Reading Tea Leaves: What You Can Learn from your Worn-Out Running Shoes

You can learn a lot about your gait and foot shape by understanding what your worn-out running shoes tell you. While visiting a specialty running shoe store or podiatrist is often the best way to learn about your foot and gait, how your running shoes wear down can reveal common biomechanical inefficiencies such as:

Dr. Pribut , who specializes in Podiatric Sports Medicine, Biomechanics and Foot Surgery, outlines what you should look for in your worn out running shoes.

Sole Wear
Outer Heel – Rearfoot striker. The point of initial contact with the ground is usually the place showing the most wear. This could be normal wear. Most people have wear here. This can occur with a slight outtoe and the increase in the varus foot position that occurs in running because of the narrower base of gait (the distance from the midline that the foot strikes the ground).

Inner Heel Rearfoot striker. Possibly intoe gait, which would make this area the initial point of contact with the ground. Could also be severe pronation, if the heel counter is bent inward and the medial part of much of the sole shoes wear. The best way to tell is really looking at the foot in addition to the shoe.

Forefoot Wear
Much forefoot wear and little heel wear, usually indicates forefoot strike, which the shoes of many faster short and middle distance runner’s will show. Uneven wear, or wear below a second or third metatarsal area may indicate a Morton’s foot (short first metatarsal) and excess pronation. The indicated metatarsal may be at higher risk for a stress fracture. Middle of the

Sole
Lateral sole wear in general, may reflect a high arch, excessively supinating foot. Medial sole wear, with a bent counter and a medial shift of the upper, probably indicates severe excessive pronation.

Heel Counter
The heel counter may be bent inward with excessive pronation and tilted to the outside by a high arched foot.

Upper
The upper may likewise tilt inward with a hyperpronating foot and tilt outward with a supinated (under pronating) foot. It may exhibit holes by the toes, or by the big toe alone. This means it may be too shallow or too short at the front of the foot. There should be a fingers width at the front of the shoe in front of the toes. If the toes make a big bump in the shoe less than 1/2 inch from the tip of the shoe, the shoe is probably too short.

April 6, 2006. Sneakers.