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For years, pronation has been a common scapegoat when it comes to identifying the cause of running injuries. Physicians, coaches and running store employees long pointed to the inward rolling of the feet as the likely catalyst for everything from shin splints to runner’s knee. New research from Aarhus University in Denmark, however, contradicts the belief that moderate foot pronation may be linked to running injuries.
Upon recruiting 927 novice runners and categorizing their foot type—that is, the degree to which they did or didn’t pronate—researchers started athletes out on a running program. The participants completed their miles in neutral shoes, which lack any mechanisms of controlling the way the foot hits the ground. Interestingly at the end of the study, they found no significant link between foot type and risk of injuries, suggesting that in many cases, training errors are to blame.
“We like to say that much of the time, the problem is not the shoe, rather the problem is the thing in the shoe,” says Shawn Allen, an Illinois-based chiropractor and co-founder of The Gait Guys. Indeed, while an improper shoe can cause issues, more often than not, an injury is the result of something else gone awry.
To help further elucidate the root causes of running injuries, Allen and his partner Ivo Waerlop have coined the mnemonic device “S.E.S.,” which stands for “skill, endurance, strength.” “S.E.S. is the reason for most running injuries,” Allen says. “Footwear and foot strike are issues, but looking at the athlete’s S.E.S. is critically important.”
To find the root cause of your injury or to prevent one in the first place, consider seeing a specialist—physical therapist, chiropractor, sports medicine doctor—who can assess the S.E.S. of your gait.