Walking is one of the most common forms of regular exercise that people participate in. Even the who don’t exercise still use walking to get from point A to point B. Looking at how you walk can provide you with good insight if you experience any aches or pains. While there are many health professionals who can perform a thorough gait analysis and examine how you walk with sophisticated equipment, the bottom of your shoes is an easy starting point that you can look at yourself.
Before you flip over your shoes, it is important to choose a pair of shoes that have walked a few miles in them. I would recommend choosing a pair you have used for walking for at least 6 months. Also, while it may seem obvious, don’t forget that it is easy to confuse which side you are looking at when viewing them from the bottom!
Just like the tyre on a car, shoes have a tread pattern that you can use to assess wear patterns. Take careful time to compare the left and the right tread patterns for each part of the shoe covered below. Look not only at the lines and markings, but also use your hands to feel the texture differences for the same region on both sides. Of course in an ideal world, our wear pattern would be identical on both sides. However in reality this is often not the case.
Let’s start by looking at the heel. Our heel should be the first point of contact when we are walking. More specifically, we want to see the wear pattern close to the end of the heel and more towards the outside of the foot. Compare the left and right side. This is one of the easiest places to identify differences. If one side is worn more heavily than the other, it indicates that you are striking the ground with more pressure on that side and could be walking with more weight on that side.
Moving further up the sole, the middle of the shoe should start with more pressure on the outside (from the heel) and gradually as you get to where the ball of your foot would be, the wear pattern should change and spread across the sole. Again, compare the differences left to right in both the location of the wear pattern and also the depth of wear.
If there is a concentration of pressure on the outside of the sole, this can indicate that the foot is not able to effectively pronate and dissipate force. Common symptoms can be pain on the outside of the foot and stiffness in the middle of the foot, as well as problems further up the chain to the knee. If the pressure is concentrated on the inside of the shoe, this can result in pain in the arch of the foot, achilles, knees, hip and back.
The information from your shoe inspection can also be used to help guide future shoe choices. Unless the wear patterns indicated that you have a significant amount of pressure on the inside of your shoe, a neutral shoe is recommended. Of course if you have any concerns, it is a good idea to consider getting a thorough analysis from a qualified health professional who can discuss and make specific shoe recommendations for you.