What Your Treads Are Saying About Your Feet

Shoe treadAre you fashionable or practical? What is your favorite color? Going out for a party or going out for a jog?

Your shoes can say a lot about you and your personality, but did you know they can also say a lot about how you actually walk and move? It’s true! Those bright pink sneakers aren’t just an advertisement for your energetic personality; as they age and break down, they might reveal some hidden secrets about your gait and foot shape, too.

All treads wear down over time due to weight, pressure, and friction, but not every part of the sole will wear down at the same rate. Areas subjected to higher stress, unsurprisingly, 

grind down faster. By observing the bottoms of your running or athletic shoes after significant use, you can actually “read” the tread to see whether you’ve got a healthy stride (wear patterns are all in the right spots) or if biomechanical inefficiencies are putting your foot health at risk.

For a walker or runner with a “neutral” or normal stride, the areas of most serious wear will tend to be located toward the middle-to-outside of the heel and middle-to-inside of the ball of the foot, particularly under the first couple of toes where the push off occurs.

Wear patterns that deviate significantly from this baseline may indicate biomechanical flaws that could increase pain or injury risk. For example, wear that is concentrated along the 

inside edge of the shoe may indicate overpronation or flat feet, while wear concentrated along the outside edge indicates underpronation (also known as supination) and possibly high arches.

It’s not just the treads that speak, either. Ever noticed cracks or wrinkles along the outside of the heel of your shoe? That’s pretty good evidence that the cushioning is flattening and compressing. That means they can’t soften the shock of each step as efficiently as they used to, and those extra forces are being transferred to your feet and legs instead.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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