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What Does Your Shoe Say About You?

Take a good look at your favourite pair of shoes - to be precise, the sole of the shoe. You might not realise it, but there is a lot that can be revealed by analysing the wear pattern of your shoes’ soles. Take a look at your favourite pair of shoes now and see what they say about your health and the way you walk.

Where are the Wear Patterns?

It is the wear patterns in your sole that provide the valuable information.

The sole is important to look at, because your foot strikes the ground in a repetitive motion when wearing shoes, and wear and tear will naturally be present on the bottom of your shoe. These patterns can be concentrated on the instep, the outer edge, the heel, the forefront, or a combination of these areas. 

The midsole and insole - the layers of your shoe between the sole and your foot - can also indicate a pattern of wear that reveals a lot. Also, the toe box at the top of your shoe can show abnormal wear either on the top or the sides of the area. Finally, if the upper/overall structure of shoe is altered it can show us a lot.

What Wear Patterns Reveal

Let’s look at some specific potential problems that can be revealed by your shoe’s wear patterns.

First look at the outside heel - is it worn down on the outside? If so, this might mean you are walking with incorrect hip positioning. If you are not moving properly then it causes your foot to swing incorrectly, causing the outside heel to wear down.

Now check and see if you can see a circular wear patter on the forefoot of your shoe. If so, then this means you twist your foot slightly when you push off after each step in order to clear the ground easily.

Now also look to see if there are any other areas of your shoe that are worn down. These wear patterns can provide a clue to whether you walk with the correct posture or if you are walking inefficiently

Some other common wear patterns to look out for include noticing if there is a bulge and wear to the side of the big toe, which can mean a too-narrow fit, or can indicate a bunion. Outer sole wear can indicate that you turn your feet out, which can be helped by orthotics.

Toe-shaped ridges on the upper of the shoe can mean your shoes are too small, or possibly indicate that you suffer from hammertoes. Showing more wear on the ball of the foot can indicate that your heel tendons are too tight, while having wear on the inner sole of the shoe can mean that you turn your feet in. If you have wear on the upper shoe, above the toes, it can indicate that the front of your shoe is too low.

Using Wear Patterns to Detect Foot Problems

If you experience problems with your hamstrings, Achilles tendons, big toes, knees, hips, back pain and or even experience headaches then showing your shoes to a podiatrist can reveal a lot.

Some problems your podiatrist can diagnose from your shoe's wear patterns include: 

  • Bunions
  • Overpronation
  • Supination (under-pronation)
  • Hammertoes
  • Altered weight-bearing
  • Flat Feet
  • Gait problems
  • Poor shoe fit/improper shoe for activity

Different Shoes, Different Signs

You might also find that different shoes are worn in differently so it can be worth checking out a few different pairs of shoes to see if there are inconsistencies at all. You might find that your most comfy shoes have very different wear patterns to the shoes which you really don’t enjoy wearing and the wear patterns could explain why some shoes are comfier to wear than others.

If you do notice any of these signs or are experiencing any of these physical problems, it may be worth investigating further by contacting one of our Spectrum Health podiatrists to take a closer look at things and uncover where your pain or injury might be stemming from.

By examining the wear patterns on your shoe, our skilled podiatrists might find issues with either your foot's functioning or the way you walk. Some of these issues can be corrected simply by purchasing orthotics or the correct shoes for your activity. Other foot problems might need additional treatment.