Shoe Detective: Decoding the Wear on Your Shoes

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No two people walk exactly alike and the wear patterns on our shoes prove it. When you’re ready to shop for new shoes, it can be helpful to take the old pair with you. An experienced salesperson can “decode” your unique wear patterns and help you select a fit and style that provides better support and compensates for the stresses you place on your shoes.

Take a moment to look at your shoes. Are the soles worn smooth in certain spots? Are the uppers worn or stretched in specific places? Here’s a quick guide for the most common wear patterns and what they mean:

Wear on the ball of the foot: Your heel tendons may be too tight. Begin a gentle stretching regimen focused on foot and ankle flexibility.

Wear on the inner sole: Your feet pronate or turn in while walking. Try inner shoe liners or orthotic supports.

Wear on the outer sole: You walk with your feet turned out. Orthotics may help correct your gait.

Toe-shaped ridges on the uppers: Your shoes may be too small or you may suffer from a condition known as hammertoe, a bending of the toes at the middle joint.

A bulge or wear to the side of the big toe: It’s likely that your shoes are too narrow. If not, this wear pattern may indicate the presence of a bunion.

Wear on the uppers, right above the toes: The front of your shoes may be too low. Choose a different style with better support in the toe area.

The next time new shoes or boots are on your shopping list, make it an opportunity to learn more about how you walk. Then, invest in a pair that will keep you moving with more support, more stability, and more comfort.