Shoe Wearing & Buying Tips
- A shoe's midsole only lasts so long. It degrades
from use and the resultant useful life of a running shoe is
350 to 550 miles. This means that if you are running 20 miles
a week, you should consider changing by approximately weeks
20 to 25. The shoe may still serve a useful purpose; casual
wear for walking. Replace the initial sock liner fairly quickly,
it is likely designed to be comfortable and cushy when you
first wear it. After that it loses shock absorption capacity
- Sole wear does not necessarily reflect the loss of
shock absorption by a shoe. Even with a new looking shoe, adequate
shock absorption may be lacking. Use the 350 to 550 mile guideline
instead of trying to guess how worn your shoe should look.
- Make sure there is about a finger's width at the front
of the shoe. This will help prevent runner's (black)
toe. The shape and depth of the front of the shoe also
have an effect on this problem.
- Buy your shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are
somewhat larger from the day's walking.
- The widest part of the shoe should be at the widest
part of your foot.
- If you have had no problems while running in a shoe, you
should probably try to obtain another pair of the same make
- Don't even dream of running a marathon in a new pair of
shoes. Your shoe should have at least 100 miles on it to be
broken in well enough to run a marathon.
- Make sure you carefully lace your shoe before running.
Too tight a shoe may make parts of the top of your foot
sore or squeeze your metatarsals too tightly. Too lose
a shoe may make your foot move excessively and be less
stable, resulting in more than normal pronation.
Shoe Wear - What Can It Tell You?
Shoe wear is often taken to hold much meaning. So also, might be
the reading of tea leaves, or the casting of yarrow sticks, to
determine what Trigrams will be present in the current reading
of the I Ching. While it may tell you much, there is much ambiguity
present also. While some would disagree, I would rather examine
a foot and watch your gait. It will tell me more about how your
shoes will wear, than examining your shoes will tell you about
either your feet or your gait. With that said, I'll describe some
things you may learn from looking at shoe wear. One of the things
to look for is asymmetry in wear. This will reflect asymmetry of
function. There may be a leg length difference, one foot may pronate
more than the other, muscles may be tighter or weaker on one side,
or a rotational deformity may
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
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
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.
The heel counter may be bent inward with excessive pronation and
to the outside by a high arched foot.
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.
Oversimplified Guide to Shoes
Needs much support. Stable shoe needed with good
High Arch Needs more shock absorption. Better with a
narrower heel A wide heel may make the rearfoot, which in a high
arched foot, may be restricted in inversion and eversion, move
too much and too fast at heel contact.
Normal Foot Whatever you've been doing, keep doing.
Probably best with a combination of control and shock absorption.
Post Stress Fracture Don't forget to change your shoes
frequently (350 to 400 miles) and get a shoe with adequate shock
Achilles Tendinitis See above discussion. Avoid air
soles and excessively spongy heels. Use a heel lift. Avoid shoes
that are too stiff in the sole. It should bend where the toes
attach to the foot.
Tips On Selecting An Athletic Shoe
1. Sport Specific Shoe. Plan to select a shoe specific for the sport in which you will participate. While some have suggested that if you participate in a sport more than 3 hours per week, a better suggestion is to always make sure that you use a sport specific shoe. It would not be a good idea to play soccer in tennis shoes or to jog in football cleats? Get a sports specific shoe for each sport you participate in.
2. Specialty Shoe Store. It is best to use a store that specializes in athletic shoes and has a good reputation in your community. If you are a runner, make certain to ask local runners clubs and runners that you know where they recommend you purchase your shoes. You might also call the office of a local sports podiatrist for suggestions.
3. Bring Useful information to the store. What injuries have you had in the past and what if anything is your current problem? Bring your old shoes in to the store. Which shoes have been successfully used in the past and which ones caused problems? What is your general foot type and foot shape? How have previous shoe models worn?
4. Have Your Feet Measured Each Time You Purchase Shoes. As you age, you'll find that your foot size may gradually change also. Each manufacturer often changes where their shoes are made and the last that the shoe is made will vary from one manufacturer to another. The measurements should include sitting, standing and heel to toe, heel to ball and width.
In spite of obtaining a number from the Brannock measuring device, you'll still have to actually fit the shoe to your foot. The measurement itself is only a general guide.
5. Wear Socks You Plan To Use And Don't Forget Your Orthotics. If you wear an insert, an orthotic or an orthotic with a flat insert underneath it, bring these along to the shoe store. And be sure to wear the same type of sock when you are fitted for your shoe as you will wear when participating in your sport.
6. You need a fingers width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. The shoe should be fit with your index fingers width between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. The toe box should have adequate room for your toes. The shoe should bend at the ball of your foot where your toes actually bend. If the heel to ball fit is off, then the break of the shoe will not match your foot and abnormal forces will develop in your foot and in the shoe. The heel should be stable and not move in and out of the shoe. Wear the shoe for at least 10 minutes in the store, and if allowed do a brief short jog outside of the store to see how it feels.
7. Check the shoe for defects. Examine the exterior of the shoe for tears, improper stitching and other blemishes and defects. Place the shoes on a level counter and make sure the shoes line up evenly, stable, that the heel is straight, and there are no obvious defects.
8. Check the wear of your shoes regularly. Make sure you examine and replace your shoes regularly. Most running shoes last for between 350 miles and 500 miles of running. Checking and changing your shoes is one of the best ways to avoid the doctor's office. With a careful training schedule that avoids over training and doing too much, too soon, too quickly and too often, you can reduce your risk of injury markedly. Be sure to check all aspects of your shoe for wear. Make sure the outsole is not worn through. Make sure that the heel counter is not tilted in or out. Check for holes worn by the pressure of your toes.
9. Don't wear a new shoe in a race. When you go off to run a marathon, bring your old friends along. Wear shoes and socks that you've broken in thoroughly.
10. Select appropriate socks. Cotton socks are available everywhere, but are not often appropriate for your sports activity. The best sock is often one made of synthetic fibers that wick moisture away from your feet.
Watch Out For Shoes That May Contribute To Your Foot and Leg Injuries
Shoes that have inflexible soles cause
the calf muscles to work harder and can contribute to the development
of achilles tendonitis. The mechanical reason for this is that
the looking at the shoe and leg as a fulcrum and lever system,
they make the lever arm function over a longer distance and make
the tip of the shoe the location of the fulcrum. The shoe should
flex at the point where the toes join the foot, which also happens
to be the widest part of the shoe. The shoe should also have a
slight heel lift, which most running shoes do.
Shoes that have too much heel cushioning, including some of
the more flexible cushioned models can also contribute to achilles tendonitis.
After the heel strikes the ground, it continues moving, as the
shoe's cushioning continues to absorbs shock. This continued
motion can stretch a susceptible achilles tendon excessively.
Plantar Fasciitis Shoes that are too flexible in the
midsole or that flex before the point at which the toes join
the foot result in forces that can both directly cause a stretch
in the plantar fascia and contribute to excess pronation in the
foot (subtalar joint). The lack of stability that exists in a
shoe with this characteristic occurs not just at the transverse
plane of the shoe where the shoe actually flexes, but also in
a longitudinal plane, reducing the effectiveness of the shoe
in controlling pronation.
- Last (two different entities are referred to by this term)
- The template or model upon which the shoe is built. Different manufacturers use different lasts.
- The shape of a shoe's design:
- Straight last
- Curved last
- Semi-Curved Last
- The method of construction:
- Board lasted
- Uses a board to attach upper and lower elements
- Slip lasted
- Upper sewn directly to the sole. Stitching often visible.
- Combination lasted
- Board lasted rearfoot, Slip lasted forefoot.
- The outermost part of the sole, which is treaded. On running shoes the tread is designed for straight ahead motion. Court shoes and cross trainers have their tread optimized for lateral or side-to-side stability.
- Uppermost part of the shoe. Encompasses your foot and has laces.
- The part of the shoe between the outer sole and the upper. The major contribution of this layer is shock absorption. It is most often desirable that the shoe exhibit flexion stability to the point at which the toes bend.
- The liner inside the shoe which often has a combination of cushioning features and some contour to fill the space between your foot and the shoe.
- Heel Counter
- A supportive structure at the back of the heel, often rigid, provides some support. Some shoes are constructed with an "extended" counter.
Other Sources of Running Shoe Information
Commercial Shoe Pages