What Foot Type Are You? (Neutral, Pronator, or Supinator)
In my experience, many people don’t know they have a foot type to begin with. However, I’ve learned it’s essential to understand the impact your foot type has on you. You may end up preventing a host of unpleasant issues in the future.
Your foot type is determined by how high or low your arches are. Arches that are too high or low can cause under and overpronation, respectively. This can lead to a number of more serious issues down the line.
Foot Arch Types
Figuring out your arch type is easy once you know your options. There are three types:
- Neutral: Medium arches.
- Pronator: Low arches, flat feet, prone to overpronation.
- Supinator: High arches, prone to underpronation.
Your foot is made up of arches, more than you realize. How these arches are shaped determines your foot type.
Most people without foot issues probably have neutral arches. This is the ideal foot type to have. Your arches aren’t too high or low, your gait is normal. You aren’t prone to over or underpronation.
Here’s how walking works for you:
- Your arch flattens, cushioning the shock whenever your foot hits the ground.
- The weight goes from the outer part of the foot and runs through to your largest toe.
- Your foot rolls out every time your toe leaves the ground.
- Every toe is used when you push off. The first toes do the most work; the others assist in keeping you stable.
- The sole faces exactly behind itself. It’s not tilted left or right.
It sounds complicated, but what it means is your weight rolls evenly across your feet. All your toes play a role in the toe-off. Your feet stay in a straight line with each step. A perfect, neutral gait.
Pronators have low arches, or none. There are a number of reasons this can happen, from natural causes to those needing treatment. These include:
- Born this way.
- Arches fell due to age.
- Being overweight/pregnant.
- Injuries that cause the arches to fall.
Not everyone with flat feet experiences overpronation. In fact, not everyone experiences issues at all. People can live healthy-footed, blissfully unaware lives with flat feet. However, if you’re reading this article, either you’re generally curious, or something is wrong.
Here’s what may be happening if you have flat feet:
- Your arch is already flat when your feet hit the ground.
- The outside of the heel strikes the walking surface; then the weight rolls to the low/non-existent arch.
- Your ankle rolls down and in too far with every step.
- The first two toes push off the ground alone, with nothing to help them stabilize.
- The sole faces slightly inwards, towards your other leg.
- Your feet continue to twist more with every step.
With this gait, the soles of your ankles tilt towards each other, and your feet face away from each other. Your weight isn’t distributing evenly. This can create stress on your big and second toe. A walk like this can lead to problems in the future.
With supination, you have the opposite problem to the pronators. Your arches are too high. This is often a more severe problem than low arches, but not just for your feet.
Some people are born with high arches, often inherited from your parents. They may not have any underlying conditions.
For others, they’re a symptom of a life-long condition, like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or muscular dystrophy.
Then there are the conditions that were or are more severe and left lasting damage, such as strokes and polio. The impact they’ve had may be treated with physical therapy and supportive footwear.
Lastly, spinal cord tumors may be causing your supination. Be aware and get checked immediately if you discover you suddenly have higher arches than usual. How to tell if you have high arches is easy, and we’ll discuss it later in the article.
Here’s your gait with high arches:
- Your arch is too high to flatten when your feet hit the ground.
- The weight stays on your foot’s outer edge, not rolling into the big toe.
- Your smaller toes and foot’s outer edge take all the pressure of your step.
- This places extra stress on your smaller toes and the side of your foot.
Your arch can’t absorb shock, so the edge of your foot does the work. Your little toes are stressed, taking all your weight. Your ankles roll away from each other, to the outside, and the soles of your feet turn towards each other. A gait like this can cause problems.
The Problems Each Type Faces
If your foot type is neutral, good for you! You won’t face too many issues with that. Sports injuries, walking strain, and not supporting your arch—these are all avoidable and curable ailments.
As a pronator or supinator you may not be so lucky.
Besides strain on your first two toes and unstable feet, overpronation can do some damage.
Your foot’s odd rotation can radiate up your lower leg. Your lower leg bones will also rotate, which can lead to shin splints and knee pain.
Other issues overpronation can cause include:
- Foot pain around the arch or heel.
- Lower back pain.
- Inability or difficulty trying to stand on your toes.
- Ankle swelling.
- Worn/uneven feeling shoes.
- Stress fractures.
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Achilles tendonitis.
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome.
- Iliotibial band syndrome.
Some of these are serious, ongoing issues that require treatment.
Again, supination/underpronation can cause more issues than just small-toe strain. It can cause further injuries, especially in runners, though low-arch injuries are common in runners too.
Injuries caused by underpronation include:
- Ankle injuries.
- Achilles tendonitis.
- Iliotibial band syndrome.
- Plantar fasciitis.
Luckily, with the right support, these can be alleviated and treated.
Testing for Your Foot Type
There are a few ways you can test your foot type, some at home by yourself. Figuring out which of the three arch types you have is key to maintaining foot health. Then you can buy the right shoes and insoles for your feet.
The Wet Test
The name is exactly what it seems. The easiest way to determine your foot type is by getting your feet wet and examining the footprint.
The print of a neutral arch should look like a foot with a bite taken out of it. A moderately sloped chunk on the side should be missing where your foot doesn’t touch the ground. The deepest point of the missing piece should be near the middle of the print. This shows you have a moderate, neutral arch.
This footprint should be closer to a whole foot. The inside edge should be gently curved, but shouldn’t eat into the middle of the foot. This shows you have a low arch or no arch.
The big toe’s image may also be attached to the main print. This is because of the amount of pressure on the toe. With other arch types, there’ll likely be a gap between all the toes and the rest of the sole.
Supinator footprints should look like neutral ones, but the bite is bigger. The ball of the foot is imprinted, along with most of the heel, with a large gap until the outer edge. Sometimes there’ll be a gap in the outer edge’s imprint too, depending on the severity of the high-arch issue.
Like the wet test, you can diagnose your arch type by examining your shoes. This might be harder, but it’s dryer. See if you can tell which of the above patterns your shoes hold. This is best done with memory foam shoes or shoes that hold shape similarly.
Put your shoes on a flat surface and see if they tilt. Inwards tilting hints at overpronation. Outwards suggests supination. The tilt giveaway happens due to more wear on the side they tilt towards.
Athletic Expert Opinion/Analysis
If you still can’t tell what your foot type is, it’s time to venture out for an expert. Athletic shoe experts should be able to tell you your type based on your walk or run. This is only if your arch type impacts your gait.
Some shoe stores also have experts who’ll give you a full foot analysis. They may have machines to scan your foot pressure placement. They’ll also examine your gait and where you place stress on your feet.
If you don’t have access to another expert, or your feet are troubling you, a podiatrist will be able to help.
Always seek out a podiatrist if you have pain, injury, numbness, tingling, or any other strange symptoms. They’ll help prevent further damage.
Not only can a podiatrist tell you your foot type, but they can prescribe tools and possibly medication to help you.
Solutions for Arch Types
Two of the three arch types can be cause for concern. The issues that arise may be serious, so preventative and curative care is key.
Your neutral arches shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure it stays that way by looking after your feet.
As you age, gain weight, or get pregnant, invest in some basic arch support. This should keep your arches in place throughout things that can cause them to fall. It’s a good idea to start support early, preventing problems from arising in the future.
Here are some tips to prevent general pain and issues with neutral arches:
- Support your arches.
- Wear breathable shoes or moisture-wicking socks.
- Stretch your feet and ankles before sports or running.
- Wear shoes that fit.
- Wear shoes with appropriate cushioning for your activities. Higher intensity activities and harder surfaces warrant more cushioning.
Mild or No Issues
If you notice you have flat feet, but they don’t cause serious issues, now is the time to start preventative care. Consider insoles with arch support to lift your arch back into place. This will correct your gait and thus eliminate any future problems.
If this basic care doesn’t help, look into motion control shoes. Several trusted brands offer shoes that help correct how your feet move. They’re heavy and stiff, but they keep your gait in check. This prevents overpronation injuries from cropping up.
Ask a podiatrist or shoe expert if you’re not sure what motion control shoes are best for you.
More severe issues warrant a trip to the podiatrist. From there, you can figure out the best support for your flat feet. Custom orthotics may be considered.
Custom orthotics give you personalized support and motion control. They’re stiff, specially made for your foot shape and gait. They may be designed differently for each foot, making them extra beneficial if you have issues.
However, custom orthotics can be expensive if not covered by insurance. In my opinion, it’s money wisely invested in long-term aid. Your quality of life is important.
Much of the time, supinators don’t need professional or custom aid. Motion-control shoes won’t make much of a difference.
Instead, look for padded shoes to take the stress off your feet. If your issues are more serious, see a podiatrist. Custom orthotics may be necessary in extreme cases.
Shoes for Your Foot Type
With or without aids like insoles, there are shoes that benefit every foot type. They may lessen the impact your foot type has on you even if they don’t treat the issue.
Any well-made shoe is fine to wear if you have neutral arches. Like I said before, so long as it fits and does its job.
If you’re no shoe expert, here are some elements you should look out for in any shoe:
- Fit: Including for wide/narrow feet.
- Appropriate traction for intended use: For example, none for bowling shoes, lots for running shoes.
- Wide toe box: Prevents friction blisters and bunions.
- Breathability: Prevents shoe odor and athlete’s foot.
- Shock absorption: Lessens the stress on your feet from your body weight.
Other than motion control or forgoing them altogether, pronators need a few things in a shoe. These should help lessen the impact of your flat feet on your foot and leg health.
- Arch support: Helps keep the arches in the right position.
- Fit: Well-fitting shoes that don’t get in the way when walking. Over-large shoes slipping around can only lead to more injuries.
- Cushioning: Padding throughout the shoes should help decrease strain and discomfort. This is particularly important in the toe box, as your first two toes take the most pressure.
Supinators just need something to stop the abuse on their feet. A narrow area taking a beating from the hard ground repeatedly is bound to hurt.
Padding can lessen the stress placed on your feet. It may not correct your gait, but it can help limit injuries caused by strain and pressure.
Consider running shoes for walking. They have more padding, so should be of more benefit to you. For sports, go for the most padded shoes you can find. For example, if you play tennis, wear your hard court shoes on the grass and clay courts too.
Anything that alleviates strain and pain should help this foot type.
Get to Work — Those Feet Won’t Help Themselves
When it comes to having a problematic foot type, exercises and stretching are some of the best things you can do. It will help retrain your feet, strengthen them, and improve their flexibility. All of those factors are extremely important when you have flat feet or high arches.
The stronger your feet are, the more they will be able to handle throughout the day. And if you think about it, your feet are the one part of your body getting constant exercise, intentional or not. Therefore, stretching should be a crucial part of your routine.
Exercises to Strengthen Your Feet
Jumping rope is one of the best exercises you can do for any foot type. It helps retrain your feet and strengthen them in a different way than running or walking. It also builds muscle in the middle of your foot which is where plantar fasciitis can take hold. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and keep a general routine.
Arch lifts are a great option if you have fallen arches. All you have to do is stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Then tip your feet out and pull your toes in. It will help bend your arches up, working the muscles that allowed your arches to fall.
Calf raises are another fantastic option because you can exercise your feet and calves at the same time. Plus, they’re an excellent exercise for all foot types. All you have to do is stand on the edge of a stable elevated object, such as a stair. Put the front half of your foot on the stair and use it to lift and lower yourself in a slow and controlled manner.
Stretch It Out
Whether you have high arches or flat feet, stretching is crucial. It forces your feet to loosen up and it can help prevent or improve the pain of plantar fasciitis and shin splints. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for you to choose from, we only want to mention a few.
The first option is simple, all you need is a golf ball. Simply sit on a chair and put your foot on the ball, rolling it back forth on the bottom of your foot. It works as a sort of massage for your foot and relieves pain from plantar fasciitis and arch discomfort.
A toe stretch is another excellent choice. All you have to do is sit on a chair and cross one leg over the other. Then take ahold of your toes and pull them back gently. It will stretch out your toes, arch, and also help with plantar fasciitis discomfort.
A shin muscle stretch is another important stretch we wanted to tell you about. It is similar to a lunge and will help if you suffer from shin splints.
Place your hands on your hips, and stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Then pop one foot back and place the top of that foot on the ground. Move up and down, bending your knee in the front to allow the foot that is pointed back to stretch more.
If you go to the doctor to find out more about your foot problems, ask about the exercises and stretches they recommend.
Knowing Your Foot Type Changes Everything
It doesn’t always feel that important, but knowing what type of feet you have can make a huge difference. It’s going to feel incredible to finally have shoes that fit perfectly, support your feet, and promote your comfort.
No matter what foot type you have, you will be able to find something. Keep in mind that if you can’t find your favorite shoes with appropriate support, you can always try insoles. With so many options on the market, there is no reason to live in pain.
If you are experiencing pain and discomfort that you believe is caused by your feet, make sure to see a doctor. We want to continually stress this point because a professional can help you narrow down your problems. They will also tell you whether there are more serious underlying issues caused by your lack of support.
Everything impacts your life, including the most overlooked body parts. The impact isn’t always positive.
The three foot types come with their accompanying problems. Those with neutral arches are lucky; they get less of the stress. Pronators and supinators are at risk of a range of unpleasant complications.
Luckily we live in a time where there’s a solution for almost everything. The right treatment and shoes can lessen the negative impact of your foot type and get you back to a pain-free stride.