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 be present.

Sole Wear

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 out toe and the increase in the various 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 in-toe 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 shoe.

Forefoot Wear

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 Sole 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.

Heel Counter

The heel counter may be bent inward with excessive pronation and tilted 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