Checking Your Running Shoes For Signs Of Wear
Checking your shoes outsole: As mentioned in the previous blog the outsole will typically wear fairly heavily at the outside heel area of a shoe. Other than simply looking at the sole of your shoes to see if there are any obvious signs of breakdown of the outsole material you can check for wear in a couple of other easy ways. When looking at how to check your running shoes need replacing these are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Checking for wear of the outsole of your shoe in the outside heel area can be done by having a friend watch you walk or run from behind. With them looking to see if there is noticeable collapse of the outside of the shoe as you strike the ground. This will occur if the harder outsole material is worn in this area and the shoe collapses as the softer midsole underneath compresses when you strike the ground.
- Another way to check for signs of wear on the outsole is by placing your shoes on a table in front of you and then looking at them from the back of the shoe. If the outsoles are worn, then the shoes may well be “leaning” to one side. If this is the case, then odds are that the midsole cushioning is most likely worn as well.
How To Check Your Running Shoes Need Replacing Because The Midsole Is Worn
Checking your shoes midsole: The midsole of your shoe is classically made of Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) which is a foam material. The midsole as previously mentioned is designed for its shock-absorbing properties as well as its ability to assist in the control of excessive foot motion (depending on the function/intended purpose behind the shoe). Over time associated with use, the shoes EVA will compress. When this occurs then any shock absorption and rebounding properties will change within the material from when new out of the box. Also, when worn the midsole may potentially fail in its roll to control excessive foot motion as it compresses and deforms unevenly as the shoe breaks down over increasing mileage. Worth noting is that a shoes midsole may well be worn out before the outsole shows any actual signs of wear, meaning if you don’t know what you are looking for you may miss it. Some simple tips for identifying midsole wear include:
- As your running shoes wear out the midsole material can become more flexible and rather than flexing at the ball of the foot towards the front of the shoe the sole may continue being able to flex further back towards the mid-foot in the “middle” of the shoe. If your shoes are able to flex further up the shoe not just towards as designed in the toe-area, then this may make it difficult for the foot to form the rigid structure it needs for propulsion. And the shoe may not provide adequate stability for the more mobile foot that craves a bit of additional support from its shoe.
To test for this midsole breakdown then a number of comparison tests are easy to do. For this simply take your old shoes to the shops and compare your old shoe to a new model of the same shoe.
- You can try bending your shoe in half (effectively upper to upper)
- and try twisting the shoe (like wringing out washing, or a wet towel)
- also try checking the forefoot stiffness because as the midsole material breaks down you will be able to compress the width at the front of the shoe, squeezing sole to sole width wise
- another comparison test is to look to fold the shoe in half the opposite way, so folding the sole of the midfoot back on itself…
With a new shoe you will generally find yourself unable to compress the shoe in these ways or at least a significant amount of added resistance in doing so compared to a “worn out” running shoe. Basically A worn out midsole will allow your running shoe to be twisted and compressed more easily than a new shoe full of life.
- Whilst at the shops another thing you can do to check the midsole wear of your old shoes is to put on the new pair comparing the feel of this to your current shoes. If the cushioning in your shoes feels “flat” and “dead” in comparison, then pull out your credit card as they probably need to be replaced.
- Another way is to examine your old shoes is to look for creasing of the midsole material. A worn-out midsole will have wrinkles and creases in areas of high stress, creases that aren’t there in new shoes. These creases are signs that the EVA material is losing some of its ability to rebound and shock absorb.
- As with the outsole, midsole wear will also be indicated by your shoes showing signs of unevenness when you put them on flat surface like a table or the floor. this can be compared to a new shoe and see how the shoe is sitting or leaning if there is significant change then again it is probably time to be replacing your shoes.
How To Check For Breakdown Of The Heel Counter
Checking your shoes heel counter: The heel counter helps prevent excessive heel motion, when your shoes are in need of replacing this is one of the common areas that will break down and become a potential risk of running injury setback:
- When broken down, the heel counter will feel flexible when compressed side to side (squished together).
- The heel counter may appear to deviate towards one side when looking at the shoe from behind. If someone when running is causing uneven stress on the heel counter, then over time the shoe will change and maintain this shift even when not being worn.
- If you apply firm pressure halfway up the back of the heel and it collapses under your thumb pressure, then this also indicates that the heel counter is worn out and likely providing less stability than intended.
Breakdown of any of these areas in a shoe can at the very least impact running performance, if not put a runner at risk of suffering an injury. So, it is always a good idea to learn how to check if your running shoes need replacing before injury strikes letting you know their time was up.
Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing should consult his or her general practitioner, podiatrist, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.