important in my opinion as how you proceed through the gait cycle.

  19. Thanks for the post Pete. As someone who works in a running specialty store, the clerk at Dick’s was likely going on some advice of someone who has a limited knowledge of the fitting process for running shoes.

    As you noted, the term pronation is quite natural. I like to tell people that we all pronate to different degrees – some simply roll a bit more than others. Therefore, finding a shoe with the right level of stability requires trying on lots of options, but this is also done in conjunction with total weekly mileage, frequency, an injury history (if any), and the comfort factor – which is supremely important.

    I will say that many stores, big box and run specialty stores, categorize shoes based on pronation because the shoe companies tend to develop their various models based on this emphasis. The gray area, as I noted, is based on the above factors. This is why I love talking with people and finding out what shoe they have run in and whether there have been any issues in it. This feedback provides a great springboard to finding a replacement shoe.

    • I do think the shoe companies are the root of all this nonsense, and they don’t seem to interested in changing even when their biomechanics experts tell them the model is outdated. Until a better model comes along, I don’t foresee them changing course.

  20. This post should be pinned! Very good stuff.

    And yes, the shoe companies are really not interested in changing. Most running shoe design is still stuck in the era of downtube shifters and toe clips/straps.

  21. I think “pronation” and “over-pronation” are 2 poorly chosen words to describe a real category of problems. A bit like “global warming” is a poor choice of words to describe “climate change”.

    This being said, there is no doubt I get injured if I run in shoes that do not have some support on the medial side.
    Is it a side effect of my feet rolling too much inward? Is it the consequence of some structural weakness? Is it the result of some lack of strength in my lower limbs? Is it because I pronate more than normal?
    Maybe none or all of the above.

    But in the end, I cannot pretend I can run in fairy slippers and get away with it. Reality will bring me back to earth and the pain with it.

  22. Great Poster, Pete!

    Conversations like this make me cringe too! It really grinds my gears when people look at something pronation in isolation as well! Pronation could literally be a symptom of a mobility issue at the ankle via decreased ankle dorsiflexion. As a result of insufficient ROM there my foot will be obliged to pronate and thus potentially cause a knee valgus moment. However, this is a mobility issue and people often try to treat it using an orthotic or “special” shoe to control motion when we need more motion! Don’t bring a stability fix to a mobility problem!

    Best,

    Adam Kelly, ATC

  23. Great blog post!! I too have mild pronation, a little more on one foot from a sprained ankle that I haven’t strengthened back completely. However, I find that a neutral shoe is the only way to go for me. The more stability that is added, the more effects my gait and I end up with pains in my hips and knees.

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