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How To Evaluate Shoe Wear Patterns

My runners shoes wear differently. What can you tell about the individual's biomechanics from the wear pattern?

Answer, provided by Phyllis A. Ragley, DPM, JD President, AAPSM

Q: I am a high school cross country and track coach. Are there any tips you can give me about shoe wear patterns which can help me evaluate my athletes' running mechanics?

A: Thank you for your question. The ability to examine shoe wear can be most helpful in evaluating that athlete's biomechanics and what shoes may work the best for them. If an athlete suffers repeated injuries, shoe wear patterns may provide some clues as to why that athlete is injured. There are some simple things to evaluate. Keep in mind- one pair of shoes may wear differently than another, so it is important to check several pairs of shoes, including street shoes. In evaluating wear patterns look at:

1) Symmetry, is the wear equal and in the same place on both shoes? If one wears harder than the other or more centrally on the back of the heel, that may indicate a leg length discrepancy or over striding on one leg;

2) If you put the shoes up on a table and look at them from the back, is the bisection of the heel counter perpendicular to the table or are the shoes tipping in (as in pronation) or to the outside (supination)? Or does one shoe tip in and the other out? That can again be indicative of a leg length discrepancy. If the shoes show pronation, as is common in the flat foot type, then the runner may need more control of the pronation to avoid overuse injuries. If the shoes show supination, then this runner may need less control and more shock absorption. The typical injuries of someone who supinates, the high arch foot, are injuries of poor shock absorption;

3) Look at where the toe box bends or if the toes are "popping up" into the leather/mesh uppers. Some shoe manufacturers extend the lacing too far forward on the tops of the toes. This can restrict the fluid movement of the toes in running and lead to problems like shin splints. Also look if the creases in the toe box are straight across the toe box or oblique. If the creases are sideways, that can be indicative of poor fit, stiffness, or again the lacing system being too far forward. Finally in fitting the shoes, try them on later in the day to provide for swelling, have at least 1/4" to 1/2" clearance from the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe, measure the foot, and be sure the shoe is comfortable in the store.

Becoming familiar with some of the nuances of shoe wear patterns, is one of the most fundamental and useful tools at your disposal to help your athletes have fewer injuries. Thanks again for your question and please browse our web site for other areas of interest.

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