Supination is a term used to describe a type of rotation involving the hand or the foot. When the term is applied to the hand, it describes the movement of the arm and hand that results in an upward-facing palm. When applied to the foot, the term refers to movement that results in the upward positioning of the sole of the foot. If the foot is supinated, the outer edge of the sole is used to carry the weight of the body.
Though the term supination can be used to refer to both hands and feet, it is often discussed in terms of running and walking. When running or walking, supination means the slight rolling of the foot that results in a tread leaning toward the outer edge of the foot. This movement can be beneficial, creating a rigid surface from which to push off when taking the next step. In fact, the foot supinates automatically during walking or running to provide leverage and assist with propelling the body forward.
Sometimes, supination can be excessive. This may be caused by a variety of factors. A very common cause of excessive supination is previous injury, such as a sprained ankle. In the case of such an injury, supination-limiting ligaments and tendons may be damaged, weakened, or even over-extended, leaving them vulnerable to excessive supination.
An increased level of supination can cause significant problems. Often, it can cause the muscles and tendons that provide the ankle with stability to become overworked and strained. In turn, these muscles may allow the ankle to roll over completely, causing an ankle sprain, knee problems, or even ligament damage.
Though everyone supinates to a certain degree, some individuals seem predisposed to excessive supination. To discover whether or not you are given to excessive supination, start by examining your shoes. If you wear your shoes out more along the outside edge than other parts of your shoes, you may supinate too much. Likewise, calluses located on the outside edge of your foot can be indicative of excessive supination. Additionally, an abnormally large joint between your little toe and the rest of your foot can be a sign of excessive supination.
If you learn that you are prone to excessive supination, it is important to ensure that your footwear is properly fitted. Keep in mind that regular shoe stores may not be able to assist you. Instead, look for a shoe store that is equipped to analyze your running and walking gait. Besides well-fitting shoes, such things as custom foot beds and orthotic equipment may help. In severe cases, physical therapy may be beneficial as well.