What Your Running Shoe Wear Pattern Tells You

As a track and cross country coach, as well as an avid runner, whenever a runner tells me that they have some type of running-related pain or discomfort, I always ask the same thing, “Can I see your shoes?” While it is true that you can have running problems for a multitude of reasons, not all shoe-related, it is also true that your shoes tell an awful lot about how you run. Also, most runners know that your running shoe wear pattern can tell a story for someone who knows what they are looking for.

Whether you pronate or supinate, if you are a forefoot or heel striker, there is a shoe out there for you. In addition to that, your shoes will say something about how you run.

Here’s why: because however you strike the ground, the way that your foot moves, the way your ankles turn, all of these things contribute to how your shoes wear. Some runners even get holes in their shoes in the same place pair after pair due to how their toes hit when they are running.

Running Shoes Only

Although you have shoes that you were for running, walking and cross-training, when analyzing wear pattern you should stick to shoes that you have only used for running. These will give you the most accurate information. If you have used the shoes for other things, choose another pair.

running shoe wear pattern

This makes sense if you think about it. When you walk, you are heel striking every step. Due to this, you will see wear toward the back of the shoe that might not exist on your shoes used exclusively for running.

Neutral Wear Pattern

If your running shoe wear pattern shows the most wear in the center of the forefoot area and/or the center portion of your heel, you have a neutral wear pattern.

This likely means you are an efficient runner. Neutral runners have feet that strike in the “neutral strike” which means their heel hits and rolls to the forefoot, without rolling left or right.

Neutral shoes typically have less stability as neutral runners are less likely to need it. Typically neutral runners do not have either flat feet nor high arches. They are usually somewhere in-between.


Most supinators show wear patterns on the outermost area of the shoe. Since it is so rare to run like this, most shoe companies do not even make shoes specific to supinators. Also known as underpronation, supination means the runner has an insufficient inward roll.

Runners who supinate put excess stress on the outside of the foot, which can lead to issues.

Sometimes shoes of supinators will actually show so much wear on the outermost area of the shoe, it causes this problem to become even more pronounced. Supinators may find themselves replacing shoes even more often than those who run differently.

While some supinators wear a cushioned shoe, others can run in a neutral shoe.


If your shoe shows wear on the innermost portion of the shoe, you likely overpronate. This means the runner’s foot actually collapses more than normal. Overpronators often find themselves in a stability shoe.

While stability shoes and/or orthotics can help people who overpronate, sometimes there is too much of a good thing. There is some evidence to suggest that over-correcting problem areas can actually cause weakness, which can be counterproductive.

Check If Your Shoe Wear Is Balanced

One thing to look at is to see if the wear patterns on the bottoms of your shoes are balanced. If there is an unbalanced or uneven wear pattern, it could be a sign that you are running in a manner that signifies you are favoring one side of the body.

What does that mean? Hip pain, for example, can cause you to run a bit differently than normal. If you run differently because you are in pain, discomfort or favoring, you can actually cause other problems to occur.

What Do Holes In My Running Shoes Mean?

Holes In My Running Shoes

If you get a hole in a pair of shoes once, that might not mean anything. However, what if every pair of shoes you wear eventually gets a hole in the same spot? That probably does mean something! Let’s discuss some of the common spots that shoes show wear, and what that could mean for the runner.

Holes in the Toebox could mean your shoes are too tight through that area. Consider sizing up a half or full size. Some runners find wearing a wide width shoe helps. Another potential problem could be that your toenails are too long. Consider keeping them trimmed. This also helps you to prevent black or losing toenails.

On the other hand, you may get holes in the toes because the shoes are too big. Too many areas to move around can cause tears also. If you have not been professionally fit for shoes, you should do so.

Holes in Heel Lining can be remedied by better-fitting shoes. If your shoes always wear here, you might be slipping out the back of your shoe. Another thought is to tie your shoes differently so that they are secure near the top. Lastly, some runners benefit from inserts.

How To Know When To Replace Shoes

Most running shoes last between 350-500 miles. Sure, some runners can get more miles out of shoes and others get less. Most runners find that tracking the mileage helps them to prevent injury.

If you are not tracking miles there are some warning signs. If you flip the shoes over and there is very little tread left, you may want to replace them.

Another warning sign is holes starting to form in the upper of the shoe. Lastly, do they just look worn out? That is another indicator.

If you suddenly start to feel beat up after runs that should not leave you feeling that way, your shoes may have lost the cushion or bounce. One way to prevent injury is to know about how many miles you traditionally get out of a pair of shoes and start to rotate in a new pair before that date grows near.

Transitioning into a new pair of shoes is always a good idea. Some runners find it helpful to wear a pair of new shoes for shorter runs as they get used to them. That puts you in a good place to retire a pair of old shoes exactly when you need to.

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