Boosting large-scale superconductor applications require nanostructured conductors with artificial pinning centres immobilizing quantized vortices at high temperature and magnetic fields. Here we demonstrate a highly effective mechanism of artificial pinning centres in solution-derived high-temperature superconductor nanocomposites through generation of nanostrained regions where Cooper pair formation is suppressed. The nanostrained regions identified from transmission electron microscopy devise a very high concentration of partial dislocations associated with intergrowths generated between the randomly oriented nanodots and the epitaxial YBa2Cu3O7 matrix. Consequently, an outstanding vortex-pinning enhancement correlated to the nanostrain is demonstrated for four types of randomly oriented nanodot, and a unique evolution towards an isotropic vortex-pinning behaviour, even in the effective anisotropy, is achieved as the nanostrain turns isotropic. We suggest a new vortex-pinning mechanism based on the bond-contraction pairing model, where pair formation is quenched under tensile strain, forming new and effective core-pinning regions. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.