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It’s Not Always a Shoe Fault

Posted on 28/05/2020

Every day we experience a multitude of concern from various people, some beginners, others are experienced athletes who have been training for years in a variety of products. They often experience niggles or a complaint and the first thing they blame is the product. On occasion this is justified, but most of the time this is just simply not the case.

We have picked a few common issues brought in by customers often brought back as product faults, which are not manufacturing faults, as well as a bit of background as to what causes it and how it can be avoided. 

We are here to inform you, to make your experience and training better and not here to pass blame onto an inanimate object which was not responsible for the problem in the first place. Information and knowledge is power and we are here to make running, shoes and everything to do with your sport more enjoyable. 

Toe Lift

One of the more common and complex ones we see, as there is a multitude of factors at play, but invariably, over and over again here, the cause, more likely than not, is not that of the manufacturers. Factors that contribute to this phenomenon are:

  • The windlass mechanism of the foot – (here is some tricky biomechanics for you) but maybe the picture will make it easier to understand – the plantar fascia of the foot being tight (as well as calves and Achilles) cause the planter to tension and lift the big toe more than normal upon landing which causes the toe of the toe to constantly and repeatedly make contact with the top of the shoe causing excessive wear. This can happen extremely quickly – I’ve seen full holes in the upper within 50km of the shoes being purchased. 
  • Shape of the shoe, and volume of the upper around the toe box area all play a part, as well as the flexibility of the shoe and the combination of materials that make up the shoe, a customer may experience toe lift in ASICS and moving to New Balance would rectify the problem, while another may experience it in New Balance and moving to ASICS rectifies the problem. 
  • Mobilization of the ankle, toe, and releasing tension in the plater fascia, calves, Achilles, and other muscles of the lower compartment of the leg would assist in a reduction of toe lift incidences 

Heel Collar Scuffing

Scuffing around the collar is due to one of two things (or a combination of two things)

  • The laces of the shoes not being tied correctly 
  • Your hips and glutes have poor function or poor range of motion in the hips causing a narrow base of gait, meaning that the opposite foot striking the upper collar and / or front of shoe causing premature wear. Shoes that have a flare in the forefoot or heel will make the problem significantly worse
  • This is exacerbated when the laces are not tied properly because the collar will be open and exposed to the opposite foot strike
  • Often people with low, flat arches or wider feet that ‘bulge’ over the side of the shoe, or shoes that have a ‘flare’ to the sole are also contributing factors and exacerbate the situation
  • Ensuring you have a shoe that accommodates the shape of your foot and has minimal heel flare will reduce the incidences of scuffing on the heel collar, as well as mobilization of the hips and glutes 

Heel Drag

Excessive wear on the outside of the heel is never a sign of a fault of the shoe, and more likely the cause of hip or glute not firing properly, this kind of excessive wear is also associated with leg length discrepancies (both functional and structural), pelvic tilt, or spinal condition such as scoliosis. It is also extremely common to see this in ultra-distance runners when they fatigue, so fitness and conditioning is also a vital factor to consider. 

Splitting Sides

Splitting sides

Tricky one, as this can be caused by various factors such as:

  • A shoe that is too wide for you, causing excessive fabric to bunch which causes excessive friction and eventual wear,
  • A shoe that is too narrow for you causing the foot to bulge and cause tearing –
  • A neutral person running in a stability shoe could be forced into an everted foot position and cause excessive pressure on an area that isn’t designed to deal with the necessary stress 
  • Incorrectly cleaning / not cleaning the shoes (especially trail shoes) cause dirt fall in-between the layers of mesh and act as sand paper disintegrating the uppers  

Internal Heel Wear

Internal heel wear as seen in the picture is often seen by customers as a fault of the shoe, but this could be as a result of one of a few things:

  • The laces of the shoes have not been correctly tied, we see this commonly when the wear is higher up the collar lining, and people slip their feet in and out of the shoes without untying the laces or they do not correctly lock the foot into the shoes
  • The person has a Haglund’s deformity (a bony outgrowth on the back of the heel) or thickening of the Achilles as in the picture attached. This is easy to diagnose as the location is so localized to a specific area
  • The shape of the conforming heel cup to the shape of the heel, as well as the level of padding determines how quickly the shoe moulds to the foot, a heel and cup that does not match would cause excessive wear 

Toe Bumper coming loose 

Seriously, this happens, often as the result of water or the washing machine, artificial drying or tumble dryer, leaving in the sun to dry, stress or trauma to the area, and in trail shoes, scuffing is normal, the toe bumper takes a tremendous amount of abuse, and a small amount of glue and its back to better than normal. 

Correctly washing and maintaining your shoes 

Let’s get something straight – shoes should never be washed in a machine, they should never be artificially dried, they should not be left in the boot of the car in summer in the heat (this drastically softens the foam and shortens the lifespan of the shoe), they should never be left in the sun to dry, and many common cleaning solvents are a complete no-no. While shoes are tools that are designed to take a tremendous amount of pounding and stress on the roads and trails. They are fragile and need to be looked after; washed properly, dried properly and cared for, if you want them last as long as they can. Then they need to be treated as well as they can be. 

There also seems to be a misunderstanding about the cost of shoes and the durability factor, as if in some way a more expensive shoe must last forever or longer than a cheaper shoe, and this simply isn’t the case at all. The cost of a shoe comes down offsetting the development cost of research, new materials, advances in cushioning, what is happening to the exchange rate at the time of purchase of the shoe, material cost, and a cheaper shoe simply has less of all the above rolled into it. The cheaper shoe may last just as long, and sometimes even longer, but it will be less enjoyable to run in, it won’t grip as well, it won’t look as good, your knees won’t love you and your feet might get injured if you are unable to find one that matches your needs and biomechanics.

One last point, just because a problem didn’t occur in your last pair of shoes doesn’t mean that if it happens in the new pair, that it is a fault. Every year, brands make hundreds of changes to shoes between models, the fit is different, and the materials are different. Innersoles change, heel collars become softer or harder, higher or lower. Outer soles become thicker or thinner, the foams they use as sole components change to make the shoes lighter, softer, faster – the comfort levels experienced in shoes at present, are unlike any we have ever experienced before. Enjoy it.

But sometimes…

In saying all this – sometimes it is a fault in the shoe, and while we may help to point out where, as a user, you could potentially alleviate some of the wear, we are always happy to take a look at a shoe should you feel that it is performing to a sub-standard level.

We hope above all that this has been an informative and interesting read. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think. Have you ever had a shoe ‘fault’ such as the above mentioned?

2 Replies to “It’s Not Always a Shoe Fault”

  1. Jon-Russell Davids says:

    So, I just read this article and I’d like to pick your brain on the shoe splitting section.

    I am highly disappointed in a pair of Asics Fujitrabuco Pros I bought.

    I’ve barely had them for 3 months and have done about 100km of combined walking and light trail running, consisting mostly of single track and fire road.

    Holes have formed just after the pinky toe on both feet (they’re not all the way through yet). The left foot is worse than the right. They’re in the mesh right between the end of the Asics logo and the lacing reinforcement. (refer to attached pictures)

    The rest of the shoe is holding up great, so I’m not sure why this is happening to this shoe that costs over R2000. Surely they should be holding up a lot better?

    I have flat feet and overpronate, so maybe I’m the problem although I feel the shoe is a great fit length and width (UK 8.5) wise.

    Any thoughts as to why this might be happening?

    Thanks

    1. GrantB says:

      Hi Jon-Russell,

      Thanks for the comment – without seeing your foot shape, running style and your specific biomechanical ‘Idiocentrism’, its extremely difficult to give 100% accurate feedback on the specific issue, however, let me give you some general thoughts on the matter.

      Firstly, let me start out by saying, that just because it ‘isn’t always the shoes fault’ – it doesn’t mean that it never is, so don’t feel like I am suggesting that shoe manufactures are flawless and occasionally shoes don’t have issues, but the list above is just a collection on issues we often get queries about that are (almost) never fault of shoe related.

      The foot shape matching the biomechanics of the shoe can be a contributing factor in the mix, and the fact that you pronate in itself may be one of the main culprits in the wear on the small toe area – as the foot rolls or rotates inwards, it can cause the small toe on the opposite side of the foot to lift up and exert more pressure on the lateral side of the material then may be considered normal. This is obviously an issue as you do not get ‘anti-pronation’ trail shoes any more, you might find that a shoe that has a more stable mid-foot or the addition of an arch support into the shoe to stop the foot from flattening inside the shoe may have the desired effect.

      It might also have to do with the positioning of the logo on the shoe and where it flexes (unfortunately i cannot see the photo you tried to upload) – but the Fujitrabuco Pro is definitely a lighter weight racer/trainer of a trail shoe and the walking in the shoe might cause more flexion on an area that isn’t as reinforced as it might need to be, as the gait pattern of faster runners is vastly different from that of someone doing walking/hiking in the shoe

      With regards to a shoe cost vs durability, the uppers of trail shoes will see wear and tear, it is an inevitable part of trail running. Uppers that are too durable become stiff, hard, non-breathable, heavy, and non-draining and will cause irritation and blisters. While the uppers of trail shoes are more robust than the road shoe equivalents, there is a point that constant flexion over the forefoot will cause them to split, and kicking the shoes on rocks, stones, the fynbos and sandstone on Table Mountain will act like sandpaper and affect the durability of the shoe. Even a Land Rover is built to go off-road and be robust and durable, but if you bump it into a tree or rock, the metal will bend, break and need to be repaired or replaced – it is the same with a trail shoe. Trail shoes are not designed to be indestructible – they are designed to be functional and technical for the appropriate purpose and have some added durability in strategic areas, but minimal to keep the weight down, breathability up and functional comfort and performance to the maximum ability.

      The more expensive shoe makes for a better and possibly more efficient run versus its counterpart – it doesn’t mean it will last longer. Times have changed, materials have changed, shoes are lighter, softer, they cause less blisters and irritation, they are diabetic friendly, they grip better, breathe better, and feel nicer – but a lot of these factors mean they do not last as long.

      Again, without having the opportunity to accurately assess the specific issue its tricky to nail down your specific case, but i hope the above at least gave you some more insight

      Kind regards,

      Grant

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