Ever looked at the sole of your running shoes and wondered what the wear pattern means? Whilst not always obvious, your wear pattern can provide some clues on the way you run, why you may have an injury or the longevity of your footwear.

But these visible signs are only part of the story.  

Read on to find out what Steve Manning, founder of intraining Running Centre & Podiatrist says the soles of your shoes may say about the way you run.

The ‘normal’ pathway for running shoe wear should be from foot strike on the outside edge of the shoe to propulsion. Propulsion should be visible around the first and second toe. The location of this wear pattern is, however, dependent on whether you are a heel, midfoot, or forefoot striker.  

Whilst this wear pattern is expected, there are variations which are often the result of an injury or anatomical restrictions in the runner’s skeletal structure.  Individual biomechanics, past injuries, and footwear choice, all play a large role in how well a shoe is suited to each runner.

Foot strike patterns

So what does the wear on the sole of your running shoes mean?

#1  Excessive wear on outside edge of shoe

Excessive wear on the outside of the shoe at the location of the foot strike is one of the more obvious indicators of a mismatch between the footwear and the runner biomechanics.  This usually occurs when there is an increase in the angle at which the foot strikes the ground. A scuffing or scraping sound can often be heard and after a period of time, the midsole (cushioning) of the shoe will become visible.

#2  Wear on the centre or inside edge of the heel

A less common foot strike pattern is one which is visible at the centre of the heel or the inside edge (medial) of the heel. Both of these foot strike patterns reduce the ability of the foot to pronate, which is a necessary movement to diffuse the forces of the initial ground impact.  This will result in an increase in the forefoot loading which will often cause the forefoot to slap onto the ground. This causes a braking movement, in what should be a smooth forward movement. As a result, there is an increase in the overall stress on the legs and the joints.

#3  Propulsion

Propulsion begins just before the foot lifts off the ground by pushing against it to maintain forward momentum. If the big toe joint locks during this phase, the forefoot will pivot in an attempt to allow continued movement.  This often creates a circular wear spot in the middle of the forefoot.

For a foot that has excessive pronation without enough control, the wear may be more under the big toe joint as the foot rolls off that inside edge. This may be the reverse with excessive wear on the outside edge of the forefoot when a foot turns outside its ‘anatomically acceptable’ range.

A more unusual wear pattern at propulsion is a shaved appearance on the sides of the cushioning. In some cases, the cushioning may appear scraped or even gouged along the edge on both of the forefoot and rearfoot midsoles. This may be due to a block in forefoot movement or as a result of biomechanical variance higher up the leg or at the hips.

#4  Non-visible midsole wear

Wear within the midsole is not visible, but can be felt by the degree of resistance upon compression of the midsole. Using the ‘dead shoe test’ can reveal points of unevenness within the midsole. These points indicate the magnitude and the nature of forces the midsole has been exposed to. If there is an excessive amount of force from pivoting, pounding and loading during running, this can result in an accelerated wear of the midsole.

Other factors

It is important to remember, the wear pattern visible on the sole of the shoe only indicates the movement between the shoe and the ground. There are forces also generated from movement between the foot and the shoe, and other forces generated from movement by the leg and body above the foot. Any of these movement patterns can contribute to excessive wear and injury. The sound you hear whilst running can be a useful cue to determine if a running shoe and your biomechanics don’t match.

What should I do if my shoes are wearing out quickly?

If you are struggling with injury and have noticeable wear patterns on your shoe, or seem to be wearing your shoes out quickly, make an appointment to see one of the podiatrists or physiotherapists at intraining Running Injury Clinic for a biomechanical assessment.

At intraining Running Centre, you can try running in the shoes before you buy them. Our running team will take you outside and watch you run up and down AND you get to feel and listen to what each shoe is like. This is the best way to choose a shoe because it allows you to sense how well your feet and the ground can work in synergy. 

The intraining Running Centre is located at 33 Park Road, Milton. Come in and see us. Phone: 07 3367 3088.