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Learning from the shoe of a runner

Moe Johnson Running with Moe

Learning from the shoe of a runner

Sunday, March 19, 2023

I was talking with some friends this week about some of the different kinds of books that they have read and enjoyed. Some were fiction and easy reading and others were factual accounts of events or people that are part of history. There were also some that were more on the scientific end of things. It was an interesting conversation. It made me think of the different forms of reading. A trail guide can read tracks of animals. There are people that can read impressions on the surface and determine that the various indentations and grooves were made by some traveler many decades ago. One story relates that the width of railroad tracks were made centuries ago by ancient Roman chariot wheels that were determined by the width of foot imprints of two horses side by side pulling the chariot. Then there are palm readers that can determine your life span and love life from the different creases and folds in the palm of your hand. The one type of reading that I do not see as often is the ability to read a running shoe. It is amazing what the shoe of a runner tells you about his or her running form.

For instance, when you notice a smudge or black mark on the inside heel portion of the upper part of the shoe it probably means the runners opposite foot flares out when they run. When the toe flares out the heel is turned in and often rubs against the inside heel of the other foot. You might notice that this mark on the inside heel is on only one shoe. That indicates that the runner has two different foot recoveries when they run. While the marks on the shoe remain more permanent you might notice the dirt on the inside calf muscle of that runner after a race to verify that they run with a flared foot.

The wearing away of the outside corner of the heel portion of the sole of the shoe indicates that the runner is a pronator and lands on that part of the shoe first. Checking further up the sole of the shoe the wearing away near the inside ball of the foot shows that this is where the runner pushes off when running. If the wearing away on the heel portion is in the center of the shoe the runner is more of a neutral runner and the feet probably point straight ahead when running.

If the wearing away is more of a continuous pattern the entire length of the shoe the runner probably runs with a shuffle gait. It looks like they are almost sliding along the road like a skater on ice. This is a good form of running in that there is very little pounding of the feet on the road and the wear and tear on the knees and lower legs is minimized. Some runners call it ‘pain free running’.

Looking at the nylon top portion of the shoe also can tell you some information about the runner. If the end of the shoe where the big toe is shows fraying, or even a hole in the fabric, it means the runner needs a higher toe box shoe. Running with a hole in the top of the shoe and the big toe sticking up through that hole it won’t be long before the runner comes down with what is called a ‘blue toe nail’ where the nail is being pulled or torn upward against the hole in the shoe when running.

If you notice that the top of the shoe is falling off to the side of the shoe it might mean the runner is a bit on the heavy side and the extra weight is more than the fabric of the shoe can hold in. If the shoe falls to the inside it means that they run with the feet wide apart. It might also be an indication that the runner uses the shoe for other sports such as volleyball, basketball, or racquetball where the sideward motion is necessary in that sport. Planting the foot while setting up a return in tennis will see the same pattern in the top of the shoe. Good sales people will put your shoe on a flat surface and look at the back of the heel. If the line in the center leans to one side or the other this will tell the salesperson if you need a shoe that is anti-pronation or anti-supination. They can then recommend a shoe that has a cushioned sole that is harder on one side of the heel and softer on the other side.

If the shoe is nice and clean it means the runner has recently bought the shoe. A shoe that is dirty and grimy usually means the runner has put quite a few miles on the shoes. If they are really dirty and covered with grass stains and mud spots it means the runner ran cross country races. I know some runners will purposely get the new shoes dirty so they don’t look like a beginning runner. Sort of like the fashion now with holes in jeans to make people think that you wore them for years and they have worn out from wear. To be a good salesperson for a runner you have to be able to read a shoe.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666