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The truth about pronation

In the running world, there is a popular myth which explains some running injuries as the result of pronation, where the foot rolls inwards and can either damage the ankle, or the heel itself. This story is so common amongst runners that there are specially designed shoes which are intended to help prevent the ankle from rolling. Most runners believe that either too much, or too little pronation can cause injury, but a recent study has suggested that there is no truth behind the popular myth.

The study, called "Foot pronation is not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing a neutral shoe", worked by taking Danish men and women who didn't run, but used a gym, and then studied the results of their first year of running. This method of creating their own novice runners from test subjects, is not typical of research in this area, and presents a new way of looking at running-related injuries.

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Previous research had looked at experienced runners, as the most likely to suffer injury. Research tended to involve asking the subjects how often they trained, about their current physical condition, and whether they we're injured, and if so, how. These helped to give some insights about the causes of injuries, but had to rely upon self-reporting and a lack of 'being there' at the time of the injury.

The fact that previous research used experienced runners also meant that the reporting of injuries could be more complicated, since most long-term runners have been injured in the past, and their current problems are often related to these previous problems. Locating the original source of ankle and foot problems is therefore much harder.

By creating their own runners from previously untried groups, the Danish team we're able to view bodies unmarked by previous running attempts. Those with injuries from other sports we're excluded, and the total number of subjects amounted to over 900 men and women between 18 and 65 years old. The subject's feet we're then evaluated using measurement and observational data. This profile of the foot was used to determine how much pronation was natural in the subject. The runners we're then categorized as "Neutral", "Overpronation" "Underpronation" and severe examples of the last two categories.

All of the subjects we're then provided with neutral trainers, in addition to GPS mileage trackers. The subjects could run as often or as little as they liked for 12 months, with injuries reported to the researchers and assessed. More than 200,000 miles we're run by the participants, and 300 injuries we're confirmed by assessment. The results we're then compared with the initial categorisation of pronation, which revealed that both overpronated and underpronated runners we're no more likely to get hurt than neutral pronation runners, although those who ran more than 600 miles we're more likely to be injured with neutral pronation.

This evidence seems to suggest that runners should think less about their pronation, and more about their general health, including body shape and mass, age, and any previously existing injuries. Trying to change natural pronation with shoes could be a painful mistake, and runners should instead be looking at shoes which will be comfortable and supportive when training for long periods.

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Posted in Other Recreation Post Date 12/13/2016


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