Running with Good Form: What Your Shoes Can Tell You

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Want a quick glimpse into your run form? It could be as simple as flipping your shoes over.

As a physical therapist specializing in running, it’s not uncommon to find run form flaws that lead to injury or diminished performance.

Much like a golfer works on their swing or a swimmer their stroke, assessing and improving your run form is smart.

One of the easiest ways to evaluate your run form is to look at the bottom of your shoes. Yes, that’s right, your shoes can tell you a lot about your run form!

To start, assess the wear pattern symmetry of your shoes. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the area of the wear pattern symmetrical on each shoe?
  2. Is the amount of wear pattern symmetrical on both shoes?

Here’s an example of asymmetrical wear and tear.

Notice the shoe on the left.  You can notice more forefoot wear (# 1).

On the right, you’ll notice more heel wear (#2).

A variety of reasons can cause this. For this runner, it was related to a forefoot strike on the left and a heel strike on the right.

While this happens for various reasons, the fix usually revolves around strength, balance, and flexibility.

But it’s not just symmetry that’s important; you also want to asses where you’re landing and pushing off.

Do you notice most of your wear along the outside of the foot? Good. Standard foot mechanics start by landing on the outside edge, slightly loading inward to absorb shock, then back out again for push-off.

Things to consider:

If you see a lot of wear and tear on the front of the shoe and nothing towards the back, you’re a toe striker. Do you see a lot of wear on the back outside corner of the shoe? That’s due to heel striking.

Cons of toe strike

  • Front of foot is not built for repetitive impacts
  • Overloads the Achilles tendons and plantar fascia
  • Wastes energy with excess bouncing

Cons of heel strike:

  • Overloads the joints, particularly the knee
  • Stops forward momentum on every stride
  • Inefficient movement pattern for distance running

So what should you see? Ideally, a similar wear pattern from just in front of the heel, extending up through the front of the foot. The wear pattern indicates landing and pushing off from the correct areas.

It’s best to notice an even wear pattern from the back edge of your heel through your midfoot.

The wear pattern indicates that you’re landing on a flat foot and not localizing your strike to your heels or toes.  The wear is also even from right to left, which suggests equal symmetry.

A nice even wear extending along the outside of the shoe indicates a midfoot strike. A midfoot strike can reduce injury risk by lowering impact forces on the joints. It can also improve efficiency and speed by minimizing “braking” forces accompanied by overstriding.

In conclusion, paying attention to the wear patterns on your shoes and striving for symmetry and a midfoot strike can significantly impact your running performance and injury risk. 

Grab your shoes and take a look!

Want to improve your run form?

Join the Midfoot Project 5-week run form bootcamp for the first time ever inside the RunSmart app. You’ll get a customized training plan, five guided audio runs, access to our team of Physical Therapists, and a community of like-minded runners.