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View Full Version : Why do shoes erode so fast on the outside heel?


Mijin
02-03-2011, 01:53 PM
The outside of the heels (left side of the left heel, right side of the right heel) erode down very fast compared to the rest of the shoe. On completely flat shoes I often find that the outside heels can wear right down to the insole while the tread on the rest of the sole looks almost new.
Most people's shoes seem to wear down like this.

The obvious thing to think is that it's the area of the foot that hits the ground first, though it doesn't feel like that; if anything, it feels like the inside heels hit first.

It's probably a straightforward answer, to a mundance question, but I'm curious...

KneadToKnow
02-03-2011, 01:59 PM
Because of the way you walk. If it's not the way your foot hits the ground, it's some motion as you move forward, or the way your foot leaves the ground.

Mijin
02-03-2011, 02:02 PM
Well of course it's one of those things (or a combination).

I'm still not sure also if my observation that "most people's" shoes wear like this. Is it only a subset?

iamnotbatman
02-03-2011, 02:04 PM
You pronate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronation#Pronation_of_the_foot) wrong.

My shoes actually wear out the other way.

GilaB
02-03-2011, 02:07 PM
Actually, presumably Mijin supinates, while you pronate. Supinating is where the foot rolls outwards a bit, while pronating is when it rolls inwards. I supinate, and my shoes wear down exactly as the OP describes.

MobiusStripes
02-03-2011, 02:09 PM
The outside of the heels (left side of the left heel, right side of the right heel) erode down very fast compared to the rest of the shoe. On completely flat shoes I often find that the outside heels can wear right down to the insole while the tread on the rest of the sole looks almost new.
Most people's shoes seem to wear down like this.

The obvious thing to think is that it's the area of the foot that hits the ground first, though it doesn't feel like that; if anything, it feels like the inside heels hit first.

It's probably a straightforward answer, to a mundance question, but I'm curious...

Answer: it's the way you walk (or run -- not sure which shoes they are). You may also be scuffing your feet instead of picking them up. I suspect you'd notice that though.

You can google "shoe wear patterns" to find some info. I don't recommend any because I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes blindly assigning shoes based solely (ha!) on wear patterns or perceived supination/pronation. (I think it's more complex than that, another topic entirely).

Anecdotally my work shoes in which I only walk have a much different wear pattern (outside heel, inside toe) than shoes that I run in (heel looks brand new while I wear a hole through the midsole).

WhyNot
02-03-2011, 02:18 PM
Actually, presumably Mijin supinates, while you pronate. Supinating is where the foot rolls outwards a bit, while pronating is when it rolls inwards. I supinate, and my shoes wear down exactly as the OP describes.
Supinating is where the foot rolls inwards a bit, wearing the sole on the lateral ("outside") edge. Pronation, outwards, wearing the medial ("inside") edge. Whee! Pictures! (http://www.orthoticshop.com/orthotic-adjustments-foot-biomechanics.html)

I remember it because supinate sounds like soup. If you held a bowl of soup with your feet, you'd turn your feet soles in, with the outside edges toward the floor, and hold the soup bowl on your arches. :D

Hampshire
02-03-2011, 02:30 PM
Once you know wether you pronate or supinate you can actually buy shoes to counter it (at least running shoes) by going to a good running store. The dealer should actually know which models work better for which runners.

barbitu8
02-03-2011, 04:04 PM
It is normal to wear out the outside of your heel more than other portions of your shoe. Some pronation is normal. Pronation means rotating to the inside (wrist or ankle), and it is normal to rotate your foot in. After landing on your heel, your foot pronates a little to push off your big toe. The problem is overpronation, when the amount of rotation is exaggerated. Supination is a rotation to the outside (wrist or ankle). Pronation of the wrist is usual in a tennis serve, for example, or a curve ball in baseball. The American twist serve and the screwball involve supination, which can lead to elbow problems because it is not natural. So too, supination of the foot can lead to problems, too.

Both pronation and supination cause the outside of the heel to wear out, if that is what you land on, which is normal. If you actually land on the balls of your feet, then that is the area which will show the wear, of course, but only very fast runners do that. All walkers land on their heels, even if it doesn't feel like it. Walk on the sand and see what part of your foot leaves the deepest indention. Most likely it will be the outside of your heel. If you scrape your foot as you land, you can see the scrape mark on the sand (before the outline of the foot). If you do scrape your feet, the outside of your heel wear wear out quickly.

Gary Robson
02-04-2011, 01:42 PM
As a side note, most good shoe stores have half-moon shaped pieces that can be nailed to the faster-wearing part of the heel to protect it. I've used these quite a bit. They're cheap, and they dramatically extend the life of the heel.

barbitu8
02-04-2011, 03:05 PM
As a side note, most good shoe stores have half-moon shaped pieces that can be nailed to the faster-wearing part of the heel to protect it. I've used these quite a bit. They're cheap, and they dramatically extend the life of the heel.

There was at one time (over two decades ago) "eternal sole" which was glued onto the outside heel. Those were made of plastic, but cost $10. I haven't seen them in over 20 years, so I assume it is not made any more.

However, I discovered an outfit that made soft heel "taps" which were nailed (small nails provided) on at the outside of the heel of the running shoe. I think they were made of hard rubber. I used to wear out that area quickly because I scraped my heels when I ran. (I think I developed that habit because I was doing quite a bit of long distance running years ago.) It took me many years to disabuse me of that habit. I don't need them any more, so I lost the info concerning the seller. The company was called "Hale," but it was taken over by another company, the name of which I don't remember. This "other company" has continued to make those taps as they sent me some info a while back, informing me that it had taken over Hale and offered the sale of the same taps. Those taps were very cheap: a dozen or so for a few bucks.

barbitu8
02-04-2011, 03:12 PM
Another remedy, which I had forgot, is to use an electric glue gun. You can buy that with glue pellets at most hardware stores. Actually, I picked up quite a bargain for the pellets at Big Lots some years ago. You can hunt around in such places for good buys on the gun, too.

MobiusStripes
02-04-2011, 03:15 PM
Once you know wether you pronate or supinate you can actually buy shoes to counter it (at least running shoes) by going to a good running store. The dealer should actually know which models work better for which runners.

A contrary thought: forcing your body into a position/orientation that it isn't use to may cause more harm than good. If you are walking or running injury free I wouldn't be inclined to change anything. Just at thought.

And while I'm cynical: I also find running store sales folks to be hit and miss. Some are there to sell shoes. Guess which shoes cost more?: the fancy ones that correct things. Not that they are all bad. Just be aware of all the influences at play.

barbitu8
02-04-2011, 03:23 PM
A contrary thought: forcing your body into a position/orientation that it isn't use to may cause more harm than good. If you are walking or running injury free I wouldn't be inclined to change anything. Just at thought.

And while I'm cynical: I also find running store sales folks to be hit and miss. Some are there to sell shoes. Guess which shoes cost more?: the fancy ones that correct things. Not that they are all bad. Just be aware of all the influences at play.

Some runners need orthopedics because of overpronation or supination. If they don't correct their problem, they can develop plantar fasciitis, hip pain, etc. Supination is common in women due to a wide Q-angle, caused by wide hips. ("Q" standing for quadricpes, I guess.) I changed my running style to overcome my scraping. It took me a while and the change did result in some temporary problems, but those are gone and my shoes are now lasting much longer without makeshift remedies.

intel_dork
10-19-2011, 06:36 AM
Some runners need orthopedics because of overpronation or supination. If they don't correct their problem, they can develop plantar fasciitis, hip pain, etc. Supination is common in women due to a wide Q-angle, caused by wide hips. ("Q" standing for quadricpes, I guess.) I changed my running style to overcome my scraping. It took me a while and the change did result in some temporary problems, but those are gone and my shoes are now lasting much longer without makeshift remedies.

I apologize for resurrecting an older thread. Can you please elaborate on how you changed your running style to overcome the scraping? I also seem to scrape my outside heel when I run, and my shoes only last about 100-150 miles as a result. Any pointers and ideas on changing the running style would be greatly appreciated.

barbitu8
10-19-2011, 02:23 PM
I apologize for resurrecting an older thread. Can you please elaborate on how you changed your running style to overcome the scraping? I also seem to scrape my outside heel when I run, and my shoes only last about 100-150 miles as a result. Any pointers and ideas on changing the running style would be greatly appreciated.

It wasn't easy. It took years of running on sand, dirt roads, or any other surface where you can see the imprint of the sole of your shoe (to see if you are scraping). I tried different methods to eliminate the scrape, first without success. (When I ran on the beach, I could see that I was not the only one who scraped.) First, I tried taking a higher step (raising the knees higher) and emphatically landing on my heels. I had some success with that. But what got me over the scraping (and, I admit, not completely, but 90% completely) is to imagine that I'm landing on my toes and pushing off my big toe. It's got to be the toes. If you think that you are landing on the balls of your feet, you will scrape. You got to think that you are landing on your toes, and you will find that you are actually landing with your complete foot.

That worked for me. I can't guarantee it'll work for you.

At first, with a different running style, you may be bothered with some lower foot problems, particularly around the ankle, but that will soon disappear.

Actually, now, I don't need the footprint. I can hear the scrape when I do scrape.

intel_dork
10-19-2011, 09:34 PM
Yeah the way I know I scrape is the sound. And the fact that the heel is wearing out way faster than the rest of the sole.

JWT Kottekoe
10-19-2011, 09:48 PM
All these answers are wrong!

I learned the true explanation from a guy on the Joe Pine show about 45 years ago. It turns out that the Earth is hollow and we are living on the inside of the sphere. The evidence offered by Joe's guest was that the bottom of our shoes have a convex curvature, proving that the Earth has concave curvature.

RadicalPi
10-19-2011, 10:16 PM
To piggyback on this: My shoes usually wear out first at the ball of the foot. Is this something I should worry about?

Aestivalis
10-19-2011, 10:55 PM
No, I think that means you're running the right way. When you run barefoot you'd naturally land on the balls of your feet to cushion the impact to your legs, so keeping that same motion with your shoes on would result in that wear pattern. In some people's opinion, striking the ground with your heel first is the unnatural motion, which causes a different set of problems. The more natural motion also strengthens your leg muscles differently.

I myself have flat feet, so I find landing with my toes terribly tiring, but it definitely gives me a speed and agility advantage when playing sports.

barbitu8
10-20-2011, 05:13 AM
To piggyback on this: My shoes usually wear out first at the ball of the foot. Is this something I should worry about?
Most of the faster runners wear out the balls of the feet. That's a faster way to run than heel striking (and esp. heel scraping, which slows you down).

Aestivalis is correct. YMCA running teaches one to land on your heels then pronate to your big toe. This is OK, but landing on the balls of your feet is faster. Aestivalis, you don't actually land on your toes, do you? You probably land on your balls of your feet. (I always add "of the feet" to stop punsters in their tracks. :)) If you have flat feet, I assume you use shoes with a high arch or put in arch supports.

In addition, wearing out the balls of the feet will not produce any injury, but wearing out the heels (without building them up) can cause plantar fasciitis.

I want to add that my first attempt to correct, by lifting my knees higher and emphatically land on my heels, lessened my scraping, but once I started on my "toes" landing, my scraping is minimal.

Years ago, I used "Eternal Sole" to glue on my heels. I don't think it is made any more, and it really didn't last that long, and they were expensive ($10 each). Then I found a company, called "Hale's" which made plastic taps. They are supplied with tacks, and that worked very well. They lasted quite a while, and they were cheap. They weren't made specifically for runners, but they worked well. I had ordered hundreds of them. Then they went out of business, but I was sent a notice that another company took them over. Since by then, I no longer needed them, I never bought any more. You might Google "Hale"s" and ee if you can find them.

BTW, after I bought a new pair of shoes, I would do a 10 mile run, and the outer side of my heels were noticeably worn. Those who ran with me commented on my scraping, but I was oblivious to the scrape. After one run, a runner asked me if I was OK. When I replied that I was, he said that I was just wearing out my shoes quickly.

barbitu8
10-20-2011, 05:33 AM
I forgot to mention that while I was scraping and before I discovered Hale's plastic taps, and because Eternal Sole was so expensive, I used a glue gun to build up my heels. That works fairly well, but the glue wears down quickly and you wind up using the gun every other day or so, but until you stop scraping or until you can get those plastic taps, you may want to try it.

I Googled Hale's, but could not find any relevant site, but I looked at only the first page of the results.

intel_dork
10-20-2011, 07:30 AM
I found this site that seems to have the heel taps you mentioned: http://haleheel.murphylinks.com/NoNoise.html

I am going to try your strategy of trying to land on my toes to see how it goes. But I might eventually try these taps. I am not worried about speed when running right now, so I would like to extend my shoe's life.

Did you put the taps before the heel wore out or after?

MobiusStripes
10-20-2011, 08:58 AM
In addition, wearing out the balls of the feet will not produce any injury, but wearing out the heels (without building them up) can cause plantar fasciitis..

I don't agree with this statement. Running on the balls of your feet, especially for someone who is transitioning from a heel-striker, can cause tremendous stress on the calves which are now going to be taking a good chunk of the impact.

Calf-tightness is one of the prime causes of plantar fasciitis. [http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/plantar-fasciitis-cause] Beyond that, you can also introduce Achilles tendon issues.

One thing you might try is to shorten your stride. This will usually prevent you from over-striding (which all but guarantees a heel strike), cause you to shift to more of a mid-foot strike. I find most new runners overstride, presumably in an effort to go faster. Less over-striding (smaller steps) with a higher cadence (160-80 steps per minute; 80-90 strides per minute). Among others: http://www.endurancescience.com/blog/?p=230] [http://blog.oregonlive.com/runoregon/2009/04/running_cadence_and_why_its_im.html] There's music out there that will be on that beat. Podrunner [http://www.djsteveboy.com/podrunner.html] has a bunch at nearly every bpm.

You'll generally find that the faster you run, the more you'll naturally revert to a mid-foot or fore-foot strike (extreme example: sprinting). Most of us, especially those starting out, can't run for long at that speed though! It strikes me as a Catch-22 that runners are told to slow down (difficult to maintain non-heel striking form) and minimize heel-strike (where you naturally speed up!).

In trying to provide more links as cites, it seems there are hundreds of websites, most which seem to be selling something or are very one-sided, each with their own opinions and absolute truths, each which conflict with every other site. It's a wonder anyone can run at all :)

Disclaimer: I tend to mid-foot strike based on the wear pattern of my shoes. I wear a few different types of shoes but put most of my miles (avg 40mi/week) in Asics Speedstars. If you're interested in photos of my shoes/soles you're welcome to see them :)

barbitu8
10-20-2011, 02:36 PM
intel_dork, that's it. Those are the polyurethane taps. You don't want to build up the heel too much, so attach them as soon as the heel begins to wear.

MobiusStripes, I said that changing your landing may initially cause some issues. I found that eliminating heel scraping was well worth the temporary pains around the lower legs. We are not talking about heel striking, but heel scraping. Worn out heels can definitely cause plantar fasciitis, as that tissue is stretched more with worn out heels. I knew a fast runner who was a heel striker (and perhaps scraper) as he allowed his heels to be worn completely out to the midsole. Then he wondered why he got plantar fasciitis.

intel_dork
10-20-2011, 07:22 PM
@Mobius I am running pretty slow (11min/mile avg pace), and my strides are pretty short, so I am "shuffling". I hear the heel scrape as my foot is sliding forward, and it only catches the extreme outside of the heel.

This morning I tried to imagine landing on my toes, and that seemed to minimize the scraping sound I heard, and I did feel some aching in the ankle. I also noticed that the more tired I get the more my feet scrape as I shuffle along. On Sunday up to 12 miles it seemed ok, but the last 3 miles I was tired and heard the scrape almost every stride.

Thanks for all the info and suggestions, this has been super informative.

barbitu8
10-21-2011, 04:17 AM
@Mobius I am running pretty slow (11min/mile avg pace), and my strides are pretty short, so I am "shuffling". I hear the heel scrape as my foot is sliding forward, and it only catches the extreme outside of the heel.

This morning I tried to imagine landing on my toes, and that seemed to minimize the scraping sound I heard, and I did feel some aching in the ankle. I also noticed that the more tired I get the more my feet scrape as I shuffle along. On Sunday up to 12 miles it seemed ok, but the last 3 miles I was tired and heard the scrape almost every stride.

Thanks for all the info and suggestions, this has been super informative.

Yes, when you get tired you will begin to scrape. When I do my long runs on Sundays, one of the ladies I run with often mentions that I will begin to scrape, even before I notice it. That happens when you get tired. When you hear the scrape, you must concentrate even more on landing on your toes.

I scrape the extreme outside of the heel, too, when I do scrape. I think this is common for those who have done a lot of LSD (long, slow distances). I've done 32 marathons, one 50-miler, and some triathlons and duathlons. I used to run 18-20 miles once a week (years ago). I think the problem developed doing all those LSDs, shuffling along. When you run faster, you run more efficiently, and it will be easier to land on your "toes." You should do some of those toe running on sand or dirt where you can see the imprint to see on what part of the shoe you actually are landing on. My toe running actually shows either the entire foot being planted or the forward part, but not just the toes.

If you order those Hale taps, you will save much money for new shoes. At one time they were going out of business and offered a hundred or so taps for a very low price. I still have some, but don't need them any more. By the time my heel has sufficiently been eroded, my midsoles have lost their cushioning, and I'll need some new shoes anyway.

Keep trying to land on your toes so long as your ankles allow you, and you will eventually eliminate the scraping. It took me a long time, but it took me some time to figure that out.

barbitu8
11-04-2011, 05:26 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/running-christopher-mcdougall.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3