Pronator, Supinator, or Neutral
Identify your Foot type: Pronator, Supinator, or Neutral
The sport of running is one that is considered rather straightforward to participate in as it requires very little equipment. While running can pretty much be accomplished anywhere and at any time, the bare essential is usually a decent pair of running shoes. In order to find a shoe that fits your individual needs, it is important to identify your foot type.
It can be overwhelming when it comes to picking the right shoe model. While there are many variables like cost, your weight, running biomechanics, weekly mileage, and preferred running terrain, determining your foot type is the simplest place to start. Once being educated on how to identify your foot type, you then have the ability to narrow down your shoe selections in order to find the appropriate models most suitable for you. By picking the right shoes based on your anatomy, you decrease the risk of pain, prevent injuries, and can improve your running efficiency.
Foot types are divided into 3 groups: overpronator or being flat-footed, supinator or having high arches and being neutral. This means each person’s differing structural anatomy results in the arches of the feet resting in varying positions. Understanding our foot type and how the foot reacts when hitting the ground will help us to understand why and how injuries can occur and how to ultimately prevent them.
Here are a few ways to identify your foot type:
1) The Wet Test
What you need: water, a shallow pan, and a paper bag or one side of a cardboard box.
Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan
Wet the bottom of your foot by stepping into the pan
Step onto the paper bag or piece of cardboard and put weight onto that foot
Step off and look at the shape of your foot
Overpronator or Flat-Footed: If your wet test presents with an oval-shaped foot with no dry spot present where your arch would be, you probably have a low or flat arch. This foot type presents in 20% of the population. The arches of your feet are designed to absorb impact, but unfortunately with a low arch, the foot’s ability to evenly distribute forces diminishes. This means your foot rolls inward once your foot hits the ground when walking or running. The movement is known as pronation, which to a certain degree is normal. However, a low arch can lead to overpronation which over time can result in a build-up of stress to your feet and lower limbs and thus increasing your risk of injury. For this foot type, usually stable or motion control footwear is recommended.
Supinator or High Arch: If your wet test presents with mostly the ball of your foot and heel present with very minimal arch contact, you probably have a high arch. This foot type is rarer. Due to the high structure of your arch, your mechanics will result in little pronation, or also known as supination which means the foot tends to roll outward. As an under pronator, the arch does not absorb forces well with high impact activities. For this foot type, usually, well-cushioned shoes with little or no arch support or stability features are recommended. Cushioned footwear will help to compensate for the lack of shock absorption and redistribute the forces along the arch of the foot.
Neutral: If your wet test presents with the ball of your foot connected by a half-filled arch connecting to your heel, you probably have a neutral arch. This foot type is the most common. A neutral arch pronates slightly under load and has the ability to absorb shock naturally. Most runners with this pattern can wear just about any type of shoe, but typically stability or a neutral shoe is recommended. A neutral shoe combines neutral or firm midsole support with rear foot stability.
To reiterate, the movement of pronation (inward rotation from heel to toe) is considered normal. The arches plus the act of pronation helps to absorb shock and evenly distribute weight along the foot from the weight of the body and forces coming up from the ground during weight-bearing activities.
The problem with overpronation or when the feet roll inward too much can lead to overuse injuries and up the kinetic chain towards the knees. The problem with under pronation or when the feet don’t roll inward enough can lead to overuse injuries at the foot. Determining your foot type and picking appropriate footwear can help to minimize overuse injuries.
2) Determine Your “Wear and Tear” Pattern
Another way to determine the foot type you have would be to take a look at the bottom of a pair of already worn-out running shoes. By seeing where you wear out the soles of the shoes, it can give you a clue on how you strike your foot and how much pronation is occurring during high impact activities. Additionally, you can place the shoes on a flat surface to see the wearing patterns from another angle.
A typical wear pattern for an overpronator will show excessive heel wear in the middle of the heel to the inner part of the heel and also along the inner part of the big toe. If placed on a flat surface, the shoes may tilt inward.
A typical wear pattern for an under pronator or supinator will show excessive wear along the outer edge of the heel and also along with the outer toe box, closer to the smallest toe. If placed on a flat surface, the shoes may tilt outward.
A typical wear pattern for a neutral runner will see excessive heel wear toward the outer edge and also below the 1st and 2nd toe box. If placed on a flat surface, the shoes may rest stable or with a slight inward tilt.
3) Get a Professional Running Analysis
If you are not feeling confident enough to self analyze your foot type and mechanics, there are professionals out there that can guide you in the right direction. A good place to start would be with a sport-specialized physical therapist to analyze your gait mechanics who may also have access to provide you with a running analysis video. This will help determine the type of striker you are or where you may have faulty biomechanics that can be addressed with a formal treatment plan.
We spoke with physical therapist Ithamar Jotkowitz, PT, DPT, CAMT, and owner of Outback Physical Therapy in Somerville, Massachusetts. With over a decade of experience working with both professional and amateur athletes from his time spent in Australia, New York City, and Boston, he has become specialized in running rehabilitation and uses video gait analysis to help runners see their form and determine their foot types.
Dr. Jotkowitz says, “The most common question I get is “What’s the best running shoe?” But in reality, the question should be, what’s the best running shoe for me? The truth is everyone has a different foot shape and running style so finding out the best shoe for you is an important step to improve running efficiency and reduce injuries. The best way to do that is to have a video gait analysis where a running professional can make footwear recommendations based on your unique situation.”
He continues, “At Outback Physical Therapy we use video technology on the iPad to slow down your running which allows us to evaluate your angles of pronation, stride length, and cadence among many other metrics. During the current pandemic, we have encouraged runners to send videos in, allowing us to perform our video gait analysis from anywhere in the world!”
If you would like to do a virtual running analysis or in-clinic Resting Metabolic Rate and VO2 Max testing, contact them at their website
or their Instagram