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Running Shoe Wear Pattern

What Running Shoe Wear Patterns Say About Your Running Form

asymmetry in running feet female runners improving running economy Apr 26, 2024

Have you ever stopped to look at your running shoe wear pattern? Look at the bottom of your shoes, notice where the tread it worn down to smooth rubber? Have you wondered what that pattern can tell you about your stride? That's exactly what we are going to explore here, including sample images and some strategies that might be helpful to improve your running economy based on what you see.


Before I dive in, first a couple of notes: 

  • This is only ONE piece of data. Watching you move and seeing what the whole body is doing together is A LOT more valuable  
  • It's harder to tell what's truly worn and what's normal tread appearance in a picture sometimes. Some of the circles in the following pictures might not be "real."
  • This is reflective of the pattern while running in this particular shoe. Different shoes might support the foot/body differently and result in a different pattern.
  • To get the truest picture of running-specific patterns it's best to use a shoe that has been used for exclusively running. Walking gait can be a bit different.


First, What Should Our Running Shoe Wear Pattern Look Like?

When looking at your running shoe wear pattern, we are looking for evidence of a foot moving from supination at foot strike, through pronation at midstance, and then re-supinating via the windlass mechanism rolling over the big toe through big toe extension at toe-off.

Neutral Shoe Tread Pattern

The more neutral examples show evidence of this happening, landing just slightly more toward the outside of the heel and loading more through the middle of the midfoot.

"Supinated" Shoe Tread Pattern

In the more “supinated” wear pattern, we are seeing a pattern that indicates the foot is not pronating well to get into midstance. It shows wear more on the edges of the feet only.

Likely this means the runner is struggling to rotate up the chain too internally.


Working on internal rotation with true pronation (all things I’ve posted about many times before), will likely be helpful.


"Pronated" Shoe Tread Pattern

In the more “pronated” wear pattern, we are seeing a pattern that indicates a sort of falling in somewhere in the chain.  This is likely not “true” pronation. “Pronated” and “Supinated” are always in quotes here because appearing to be stuck in one or the other actually means that both ACTIONS aren’t actually happening well.


Working on external rotation where needed with true pronation, will likely be helpful if this pattern is showing up on both sides at the same time. Interestingly none of the images you all sent me showed "overpronation" on both sides like that.


All of the shoes sent were from female runners. Of course, this is anecdotal, but it speaks to what I see most with the female anatomy resulting in a more externally rotated pattern overall. I had A LOT of more supinated examples than shown here.


This runner did have a more "pronated" left shoe pattern.

Asymmetric Shoe Tread Patterns

Let's look at some asymmetrical patterns now... The typical asymmetric pattern in humans has us turned to the right. Stand up and feel it. Turn your hips as far as you can to the right.


Did you feel yourself shift to the outside of the right foot and the inside of the left?


That’s likely what’s happening here. In that case, working on some of the asymmetric stuff I shared here will help you turn back left.


If your tread looks asymmetric but does not fit that pattern, it does not mean there is something wrong with you. It likely means your body has already chosen a strategy to help you turn back left some. I would want to look further up the chain to see what that is.


Again, this is only ONE piece of data.


Watching you move and seeing what the whole body is doing together is A LOT more valuable.


We can do this with a Full Assessment and Strategy Call. Learn more about that here.


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