I promised that this week I would give a few pointers about what the wear pattern on your shoe says about your running gait. I will apologise right now for how dry this blog is, but to make this exciting or entertaining would be an achievement of true greatness. 🤣
By the time people come to us with problems, we usually find wear patterns that have been on the shoe for months. Had these been picked up early on, it could have prevented a niggle from becoming a full blown issue. Furthermore, it's very common to assume some of the wear patterns we list below are just because you are right or left footed. True.....when you kick a ball or jump, but not when you run! Finally, I must highlight that assessing shoe wear is something we take several hours to teach on our Running Gait Courses, so this blog is really only designed to get you looking and thinking. So pick up your trainers, turn them over and here we go. 👟
You see those pretty little patterns and textures on top of the main tread; swirls, arrows, hashes dimples, etc., well they are going to act as your wear indicators. Imagine a shoe without them, how would you see what has or has not worn away?
Now ask yourself: Are both soles worn in the same way? If not there is trouble on the horizon, usually from two common causes. Either favouring one leg to avoid a really subtle problem on the opposite leg, or poor foot mechanics on one side. Uneven foot loading absolutely needs help and is the most common cause of problems that we see.
Ok, put your shoes back down and lets get familiar with three basic running foot strikes, and three basic foot positions:
1) The Heel strike. Often associated with shin splints, tibial stress fractures, hip, back and knee pain.
2) The Forefoot/Toe strike. Used by sprinters but problematic in distance running due to poor dissipation of forces through the foot. Toe striking often results from well intentioned attempts to change from a heel strike to a mid foot strike but going too far the other way. It is associated with stress fractures of the foot as well as calf pain and injuries.
3) The Mid-foot strike. Perfect! Well done, go and relax and read a more interesting blog! 😀 This is the way the foot is designed to work and can be achieved in any shoe type. It produces very few injuries unless it is combined with one of the foot positions listed below.
There are three basic foot positions:
1) Neutral (Ideal)
2) Over pronation. The foot rolls in past neutral, often produces knee and hip pain.
3)Under pronation. The foot stays on the outside edge, often associated with compartment syndromes.
Right, pick your shoes back up and now observe for the following wear characteristics:
- Sole worn almost exclusively on forefoot ➡️ Toe striking
- Sole worn excessively on heel ➡️ Heel striking (look from the back too and you will see the sole has compressed into a wedge shape that is thinner on the outside of the foot.
- Sole worn down on the outside edge ➡️ Under pronation
- Sole worn excessively on inside edge of forefoot ➡️ Over pronation.
Noticing any of the above? If so.....seek help!😉 Noticing if any of the above are present and more-so in one foot?.....seek help even quicker! 😉😉
We regularly work with all of these presentations to offer permanent solutions to running pain or injuries. We always ask our running clients to bring in their shoes so we can assess the wear pattern and this along with our bio-mechanical body check and gait analysis, usually gets us to the cause of pain quickly.
So, what do we actually want to see on a shoe? How should a shoe look if your gait is healthy?
What we really want to see is evidence of a neutral, Mid-foot strike and that will be reflected by : Even wear left and right. Wear through the middle of the tread on the forefoot and toe section and some wear on the heel, but without it being compressed into the wedged shape.
Well that's the basic version to get you going. There are many other things we look at including the insides and the uppers of your shoes but hopefully this will get you started, so get checking out your wear pattern. 🤗
Next week, in our final blog about running, I will explore how you know when worn is 'too worn' and how to judge if your shoes have had their day. I will also explore where motion control shoes fit into all of this.
Finally, best of luck to anyone running the London Marathon tomorrow. 🏃🏃♀️
Happy and injury free running 😀
Next week we ask how do you know when your shoes have had it?