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What is Foot Supination?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 19, 2021

Your feet have an important function in your body. Not only do they take you where you want to go, but they are also at the base of your skeleton and bear all your weight. 

Taking care of your feet and properly distributing your weight is incredibly important for the rest of your body to be correctly aligned. If you have issues with your feet, you will feel the effects spread to the rest of your body. 

Foot supination, or excessive pronation, happens for different reasons. It causes most of your weight to transfer to the outer edge of your foot, which can create structural problems and pain. 

Causes of Foot Supination

Foot supination happens when you don’t use the proper muscles to walk correctly. People who develop this issue struggle with pushing or activating the right muscles in their feet as they walk. 

It could be due to a number of factors, but usually, it’s caused by a muscle imbalance in the feet. If some muscles are weaker and some are tighter, you could be putting more weight on some parts of your feet than others. Supinated feet can also cause pain in the pelvis and lower part of the spine (lumbar spine). 

The plantar fascia is a muscle that runs through the foot and attaches to the heel. People who have high arches and inflexible feet are likely to have a tight plantar fascia. These people are very likely to have or develop supinated feet. 

Impact of Foot Supination on Your Health

Your feet need to be flexible to operate effectively and healthily. There are three stages to taking a proper step: 

  1. Your foot adapts to the surface you’re walking on.
  2. Your muscles absorb any shock from the step.
  3. Your foot acts as a lever that pushes your forward to take the next step. 

When your feet are supinated, they become rigid and inflexible. A key, S-shaped joint in your foot, the midtarsal joint, locks to provide stability for your foot. This can also affect the lower part of your leg (calves).  

If you have supinated feet, you’re more likely to develop these painful foot and leg problems:‌

  • Plantar fasciitis. Inflammation of the plantar fascia muscle.  
  • Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). A shin injury caused by repeated stress, also known as shin splints. 
  • Metatarsalgia. Inflammation of the ball of the foot. 
  • Achilles tendinopathy. The Achilles muscle that joins your foot to your leg becomes inflamed, swollen, and stiff. 
  • Sprained ankles. 
  • Stress fractures

Supinated feet can also cause your outer leg muscles and tendons to become very tight. It can also lead to hip and lower back issues. 

Diagnosing Foot Supination

There are a few ways you can receive a diagnose if you think your feet are supinated. A medical professional can perform a gait analysis to identify where you put pressure as you walk. This is the most accurate way to find out if your feet are supinated. 

You can also do a simple test at home to check if you have high arches, which are heavily associated with supine feet. You’ll just need water and a piece of paper or cardboard.

To perform the test, dip your foot in water and step onto a piece of dry paper or cardboard. Step off and examine your footprint. If you have a high arch, you’ll see the ball and heel of your foot, but you’ll barely see any of the foot’s middle part in the print. 

Managing Foot Supination

Once you’ve been diagnosed with foot supination, there are many ways to deal with the condition. 

Physical therapy. Working with a physical therapist can help you manage supination. These professionals will analyze how you walk and stand, take you through guided exercises to improve the condition, and make other recommendations. 

Try orthotics. Orthotics, or padded shoe inserts, are a common, effective way to relieve the pain and discomfort from supination. 

You can get premade or custom-made orthotics. Premade or prefabricated orthotics usually cost less than the custom versions and can produce similar results. Custom orthotics are designed for your feet specifically, so use what works best for you. 

Wear athletic shoes when you can. Because supinated feet have high arches, it puts stress on the outer part of the foot. Choose an athletics shoe that is soft and supportive for everyday use, if possible. Look for shoes that stabilize the heel. ‌

Try these tips when shoe shopping to find more comfortable, supportive, and well-fitting shoes:

  • Bring any orthotic devices you have and use them when trying on shoes instead of using the original insole. 
  • Try both shoes on and walk around. Your feet can be different sizes, and this technique will ensure they’re comfortable.
  • Leave a little space, about ¼ inch, between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. 
  • Go shoe shopping toward the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest. 
  • Make sure the heel of the shoe fits your feet properly. The shoe should wrap snugly around the base of your heel to provide lots of support. 
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES: 

Cedars Sinai: “Plantar Fasciitis.”

‌Connect Physical Therapy: “The foot bone’s connected to the … pelvic bone.”

‌Harvard Health Publishing: “Feet and falling.”

Journal of Athletic Training: “Effects of Pronated and Supinated Foot Postures on Static and Dynamic Postural Stability.”

The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy: “Normal Biomechanics of Foot and Ankle.”

‌Marshfield Clinic Health System: “Fit is key in choosing proper athletic shoes.”

‌Mayo Clinic: “How to determine foot arch type.”

‌Pedorthic Association of Canada: “Overpronation & Under Pronation Correction.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Are Feet at Fault for Back, Hip, and Knee Woes?”

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