Why did I wear a hole through my left running shoe but not the right?
August 4, 2013 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I've worn a hole through the sole of my left running shoe, but not the right. You can see pictures of both shoes here. What does this mean? Is something wrong with my stride? Do I need some special kind of shoe? Is there some sort of expert to whom I should show the shoes? I have an odd gait when I walk (my right foot sticks out to the side); however, I thought my running gait was better. When I ran in my 20s (the last time I was a runner), I didn't have this problem with any of my shoes.
posted by Area Man to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
I have an odd gait when I walk (my right foot sticks out to the side); however, I thought my running gait was better.

Your shoes are clear evidence that your running gait isn't better.

I'd schedule an appointment with a physical therapist, or possibly an Alexander technique teacher, tell them what's going on, and see if they can get you straightened out. Your gait may well be putting undue stress on one of your knees or on your spine as well as your shoes; best to sort that out before it becomes a real problem.

Signed, ook, AKA "guy with bad back due to years of poor posture who wishes he had listened to this advice a decade or two ago"
posted by ook at 7:18 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Any decent running shop should be able to do gait analysis but you may have problems that need more than the right pair of trainers to solve.

That wear pattern is very odd. The right shoe looks barely worn, only 2 small patches of wear on the outer edge and the left shoe is worn all the way through on the ball with no wear at all on the heel.
posted by missmagenta at 7:22 AM on August 4, 2013

There is a strong possibility that you are dragging the left foot. There really is no other way to explain why the wear pattern is so much higher in that shoe. My running shoes have not worn symmetrically, but they have worn evenly - the overall degree of tread wear is about the same, albeit in slightly different spots on each shoe. And my other pair of runners, in comparison, shows a nearly identical pattern of wear - left shoe in each has the worn spots in the same place, etc.

If you have a good running store near you, see if you can get someone to watch you walk/run and do a simple gait analysis. There may be something you can do to help with this.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:23 AM on August 4, 2013

Just a thought, do you ever cycle wearing those shoes?
posted by missmagenta at 7:30 AM on August 4, 2013

Yes, it looks like you have an uneven gait. I wouldn't go to a sports shop, I would go to a sports trainer/physical trainer or another specialist.

(Though are those vibram soles? I have a pair of Merrel/vibrams and the wear pattern is definitely more distinct on their soles than on my usual shoes. There are bigger chunks taken out too, once into the secondary levels. So if some of this is more distinct in these shoes but not others, it may be that the shoes themselves aren't helping your gait even out.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:41 AM on August 4, 2013

I would grind through the bottom of my right shoe (but not my left) back before I got orthotics. My feet are both flat and I pronate a lot, but it was worse on my right, so much so that my foot wouldn't roll over my toes as I walked but would swivel on the ball of my foot. Hence the grinding and the wear.

I ended up going to a podiatrist (after developing a raging case of plantar fasciitis). Orthotics improved both the pain from fasciitis and my gait, and now, no holes in my shoes. I'd say, cut to the chase and get to a foot doc.
posted by Sublimity at 8:20 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there anything remotely like a similar wear pattern on your everyday walking shoes? Or on an older pair of running shoes? While I agree that your slightly wonky walking gait can translate into a far more wonky running gait, it is also possible that the excessive wear on the one shoe could be related to manufacturing defects.

Re: physical therapy - when I was in PT for my hip, I brought in an old pair of sneakers to show my PT the wear pattern and she pointed out gait issues that I didn't even realize I had. They have since been worked on and improved a lot in the 6 months since then.
posted by elizardbits at 8:39 AM on August 4, 2013

Seconding jetlagaddict's point. The difference between your soles is huge... but shoes I've had with Vibram soles tend to wear out faster (though I did enjoy using them).

If your shoes are that worn, I think you need new shoes... running with shoes that are that dead or that uneven will just exacerbate the problem.

People tend to get running shoes backward- they think you need to break shoes in, and then they'll last for years and years. My experience is the other way around- the right shoe shouldn't need to be broken in at all, and shoes definitely need replacement sooner than you'd think.

Along with seeing a specialist I might consider some other lightweight shoes that don't wear so much. Have you ever tried Nike Free shoes for example? They're overly expensive but they've held up well over a lot of miles for me.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:44 AM on August 4, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. So far, it sounds like I might need to check my health insurance to see what sort of coverage I might have for PT or some other specialist. I'm just popping in to answer a few questions that came up:

Just a thought, do you ever cycle wearing those shoes?

No, I don't.

Is there anything remotely like a similar wear pattern on your everyday walking shoes? Or on an older pair of running shoes?

I just checked and I didn't see anything similar on my walking shoes. So, maybe this has something to do with how I try to run with my feet straight.

Though are those vibram soles?

Yes, the shoes were made by Merrell and the soles are vibram. I've loved running in the shoes, but I'll be getting something else this time.
posted by Area Man at 8:58 AM on August 4, 2013

If you have the time, location ability, and inclination to do so you could try running on wet sand (like if a beach is nearby). You'll be able to clearly see if there is a pattern of foot drag in your stride. This "experiment" will also work on a clay track, and somewhat less definitively on wet earth. It won't FIX anything but it can give you an idea of where to start the fixing.

Also, what surface are you usually running on?
posted by elizardbits at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2013

Response by poster: I usually run on city sidewalks or paved park paths.

I could run across a beach at one of the city lakes. Thanks, that's a good idea.
posted by Area Man at 9:59 AM on August 4, 2013

This looks like a job for a podiatrist and/or a sports physio (at least, that's what I'd recommend in the UK - terms/roles might vary in different countries, I guess).
posted by penguin pie at 10:58 AM on August 4, 2013

You right shoe shows wear in both the outer toe and heel. That foot is a supinating or under pronating. Your left shoe shows wear in only that spot. You are likely landing and dragging and not rolling the foot at all.

You need professional help to fix this since you've got multiple problems - probably a podiatrist for evaluate for any foot issues followed by some coaching on running technique.
posted by 26.2 at 1:05 PM on August 4, 2013

I agree, that's either a foot drag or a twisting motion. Try to find a quiet place and listen to the noises your feet make when you run. That might give you a better idea what is going on.
posted by gjc at 2:55 AM on August 5, 2013

I have a similar body alignment issue like what you describe: my right foot sticks out at an angle when I put myself in relaxed position. When I force my feet to be parallel and my shoulders to be aligned with my feet then my hip ends up rotated counter clock wise (right hip forward). On top of that my feet are uneven where one is slightly shorter but also slightly wider than the other. I also get uneven wear on my shoes. Part of that can be explained by the difference in shape of my feet but part of it is clearly because my body is misaligned and weight is shifted around unevenly and a twisting motion is introduced in the gait.

I guess, what I'm trying to say is: most bodies probably aren't perfectly straight and symmetrical. Any unevenness will cause uneven wear... similar to tires wearing out unevenly on a car if there is a misalignment or if tires are replaced asymmetrically.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:43 PM on August 5, 2013

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