Many of us who love running tend to hit the road in a general all-rounder pair of sneakers, without much consideration about whether they are actually the best kind of shoe for the job. Picking the right pair of running shoes is crucial in order to have a comfortable and injury-free running experience — the wrong shoes can have disastrous effects which we may not notice at first.
Pay attention to discomfort, pain, or instability while running, as these are clear signs of wearing the wrong running shoes.
Lack of arch support can lead to foot fatigue and conditions like plantar fasciitis.
Numbness, tingling, or excessive wear patterns should not be ignored, as they may indicate poor shoe fit or inadequate cushioning.
Long-term inconsistent shoe sizing can result in various foot problems, from blisters to black toenails.
In this article we will discuss the seven signs you are wearing the wrong running shoes, how this could lead to various foot and leg problems, and ways to avoid this common mistake.
Symptoms of wearing the wrong running shoes
Whenever there is something wrong in our body, we will get a sign — usually in the form of pain or discomfort. Learning to recognize the signals and symptoms of wearing the wrong running shoes is vital to avoid longer-term issues with your feet, legs, and back. Issues to be aware of include:
- Foot pain
- Ankle pain
- Shin splints
- Knee pain
- Blisters and calluses
- Numbness and tingling
- Excessive muscle fatigue and soreness
Depending on the mechanics of your own feet, you’ll likely notice one or more of these symptoms as a sign to switch up your sneakers for a pair with better support.
7 signs your sneakers are not supportive
Let’s delve a little deeper into the main signs and symptoms that indicate you might want to think about investing in a new pair of running shoes — something that can offer your feet and body the support they deserve.
1. Discomfort or pain during running
One of the clearest signs that you are wearing the wrong running shoes is feeling discomfort or pain while running. This could show up as a sharp, dull, or persistent pain in your feet, ankles, shins, or knees. If this is the case, a likely explanation is that your current running shoes aren’t providing enough cushioning or support for your feet and joints. Pain and discomfort during running are often due to ill-fitting shoes and can lead to blisters, calluses, and even more serious injuries such as stress fractures or tendonitis.
2. Frequent tripping or instability
If you find yourself frequently stumbling, tripping over, or feeling unstable while running, it may be because you’ve chosen the wrong footwear. Your shoes have a profound effect on balance and coordination; thus, wearing the wrong kind can increase the risk of sprains, strains, and falls. If your running shoes are too tight or too loose, your feet could easily shift and slide inside the shoe, which in turn leads to greater instability and a higher likelihood that you could seriously injure yourself with a fall.
3. Numbness or tingling sensations
If you experience numbness or tingling sensations in your feet during or after running, it could be a strong indication that your running shoes are causing damage. Poor shoe fitting and inadequate cushioning can compress the nerves in your feet and restrict blood flow — resulting in uncomfortable sensations in your legs and feet. Don’t ignore this symptom or brush it off as limb fatigue, your body is trying to tell you something, and neglecting these signs can lead to more serious nerve damage.
4. Lack of arch support
Adequate arch support in your running shoes is crucial for maintaining the natural alignment of your feet, reducing stress on the arches, and in turn, allowing for correct body alignment during a running session. If your running shoes lack adequate arch support, you may experience the following:
- Foot fatigue
- Pain in the arches
- Conditions like plantar fasciitis
You can test your shoes quite easily by pressing on the arch area — you should notice a supportive bump that sits under the arch of the foot while you are wearing your shoes. If it feels too flat, too soft, or unsupportive in any way, it's time to consider a different pair.
5. Excessive wear patterns
Take a close look at the soles of your running shoes and inspect them for signs of wear. You might notice that the back heel is much more worn away on one side than the other, or there is excessive wear at the arch or outer edge, which could be due to your posture. The wearing patterns on your shoes provide valuable insights into your running style as they indicate where you place most of your weight, your posture, and your foot mechanics, and can show you where you might need to adjust.
There are three types of wear patterns to be aware of:
- Medial. You'll notice medial wear on the sole of your shoes at the points where the inside ball of the foot and inside heel area strikes the ground. It indicates pronation — which is the foot rolling inward — and can lead to plantar fasciitis, ankle, knee, and hip issues, and collapsed arches.
- Neutral. Neutral wear will appear across the middle of the heel and ball of the foot areas that strike the ground. It's generally considered the type of wear associated with an effective stride as you are evenly hitting the ground as you run rather than showing an imbalanced wear pattern.
- Lateral. If you have a wear pattern present on the outer edges of your running shoes its shows that you are underpronating and favoring weight on the outside edges of your feet. This can led to stress-related bone and joint injuries.
Shoes that wear away in a particularly noticeable pattern are usually not offering you the proper support or alignment, and you should look into getting arch supports, more cushioning, or having your running style assessed to ensure you have the correct alignment.
6. Persistent muscle soreness
We all know and expect our bodies to ache after a long run, however, what we need to look out for is persistent or excessive muscle soreness that lasts longer than usual. Noticing that you feel stiffer, more frequently, and for longer times can be an indication that your running shoes aren’t providing the necessary shock absorption.
We need suitable cushioning in our running shoes to help take on some of the impact forces that are exerted on our joints and muscles as we stride along the streets. If you notice any of these symptoms persistently, an upgrade to footwear with better cushioning can help alleviate some of the stress your body is under.
7. Wrong shoe size
You may remember your parents taking you to get your feet measured before buying new shoes as a child, they knew how important it was to get your shoe size right to avoid the problems associated with ill-fitting footwear. Don’t wear running shoes that feel too tight or too loose — doing so can lead to friction-related conditions, such as:
- Black toenails
Running is a great way to stay in shape, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and get that wonderful rush of endorphins known as the “runner’s high.” Choosing the right footwear for your favorite fitness activity is absolutely crucial to be able to enjoy it safely and consistently — without injuring yourself or suffering from persistent discomfort. While you might have to splash out and invest in some good quality running shoes that provide the right support, cushioning, and structure for your unique foot mechanics, your body will thank you — allowing you to go the distance you deserve.