We all stand and walk every day, and some of us even run and jump daily. Our natural gait can work for us if we understand it and cater to it.
But it can also work against us if we aren’t aware of it and we don’t take steps to make sure our feet and ankles are protected.
While supinators are less common than overpronators, they still need to take special care of their feet when walking or running. If they don’t, the risk of injury may increase.
Wondering how to fix supination and underpronation so that your injury risk is reduced? We’ve got you covered.
Keep reading to learn how to tell when you need to protect your feet and what easy steps are most effective at improving the effects of supination.
What Is Supination?
Supination—also called underpronation—is when your foot rolls onto its outer edge when you walk or run.
While neutral feet and overpronators tend to touch the ground with the arch of their foot during their stride, a supinator’s arch doesn’t come close to the ground.
When you supinate, you push off from your smaller toes rather than your big toe while walking, running, or jumping. It also causes the ankle to roll outwards, which can increase your chance of ankle injuries.
What Causes Supination?
Supination can be caused by a variety of factors. Understanding what causes yours is key to learning how to fix supination and underpronation effectively!
Supination can be a genetic condition, as bone structure can be passed down from parent to child. This means that high arches or weak ankles for example, can be a genetic trait that leads to supination.
Muscle imbalances in the lower leg, foot, or ankle can cause your foot to twist more to the outer edge on every step.
When your muscles are imbalanced, it can alter your gait. Whether the imbalance lies in the calves, the ankles, or the muscles of the foot, your other muscles can begin to compensate and change your gait, leading to supination.
Misalignment of the joints in the ankle, knees, or hips can cause improper form in the feet. When your joints aren’t properly aligned, your foot positioning can change and affect the way you walk or run.
Stiffness in the ankles that inhibit the foot’s natural range of motion can also cause underpronation. If your ankle struggles to turn inwards, it could leave you running on the edge of your foot unnecessarily.
People with high arches tend to underpronate, as they naturally walk more on the outer edge of their foot. This is especially true if their shoes don’t provide enough arch support for high arches.
Wearing shoes that don’t offer enough support under the arch can cause a person to supinate. If the shoes are too tight or too large, you may also end up changing the way you walk in order to relieve pain or comfort, leading to underpronation.
The wrong type of shoe — such as rigid or tight shoes — can lead to supination and other foot problems. Also, wearing shoes that are worn out or have no arch support can cause supination.
If you’ve had a previous injury to your foot or ankle, the way it healed could put you at a higher risk of supinating. If you have foot or ankle instability due to an old injury, you may compensate during your gait, leading to supination.
How Can You Tell If You Supinate?
Not sure if you supinate? Try these easy ways to figure it out.
Check Your Shoes
This is the easiest way to tell if you supinate. If you have an old pair of shoes that you’ve worn often, check the wear pattern on the bottom of the shoe.
If you supinate, you will find that there’s more wear on the outer edge of the sole. However, if the wear is more on the inner side or evenly distributed, then you’re most likely not an underpronator.
Do the Wet Feet Test
If you suspect that you may be an underpronator, you can do the wet feet test to check. You will need a sheet of cardboard—paper is usually too thin—and a container big enough to fit your foot in, filled with about ¾-inch to an inch of water.
Place the container and the cardboard on the floor next to each other. Place your foot in the water, making sure the entire bottom of your foot is covered.
Lift it out and shake off any excess water before you place your foot onto the cardboard. Step on the cardboard like you would normally step—don’t push your foot down or do anything unnatural.
You can take a step onto the cardboard and then another step forward with your other foot to make it feel more natural.
Examine the footprint you left behind. If you can see only a thin line on the outer edge of your foot and there’s no hint of your arch, then it’s likely that you supinate.
However, if you see a thick line on the outer edge and you can see some of your arch on the imprint, you most likely have a neutral foot.
Many specialist running stores offer a free gait analysis, so take advantage of this if you have a store nearby—even if you aren’t a runner! Alternatively, a podiatrist can do an analysis for you.
Usually, this involves walking or running on a treadmill-like platform while the operator takes note of certain markers.
Supination Can Lead To
Supination can lead to various complications, some more severe than others.
When the feet roll outward, it doesn’t only have an impact directly on your feet. The ankles, knees, hips, and lower back can also be affected. Joints, ligaments, and tendons throughout the kinetic chain may be more prone to injury.
This is why you need to know if you supinate and how to correctly support your feet! If your feet aren’t properly supported, supination can lead to the following conditions:
Knee, Hip, & Back Pain
The constant rolling of the ankle compromises every joint in the kinetic chain.
When the ankle rolls, the knee joint also goes out of place. When the knee joint is out of place, the hip joint also compromises and moves.
This can cause strain on each of these joints, leading to pain in the joint, as well as in the surrounding tissues.
IT Band Syndrome
The IT band is a thick strip of fibrous tissue called fascia, although it is often mistaken for a tendon. It runs from just above the hip on the outer side of the thigh to the knee.
When you walk on the outer edge of your foot, it places strain on the outer edge of your leg, all the way up to the hip.
The pulling of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments up the side of your leg on each step can cause the IT band to become inflamed, known as IT Band Syndrome.
This is most often felt on the outside of the knee. It can present itself as a sharp, shooting pain that occurs during activity.
However, you may feel pain at any point along your leg between your hip and knee that will worsen with activity.
Supination can also put you at risk of developing shin splints, which is when the tendons, ligaments, and tissues around the shin bone become inflamed and painful.
It’s usually an overuse injury, but in the case of supination, the constant over-twisting of the foot outward can place the leg under excess strain.
You will feel the pain on the inside of your shin bone. It will get worse with exercise and feel better with rest.
How Can You Fix or Improve Supination?
Even if you aren’t having any of the above problems associated with supination, it’s worth taking steps to correct it early. Try these measures to protect and support your feet properly.
Change Your Shoes
Wearing unsupportive or worn out shoes can place excess strain on the foot, as well as all the joints up the kinetic chain.
Whether you’re planning on running, weight lifting, or just walking, you should consider the kind of shoes you’re wearing.
The best shoes for supination will provide excellent support for your arch, and they will also have shock-absorbing cushioning.
Although no shoes are made specifically for supination, you may choose a pair of motion control shoes, which will offer extra built-in support to prevent your feet from rolling outward.
You should also make sure that your shoes are the right size for your feet. Shoes that are too big or too small will cause you to change your gait, which can lead to supination.
Measure your feet and make sure that the size you choose corresponds with your measurements. You should also try to wear the same kind of socks regardless of the activity you do.
Try to go shopping for shoes later in the day if you’re buying shoes in the store as opposed to online. Your feet swell slightly during the day, so this will help you get the best fit.
If your shoes are relatively new and you don’t want to replace them, but they don’t offer enough support for your feet, you can buy inserts or insoles.
Choose a supination insole with enough arch support to bolster your arch, especially if you have high arches.
Some of them also have extra stability features built in. You can buy insoles over-the-counter, or for the best fit, get one custom-made by a podiatrist.
Doing hip, glute, and calf exercises can help strengthen your legs, which can provide better support for your ankles and feet.
In turn, this can improve stability and keep your feet properly aligned, preventing supination and its symptoms.
Incorporate exercises such as glute bridges, hip thrusts, and calf raises. You should also incorporate stretches like calf, knee, and plantar fascia stretches.
Warm Up Effectively
Whether you’re going for a run or doing weight training, make sure you warm up the muscles effectively before beginning.
Dynamic stretching is the best way to get your muscles warm. Starting your exercise with loose, warm muscles helps to increase your range of motion and reduce the chance of poor form.
Use KT Tape on Your Feet and Ankles
Taping your foot can help provide light support for the arch and reduce the chance of supinating severely. It may be easiest to get someone to help you with this.
Cut a piece of KT tape about 10 to 15 inches long, depending on the size of your foot. Sit with your foot flexed upward and stick one end of the KT tape on the inside bony piece just above your arch. The excess tape should face underneath your foot.
Removing the backing slowly and placing a moderate amount of tension on the tape, run it down the arch and around the back of your heel.
It should cover the back of the heel and then come across the underside of the heel, crossing over the tape. Then bring it up over the outside of your arch and up the side of your ankle, where you will anchor it.
You can add an extra piece of tape just underneath this one, from the bony protrusion on the inside of your foot, underneath your arch, and up the side of your ankle.
Walking barefoot can help strengthen your feet, increase stability, and improve range of motion. However, you should introduce it slowly and try to walk on soft, forgiving surfaces rather than hard, jarring ones.