Gait analysis for person with pronation

Do Barefoot Shoes Help with Pronation?

Last Updated on October 10, 2023

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Pronation is a natural movement of the foot, rolling inward following the heel striking the ground. It’s crucial for shock absorption and distributing the force of impact.

Diagram of the foot, showing pronation

However, issues arise when there’s excessive pronation, known as overpronation. Today’s runner is at a crossroads: should they go au naturel with barefoot shoes or stick to traditional sneakers? Time to dive deep and explore if barefoot footwear is the solution to overpronation woes.

Understanding Overpronation

Overpronation is often synonymous with flat feet and can lead to a domino effect of ailments including stress fractures, shin splints, and other running injuries.

The gait analysis of an overpronator usually reveals a heel strike followed by an excessive inward roll. This is where the realm of barefoot shoes steps in with a promise of a more natural gait.

Traditional Running Shoes vs Barefoot Shoes

Conventional running shoes with cushioned heels and arch support aim to correct the pronate movement by providing stability.

Traditional Shoes

However, the shoe may contribute to an unnatural heel strike, which some argue, exacerbates the risk of injury.

Conventional shoes heel strike
Unnatural Heel Strike – traditional shoes

On the flip side, running barefoot or with barefoot shoes promote a forefoot or midfoot strike, encouraging a more natural running style. But do they address the overpronation issue?

Forefoot Strike when running barefoot
Forefoot Strike

Barefoot Shoes and Pronation: What Does Research Say?

Research reveals mixed insights. Some studies suggest running barefoot or in minimalist footwear can improve foot strength and correct overpronation over time. Others argue that the lack of support in barefoot shoes may exacerbate existing overpronation, especially initially.

Taking a Closer Look: Key Studies

  • A study focusing on barefoot running found a significant improvement in overpronation among participants after an 8-week training program.
  • Conversely, another study highlighted that the lack of lateral support in barefoot shoes could potentially worsen overpronation, especially in severe cases.

Potential Benefits and Risks

Barefoot shoes can be a game-changer, offering:

  • Natural foot movement
  • Improved footwear flexibility
  • Strengthened foot muscles over time

However, the transition should be gradual to mitigate the risk of injury. A sudden switch could lead to discomfort or even injury.

It’s also worth noting that barefoot shoes may not provide the motion control needed by severe overpronators.

Personalized Approach: Consult a Specialist

Every runner’s gait is unique. Consulting with a podiatrist and undergoing a thorough gait analysis can provide personalized insights. They may recommend exercises, orthotics, or a particular type of shoe to help correct overpronation.

Do Barefoot Shoes help with pronation?

Barefoot shoes can help improve pronation in some cases, but they aren’t a cure-all solution. Here are some key points on barefoot shoes and pronation:

How Barefoot Shoes Can Help

  • Barefoot shoes strengthen foot muscles and improve proprioception. This enhances stability and control.
  • The wide toe box allows toes to splay naturally upon landing, improving foot function.
  • The minimal cushioning encourages a gentler, midfoot or forefoot strike rather than heel strike.
  • By promoting proper foot motion and mechanics, barefoot shoes can reduce over- or underpronation for some.


  • Barefoot shoes lack arch support, which some overpronators still need for alignment and shock absorption.
  • Not all individuals will see pronation improvements with barefoot shoes. Careful gait analysis is recommended.
  • Those with flat feet or very high arches may require orthotics or supportive shoes.
  • Transitioning too quickly to barefoot shoes could increase injury risk. Slow gradual introduction is key.

In short

Barefoot shoes show promise in re-training foot motion and pronation, but results will vary based on individual factors. Work closely with a specialist to determine if barefoot shoes are suitable for your pronation needs. Slow transition and orthotic use may be necessary. Patience and consistency will maximize potential benefits.

Further Reading

Dive deeper into the world of barefoot running, pronation, and find what suits your stride best with these resources:

Research Studies on Barefoot Shoes

  1. Systematic review on injury risk of minimalist running shoes
  2. Study on increased foot muscle size after 12 weeks of barefoot walking/running
  3. Research indicating older adults took longer to transition to minimalist shoes
  4. Study showing barefoot runners transitioned faster than shod runners
  5. Evidence that barefoot running alters lower extremity biomechanics
  6. Research on increased injury risk when transitioning to minimalist shoes too quickly
  7. Study on gait adjustments when barefoot running on uneven surfaces

Common Questions

What is pronation and how does it relate to barefoot shoes?

Pronation is the natural inward rolling of the foot after landing. Overpronation is excessive inward roll, which can cause injury. Barefoot shoes can help strengthen foot muscles and improve motion, reducing overpronation for some people.

Do barefoot shoes have arch support for overpronators?

Most barefoot shoes lack arch support, which some overpronators still need. If you have flat feet, consult a podiatrist about using supportive insoles with barefoot shoes.

Can barefoot shoes make overpronation worse?

For some, yes – especially if transitioning too quickly. Lack of support may exacerbate overpronation initially. Slow gradual transition over months is crucial.

How can barefoot shoes improve pronation?

By strengthening foot muscles, improving proprioception, and encouraging midfoot/forefoot strike. This enhances stability, motion control, and natural gait.

Who should not use barefoot shoes?

Those with very high arches or severe over/underpronation may require stability shoes or orthotics. Consult a specialist to determine if barefoot shoes suit your needs.

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