We spoke with Summit Orthopedics foot and ankle surgeon Samuel Russ, M.D., to find out why shoes seem to wear out in the same place every time.
Have you taken a look at the bottom of your shoe lately? Unless your shoes are new, you probably notice some wear on the soles of your shoes. If your shoes wear out in the same place every time, and tend to wear out faster than you’d expect, it could signal an issue with your feet. We talked with Summit Orthopedics foot and ankle surgeon Samuel Russ, M.D., to find out why shoes seem to wear out in the same place every time, whether it’s a problem, and what to do about it.
What is normal wear for a shoe?
Shoes wear out over time for good reason. “The average person takes 5,000 to 15,000 steps a day,” Dr. Russ said. “Every time you strike your heel, you are striking with three times your weight and transferring some of that weight through the rest of your foot. It’s a lot for the shoes.”
Nevertheless, it should take multiple months to wear out a shoe. A normal pattern would show wear in the middle to just inside the heel and toward the inside of the ball of the foot — under the big toe and just outside of that. If your shoes are wearing out in six or eight weeks, however, it’s a sign that something is not quite right.
Common places for shoes to wear out too fast include the outside border of the heel, extending to the ball of the foot, or the inside of the heel, extending to the inside ball of the foot. If you’re seeing either of those patterns on the bottom of your shoes, you may not be walking in an optimal way.
There are two main reasons for shoes to wear out in these ways:
- A deformity in the foot and ankle — “A heel that tips in causes wear on the outside of the shoe. A heel that tips out (and flat foot) causes wear on the inside of the shoe,” Dr. Russ said.
- A learned behavior — “If, for example, you have bad big toe arthritis, you don’t want to walk on your big toe because it hurts. To compensate, you’ll likely lift your big toe up slightly as you step, which puts more load on the outside edge of the foot,” Dr. Russ said.
What to do to fix uneven shoe wear
If left untreated, the foot deformity or behavior that is leading your shoes to wear out can lead to thick, painful calluses, stress fractures, and chronic overload. “An imbalance of the foot one way or the other can lead to arthritis in the joint of the foot or ankle, because you’re carrying weight in an altered way, and that can wear out cartilage in the joints,” Dr. Russ said. “Ligaments and tendons can wear out as well, leading to a greater chance of sprains or tendinitis because some of the structures in the foot and ankle are chronically stretched.”
Fortunately, there are effective treatments available. For example, an orthotic device or shoe insert can help to correct the foot’s position. Physical therapy may be helpful to retrain your walk (called your gait) to avoid overload. There are also several surgical options available to correct underlying causes.
So, if your shoes are wearing out too fast, it’s time to make an appointment with a Summit foot and ankle specialist to find out why. “Especially if you’re experiencing foot pain, we need to intervene to prevent bigger problems down the road,” Dr. Russ said.
More resources for you:
- Meet Dr. Russ in this introductory video.