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Pronation guide and shoe types

Getting the right fit in running footwear isn't just about size. It's about having the advantages you need to perform your best. Our best is born in the New Balance Sports Research Lab in Lawrence, Massachusetts where we invest countless hours in the study of running pronation.

What is pronation in running?

The definition of pronation is straightforward; it simply refers to the natural motion of your feet as you walk or run. If you get a lot of pain when you hit the tracks or the treadmill, understanding pronation can make a huge difference as you can then easily address the problem, which usually means finding the right running shoe for your gait. In general, when you’re running, you’ll either follow a pattern of overpronation (sometimes referred to as ‘pronated feet’), normal pronation, or supination (aka ‘underpronation’). Once you’ve figured out your gait, you’ll be much better equipped to choose the perfect running trainer, so you’re able to get the most out of your sessions and, most-importantly, stay pain-free throughout. 

Types of pronation

Below is a more detailed breakdown of the different types of pronation, and what they look and feel like.

Overpronation: Overpronation is when the ankle rolls too far downwards and inwards with each stride you take. The problem is that the ankle continues to drop when the foot should be pushing off from the ground, resulting in the big toe and second toe taking all the slack.

Supination or underpronation: Supination, or underpronation, works the opposite way on to overpronation. It is when the foot rolls too far outwards with each step. In this scenario, all the stress is placed on the little and outer toes. 

Neutral pronation: Neutral pronation is when your feet and ankles stay properly aligned when you’re running, making it less likely that you’ll suffer from injuries or pain from your training. When the heel lands, you’ll roll naturally and evenly towards your toes, with your arch collapsing lightly inwards to absorb the impact.

Moderate pronation: Moderate pronation can refer to either overpronation or supination, meaning you have a slight tendency towards one of these but not a major one.

What is overpronation? 

Overpronation is where the foot and ankle roll too far inwards while you’re running, resulting in your big and second toe taking most of the impact as you push off the ground. One of the most common injuries caused by overpronation while running is shin splints. This is due to excessive strain being put on the posterior tibialis tendon, as well as the constant rotation of the foot which has the knock on effect of causing the tibia to rotate too much in the lower leg. The causes of overpronation tend to be anatomical, with people with naturally flat or very flexible feet suffering the most. The best way to fix the problem is to wear shoes that offer plenty of stability and support.

What is supination or underpronation?

Supination refers to a natural rolling outward of the foot as you walk or run, causing the little and outside toes to take too much impact when you push off the ground. It occurs most in people with particularly high, rigid foot arches – basically the opposite of overpronation. Common injuries caused by supination include ankle injuries, iliotibial band syndrome, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. If you think you have underpronation/supination, the best way to fix this is to wear running shoes with plenty of cushioning and flexibility. 

Pronation test and gait analysis  

To discover the gait pattern, you have when you run, there are some simple gait analysis tests you can do. First, take a look at the soles of your running shoes. If they show a lot of wear and tear on the outside, it looks like probably you supinate when you run. When you lay the shoe flat on the ground, they may also tip slightly outwards. If they look most worn on the inside of the sole, it’s likely you’re overpronating.

You can also carry out the pronation footprint test, which involves wetting your foot and creating a footprint on some cardboard. If the marked area looks like the whole sole of your foot with no gap in the water pattern where your arch should be, you’ve got flat feet and may have overpronation. If the footprint is mostly of the outside of your foot with a large gap in the print where your arch is, this indicates you’ve got a higher arch than usual and may supinate when you run. 

Pronation shoe type guide 

Whether you have a tendency towards overpronation or supination, our range of innovative, high-tech running shoes have got you covered. For underpronators, we’d recommend a pair of arch support shoes to help balance your stride. And for those with pronated feet, a pair of maximum support trainers will temper over-flexibility for a more even, pain-free gait. You can find the right running shoes for you here, using the "Support Type" filter.

Best running shoes for overpronation

The best running shoes for overpronation are those that offer extra stability and support to help keep the tendency for the ankle to roll inwards and downwards to a minimum. Opting for a pair of shoes with greater support doesn’t mean you need to be weighed down, though. All our stability motion control shoes are made from superior, lightweight materials that allow you to stay agile, including our range of New Balance 860 running shoes for overpronation.

Best running shoes for underpronation 

The best running shoes for underpronation are those that provide responsive cushioning and added flexibility, alongside heel support to help those with a higher foot arch than usual. That doesn’t mean compromising on stability, though, as all of our flexible and cushioned running shoes are also designed to give you the support you need, mile after mile. Check out 1080 New Balance running shoes

Shoe Type Why You Should Wear It

Neutral Cushioning

For athletes who seek the ultimate in cushioning for their workouts.

Stability

Like a neutral cushioning shoe, but with a moderate amount of pronation control.

Lightweight

Designed for athletes who value speed and agility in lightweight, responsive shoes.

Minimal

Low-profile, lightweight shoes that offer a barefoot fit and feel.

Motion Control

Maximum control, stability, and support for those with moderate to severe overpronation.

According to the NPD Group's 2013 Athletic Footwear Brand Landscape Study: "Of all the leading Athletic Performance Brands, New Balance ranks highest on Comfort and Fit."