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Interpreting Wear Patterns on the Sole of Running Shoes

Before Buying New Sneaks, Read Your Soles

Before buying a pair of new running sneaks (or stocking up on a few), you can learn a lot about the kind of runner you are and the needs of your feet by checking out the condition of your old sneakers. According to an article in the March issue of Runner's World, here are some things you should look for before sneaker shopping:

  • Heel alignment: Place your sneaks side by side on a flat surface and look at the heels, checking to see if your sneakers lean to the right or to the left. If they lean inward, it's a sign that you're an overpronator. If they lean outward, then you're an underpronator. Neither is a bad thing, but when looking for your next pair, you should find ones that support how you pronate.

For more details on what to watch out for, keep reading.

  • Midsole wear: Turn your sneaks over and look at the midsole. Look for creases, excessive wear on certain parts of the sole, or if one shoe has more wear than the other. It could give you clues that one of your legs is longer than the other, or tell you that you're overstriding. An appointment with an orthopedist might be your best option before splurging on your next pair of kicks.
  • Upper stretching: Now look at the tops of your sneaks. If the fabric is wrinkled and overstretched in certain areas, it's a sign that the shoe isn't giving you enough motion control. This means you may not be getting enough arch support or that the shoe is too wide in the front and your foot is shifting from side to side. You want a snug fit, so while shoe shopping, look for a pair that supports the shape of your foot best to ensure your feet are locked in place.

I suggest shopping for sneakers at a specialty running store and taking your old sneakers with you. Chances are someone there can read the sole of your shoe and suggest a style or brand to suit your foot.

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