Runners and supination

What is supination?

Supination for the runner is a slight rolling action of the foot towards the little toe. In moderation, it is not necessarily a bad thing and can propel a runner forwards at a faster rate. However, excess supination can put undue stress on the ankle, leading to injury.

What is supination?

The term 'to supinate' literally means to place or hold your hand or foot, with the palm or sole turned upward. In the context of running, supination describes a slight rolling action of the foot toward the little toe side more than the big toe side.

Excess supination can often occur because of an earlier injury. For example, a runner with a previously sprained ankle who has had little or no physiotherapy, the tendons and ligaments that limit the amount the foot can supinate may be damaged or stretched. This leaves the opposing muscles more powerful, thus making it easier to roll the ankle again.

How can you tell if you are a supinator?

Consider the following questions to identify if you are a supinator:

  • Do your shoes wear excessively on the outside edge?
  • Do you have calluses or hard skin along the outside of the foot?
  • Is the joint between your foot and little toe abnormally large?

How do I deal with supination?

As with any runner, regardless of whether they supinate or not, always make sure your shoes are the right ones for you. It's fair to say that excessive supination isn’t the norm, so standard shoe designs may not necessarily be right for you. To determine the degree to which you supinate, go to a specialist running shoe retailer who can offer both pressure plate and video analysis for your running gait. This will determine your shoe requirements.

If a training shoe doesn’t offer enough control for your dgree of supination, there is another option — custom molded footbeds or orthotics. These are both excellent solutions, as long as the person who’s making them is experienced and they are running specific. For example, the type of foot motion required to move you forward is different to moving you sideways, so the type of solution for running and tennis may differ slightly.

If the problem is bigger than a simple retail fix, find a therapist that understands the intricacies of what is required of your body to do the training you do. You may be advised to make some small changes to your training plan or even your style of running that can help alleviate excess supination.

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