Over-pronation and minimalist shoes

Afternoon, all.

I'm sure there's been a thread on this before, but I can't find anything so am starting fresh.

I've been running on and off for a few years, mostly 10ks, but have just finished my first marathon.  During this time I've been battling ankle injuries due to severe overpronation.  I run with motion-control shoes and orthotics and do stength exercises (although probably not as often as I should).  The problem comes and goes, and varies between a bit of a niggle and pain causing me to limp.

Recently, the whole barefoot/minimalist shoe thing has made me wonder if I might be better off starting all over again and re-learing how to run unfettered by orthotics etc.

So, my question is this: have any other chronic/severe overpronators taken this route, how did it work out for you, and would you recommend it?

I fully appreciate it won't be easy and it'll take a while to become accustomed to a new way of running, but I'd like to hear what you lot have to say.

Sorry fo the overly long post.

Many thanks.




  • Got the same problem as you. Having a flare up at the moment since my marathon, so doing my exercises and pretty fed up as been told to cut the distance down for a few months. No marathons for a couple of years.

    I asked my physio the same question considering I have the ultimate support shoes you can get. He said if I really strengthened my feet, it could be worth a shot. He wouldn't normally recommend it but to be honest I have nothing to lose. He knows I really want to try it and I need to change my gait, as that can cause problems.

    He did say, to take it really slowly and build it up over a few months not to cause achilles problems. 

    I will try it when my ankle is feeling stronger. I'm willing to give it a go as I've had to have a month off anyway with the same issues that will keep reoccurring due to my  horrendous flat feet. Kill or cure time, it's going to make no difference, as every few months I'm injured anyway with the support shoes.His other advise was to get a bike. Very dispondent, but I'll keep doing the exercises.....and have a try in minamalist shoes in a few months.


  • Running shops always took one look at my flat feet and tried to put me into shoes to prevent excessive pronation - which just made my knees hurt to stand in, never mind to run in. I went the minimalist route instead and I'm now doing all my runs (up to 50 milers so far) in minimalist shoes - by which I mean VivoBarefoot Neo/Neo Trail, and at maximum Inov8 Trailroc 235, not Nike Frees or whatever.

    I ran a few miles barefoot on a sports field a few weeks ago and was very pleased to confirm, by the pattern of where my feet were and were not dirty afterwards, that I've grown an arch. I also no longer get any knee pain (which I used to get) - and as indicated, I'm doing quite long distances.

    I'll second the recommendation to build up SLOWLY to minimise the risk of overstressing tendons and bones. Also, you need to look at changing your whole running style, not just your shoes - you want to be running with a fast cadence (180 steps per minute or higher), relatively short stride - feet landing under you not out in front. Midfoot or forefoot touching first, but you do want to let your heel touch the ground as well, not try to stay up on your toes. Purists will recommend starting actually barefoot, which probably IS best - but not if you can't find somewhere free of glass, dogshit etc.

    The other thing to consider is your glutes - I injured my posterior tibial tendon (inside of the ankle) a few months ago. Physio first suggested control shoes, then when I rejected that idea said that it was really my glutes that were weak and that if I strengthened those, I'd have less ankle problems. So I've been doing a lot of glutes strengthening exercises as well as strengthening, mobility and balance/proprioception exercises for my ankle.

  • I'm in the same boat, I think there must be lots of us. Severe pronation, orthotics, recurrent ankle injuries, ankle partly collapsed,, recurrent bouts of swelling etc. Nevertheless have managed 100 milers in classical shoes/orthotics. Recently - I've become increasingly sceptical of podiatrists and the fire and forget solution of custom orthotics.  The profession (I've seen 5 different posiatrists over the years) rarely seem interested in anything other than taking a cast and selling an orthotic then so long and thanks for all the fish.

    Since the autumn I've been experimenting with minimal shoes and strengthenning excercises - start slowly, short runs, occassionally etc etc. Its a work in progress but I've not noticed a negative impact on my ankle. On the contrary I have observed that a forefoot strike puts my ankle in a much stronger position and substantially limits its scope to pronate. I'm also running much faster than I ever have before and enjoying my running more.

    Another benefit of minimal shoes is I have become very aware of how weak my feet have become. One foot particularly has become very collapsed over time and now I've begun to realise that rather than being like a spring returning energy its like a squishy sponge absorbing it.

    I think its definitly worth giving it a go even if you pronate badly. As everyone says if you start slowly you will soon tell if it makes things better or worse.

  • I should also have said Debra - your post fills me with hope. I'd begun to suspect that it is possible to at least partly restore my arches and that was part of the motivation for making the switch. Its good to hear from someone I can trust that it is actually possible!

  • MuddlingAbout: glad to be of service! image I definitely have more muscle on my feet than I used to have, and stronger arches. Also, it was interesting hearing from the physio that strengthening my glutes would improve things for my feet and ankles. What was worrying is that she tried to get me to go for support shoe/orthotics first to "prevent" further ankle issues, and only when I rejected those did she mention the glutes being inactive, and strengthening exercises, and balancing exercise to improve proprioception. Seriously, why offer me a crutch rather than explaining what the real problem was and how to fix it?

    Don't forget that pronation is normal - it's part of the natural movement of the foot.

  • More determined now that I've read this thread. 

    I always did wonder about just giving your foot more and more support rather that trying to get it strong enough to have less.

    Good to read that it has worked, gives me hope, as well.

    Physio did mention my glutes, but think he didn't want to overwelm me with what was wrong, think I was already depressed enough. Will definitely work on those now.

    Like a challenge, and would love to get back to endurance running again. 





  • daisy: it's not just the Achilles' tendon/calf muscles that can be the problem if you do too much too soon; I managed a metatarsal stress fracture and extensor tendonitis, although those were (I believe) caused by walking and running on pavement while carrying about 25% of my body weight, then not resting when my foot hurt on the next couple of runs... General rule: if it hurts, rest. I'd recommend massaging your calves daily or twice a day (evening after a run and the following morning) when switching to barefoot/minimal.

    I -have- used OTC orthotics, but only to support my foot while the foot tendons were healing. As soon as they were okay I ditched the orthotics and went back to my nice flexible minimalist footwear.

  • since moving over to barefoot/minimalist shoes..my running has improved so much...my times are faster..less aches and pains...and more endurance...takes a few runs to get use to them..but its so worth it...best thing I did to improve my running


  • My story is this. I was born with an extra bone in my right foot, as a child I suffered with flat feet and pains so parents took me to doctors who advised surgery to remove the bone. I never had it done as they were afraid. For years I battled with pain and when I started running 4 years ago it did not much improve. At first I was a typical heel striker running in bulky shoes and started getting injuries in my legs, various groin strain, shin splints, you name it I had it. In January 2012 I went to Running School to have gait analysis done, they found out lots of faults, we set out on repairing them. The coach there was very keen on minimalistic running, I tried and loved it. I ditched my custom made orthotics and started transitioning to minimalist shoes. It took me months to learn proper running technique and things were great apart from the fact that after every run I had a pain in my feet, in left in the sole and in the right in the arch. I increased my mileage very gradually and I mean very as I was doing lots of walk/run breaks for absolute ages. In the winter I started running more aggressively but also started to have more problems with my feet. By April this years at the beginning of each run I was limping a bit and for the last two months I have hardly run. Yesterday I did a 3 miler after 8 days of non running and I could barely walk yesterday. Today I went to see my coach again, he has been aware of the problem but due to various circumstances I have not seen him for two months and in this time things took turn for worse. He said that due to this extra bone in my right foot it is more rigid and does not pronate naturally so left one compensates hence the pain. He said forget running distances or races for a year, you have chronic foot problems that will give you stress fractures if you carry on. I can run for 1 minute intervals for about 5 minutes a day total on a treadmill and run in more cushioned shoes. I have lost heart for running, I associate it only with pain now and don't want to do it anymore so am quitting so my advice after writing all this is PLEASE TAKE IT EASY. Allow plenty of rest and see a specialist such as guys from Running School. It would work for me if I did not have a problem from birth, nothing I can do about this anymore. Forget about running a mile first, a mile is a long way. Go for 1 minute runs and only increase distance if you are ready. Do extra exercises. Overall good luck!

  • I've had this conversation with myself a couple of times but always got talked out it.  I read Steve Gangemi's website and was all ready to chuck my shoes out the window.  Went to runners need and tentatively mentioned minimalist shoes and was told (very nicely) that it would take years to transition and I really should get the mild support shoes he was putting on me, especially if running on tarmac, which I can't really avoid.  Thought about it again. went to a physio as I'd had some niggles, was told he has worn orthotics all his life and he could run marathons in them but crippled without, and I should wear orthotics which I had been given some years ago to relieve intermetatarsal neuromas.  So I did put them back in my everyday trainers, but not my other shoes.  Wish I had the courage of my convictions!  MAkes perfect sense to let our feet do the job they were deisgned to do, but also makes sense that wearing shoes from an early age so drastically alters our physiology that by age 42 you can't get back to nature!?

  • Mad4morris: I'm 45. I started to change to minimalist when I was 42-43. Okay, previously I often walked about the house barefoot if it was warm enough or in socks/slippersocks otherwise, and I've tended to wear Teva sandles all summer (and hated putting my feet back into restrictive trainers come the winter), and even gone hillwalking in those, so I've not been wearing conventional shoes all the time. But I do think it's possible to change, even later in life. Not sure how it would interact with a medical problem such as your intermetatarsal neuromas. Maybe you should look up some of the recommended exercises for foot strengthening prior to barefoot running, try those and see how they go, then try some short runs on grass?

    As for running shops, I found they would take one look at my fairly flat feet and decide I needed anti-pronation shoes, then put me on the treadmilll and look on the video for "look! That stride -there- you're overpronating!" and ignore the other X many strides not showing that, and the wear pattern in my shoes (which I took with me) which did NOT indicate overpronation. So I'm rather dubious about the ability of the average shoe-seller in a store to correctly determine shoe needs.

    Also, I note that a number of running coaches have used barefoot running as a training aid for many years. You can benefit from even a small amount of barefoot running, e.g. a mile or two round a sports field a couple of times a week to strengthen your feet and encourage good form.

  • Really sorry to hear that acdcgirl. I think I'm beginning to go towards the dark side and get a bike. Had a few friends that have had to stop running due to different injuries and they're all obsessed with cycling now. 

    They've been doing the hard sell on me and I'm nearly convinced. Atleast, I can get out there for long ride, no hope with running distances for a while. Think really backing off the running might help me, I know I've done too much over the last few years, social short plods it is for a while. It probably is the time to start off with barefoot running, others have really warned me about how you have to ease yourself in. They were talking minutes not miles, as well. The 10% rule was not being applied, it was way less, but a couple of them have done marathons now, so I think I need to bite the bullet. 

    What are you going to do now, acdcgirl? 


  • I have started wearing racing flats recently. Just for some of my faster runs. Thinking of moving on to wear minimalist trainers. Started very good, but a bit of calf muscle tightness the last week has meant I have had to wear them a bit less for a while. They are definitely good for your form, to wear more minimalist trainers, its just a matter of adapting to them over time, and getting your muscles and joints used to the new ranges of motion it entails. I am mainly wearing them on grass at the moment, at some future time I will transition to wearing them on the roads. But it will take a while I think for my calf muscles to adapt to the new range of motion.

  • Thanks for all your replies.

    There's definitely a lot to consider but I think I'm going to take the plunge and give the minimalist thing a go.

    I'll let you know how I get on. 

  • Daisydoo, there is something addictive about running. Overnight I have decided to give it a go anyway however long it takes me. First running for a few weeks on treadmill in intervals of one minute for however long I can without pain. Then we'll see. 

  • Nose NowtNose Nowt ✭✭✭

    How does the 'racing flat' thing work for people doing long distance races?  Do people switch from their normal support shoes to lighter racing flats, with no problem?

    I've been playing with changing more to a mid-foot strike... but finding it inefficient (getting more tired quickly, but with no pace gain).  I'm guessing that people would say that that is a passing phase... part of the transition?

  • Run Wales: without seeing your running and whether you've changed your cadence etc. I couldn't say. I changed more to reduce impact on knees, hips etc. than for gains in speed. As for racing flats, I never tried them 'cos they're all too narrow in the forefoot for me. But I think most people don't use them for long distance?

  • some sort of flatter shoes are valuable up to half marathon. I don't know beyond that as have no experience going beyond that kind of distance. My thought Run Wales may be that you may be over striding. You get away with that less with flats, you have to take shorter and faster strides and keep your center of gravity over your foot as it touches down. Though in theory flats are beneficial up to long distances I think it takes a long time and a lot of practice to perfect the benefits of it. I have not found flats beneficial beyond around 20 minutes running for myself up to now. 

  • Hi guys, 

    cant comment on over pronation as I've got a total neutral running style (lucky I know!) but the knowledge I've gained in the last year is invaluable. 

    im currently running in asics lovely and cushioned and just genrally confortable. i am also weekly training on the athletics track in spikes. 

    Ive totally gone the hard way into training and just jumped in the deep end. Let me tell you it fooking hurt like mad and couldn't walk right for a good 2/3 days. (Stupid I know!!)

    BUT.....After the pain and people laughing at my walk etc. it's finally paying off, running style, pace, general muscle fatigue has all improved in such a short space of time.

    looking at my spikes is like looking at slippers, they really have no support and only cost £17!! 

    I too, one day will fully go to minimalist, and swear the slow way to do it is best. I'm still young and naive so can afford to do stupid training But will not look back once all the transition is complete.

    i really do hope you  guys sort the niggles out and can get back out and run again.

Sign In or Register to comment.