- Here are 3 possible causes of uneven sole wearing
- 3. Type of activities you’re doing while wearing the boots
- What can be done to prevent uneven sole wear in work boots
- Correcting overpronation & underpronation
- The takeaway
Do you ever have the situation where you get new work boots that you love wearing, and they really serve you well and you wouldn’t do without them, but after a while, you notice that the soles are worn more on one side than the other?
This might embarrass you or make you think there’s something wrong with the boots. It might even make your feet or legs ache. Or even make you slightly clumsy on your feet.
Well, you’d be wrong in thinking there’s something faulty with the boots.
Because if it’s happening with them, it’s most likely happening with your other footwear. The reason being is that this unevenness is a message to you that something is wrong with your biomechanics.
But don’t worry. We’re going to talk about the possible causes of this problem, and what you can do to rectify it.
Since none of us here (Adrian and myself) are medical professionals we’ve invited Dr. Bruce Pinker PMD, one of the podiatrists from our expert panel to medically review this article and share some insights related to the topic.
Who’s working on this page
Author & Researcher
Researcher & Editor
Bruce Pinker PMD
Podiatrist & Foot Surgeon
Here are 3 possible causes of uneven sole wearing
As I stated, this wonky boot problem is a message that there’s something not quite right with your body or posture, which makes your weight distribution misaligned as you walk.
If the body is aligned properly, the weight is distributed through the feet centrally and evenly.
There are a whole range of reasons why this could be happening.
But the two main types of uneven sole wear are:
- Underpronation (supination or oversuspination)
Both of these terms relate to your gait (the way you walk or run). They happen when your foot lands on your heel’s outer or inner edges when walking, rather than through the center of your heel during pronation.
Pronation is the natural rolling of the foot as it moves from heel to toe. It is highly important for shock absorption and correct weight distribution.
Due to the normal gait cycle, the heel lands on the ground slightly tilted to the outside, therefore, the outside of the heel is supposed to wear out first under normal conditions. If the outside of the heel wears out relatively quickly, there is probably a biomechanical concern.
Dr. Bruce Pinker – Podiatrist & Foot Surgeon
This is where your gait makes your feet arches flatten more than they should.
It’s different to flat foot, which is a condition that makes you have little or no arch in your foot. (check out these work boots for flat feet)
The natural inwards roll of the foot becomes excessive, causing the arch of the foot to collapse
Overpronation can strain the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your arches. However, it can be treated with exercise and wearing arch support insoles.
Other than having flattened feet, overpronation can be caused by things like obesity, pregnancy, and walking or running on hard surfaces for long periods.
This is partly why experts don’t recommend road or pavement running. But also because it’s not good for the bones, tendons, or knee and hip joints.
High foot arches and rigid feet are often associated with underpronation. But this isn’t always the case. Low-arched feet can also underpronate. This will wear out your work boots on the outside edges of the sole.
It’s also often caused by other reasons, like:
- Structural abnormalities in the feet
- Damaged muscles or tendons caused by previous injuries
- Muscle imbalance
- Excessively tight Achilles tendon
Underpronation can also happen if you walk with your feet pointed slightly inwards towards each other.
This is called Intoeing, but is commonly known as ‘pigeon-toed’.
It’s a problem my son suffers from. It partly resulted in a lump behind his knee called a Baker’s Cyst, which is a pocket of trapped swelling.
We were told that this inward step should disappear as he grows. But he was advised to try to walk tall. And as a reminder to do this, to really stretch his posture upwards each time he walks through a doorway.
The idea of that is to get him into the practice of maintaining that posture.
Intoeing is usually first noticed by parents when a baby starts to walk, but they usually grow out of it. However, children of all ages can experience it and not grow out of it without treatment.
Three conditions that can cause Intoeing are:
- Femoral anteversion (the thigh bone turns inwards)
- Tibial torsion (the shinbone turns inwards)
- Metatarsus adductus (the foot turns inwards)
3. Type of activities you’re doing while wearing the boots
Another reason your work boots wear unevenly might have to do with the type of work or activity you’re doing while wearing the boots.
Sole wear is quite common among runners. But not necessarily due to any biomechanical issues.
When running, the normal gait cycle usually makes the foot land on the ground slightly tilted to the outside, with the heel making the first connection. This means that outside sole wear for runners is quite normal. Particularly at the heels.
However, if it happens too much and too quickly, there could be a biomechanical problem.
Here are some things that can cause biomechanical issues which might result in abnormal heal wear:
- Hip condition.
- One leg slightly shorter than the other.
- Tight muscles in the lower back or gluteal area.
This is something I found out when I was doing research for another article (work boots for truck drivers).
When I asked a bunch of drivers what type of work boots they wear for their job, some of them told me: “Any work boots that don’t have a wedge sole type”. So they avoid wedge-soled boots.
Why? you might ask yourself.
This is for a few reasons, one of them being that the type of material used in making wedge-soled work boots is softer than the usual rubber used in Vibram soles and similar.
When you’re driving, your feet tend to rest on the outer sides of your heels.
This would cause this area of soles (the heel’s outer edge) to get worn out faster than the other parts of the heel leaving you with unevenly worn soles.
This is confirmed by our editor, Adrian, which operates construction machinery for a living.
His Avenger wedged work boots got worn on the outside of the heels much more than the inside.
This can happen with other types of soles as well by the way, but the wearing out is faster in boots with wedge soles than in regular ones.
What can be done to prevent uneven sole wear in work boots
The more you wear these lopsided boots, the more they are going to get lopsided.
This could lead to whatever physical problem that’s causing it to get worse. Which in turn makes the one-sided wearing worse. And if you’re not in pain with it already, you could be soon. It’s a vicious circle.
Although, this doesn’t mean you can never buy new work boots, or you’re forever doomed to wear out one side of them. There are certain things you can do to rectify the underlying issues.
Before you decide what course of action you take, there’s a simple test you can do – besides looking at the wearing on your boots – to determine whether you suffer from overpronation or underpronation.
You simply dampen the bottoms of your bare feet and walk along a dark tiled floor.
If the footprint shows narrowing on the outside, especially in the mid-section by the arch, then this shows overpronation. This will tie in with if your work boots are worn more on the outside edges of the soles.
If the footprint shows a lot more foot, especially inside the arch, then this shows underpronation. And it will tie in with your boots wearing more on the inside edges of the soles.
If you don’t have dark tiles, Adrian has another way to do it. You’ll need a tub with water and a big brown envelope or a brown paper bag.
Simply place your feet in the water and then without drying them place them directly on the envelope/bag. You need to add some pressure, so you’ll have to do this process while you’re standing, not sitting down.
And there you have it. Adrian’s footprint shows he has a regular arch height. He’s not overpronating or underpronating.
In this case, as we already know from above, his work boots wear out unevenly not because of biomechanics problems but because of his work and the position he’s keeping his feet while wearing the boots.
Correcting overpronation & underpronation
Some of the best ways to reduce overpronation/underpronation are:
- Doing strengthening exercises
- Supportive footwear
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
1. Strengthening exercises
Strengthening exercises are a form of physiotherapy. When certain muscles in our body are weak, other areas can overcompensate, which can cause pain, tightness, discomfort, or misalignments.
You can incorporate your daily stretching with these exercises.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squeeze both arches, slowly lift your heels off the floor, then lower back down.
Short foot raise
You can do this sitting or standing, with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. With your heels and balls of your feet keeping contact with the floor, consciously lift and contract your arches without clenching your toes, then release the tension.
There won’t be much visible movement of the feet, but you’ll feel the tension in your feet and calves.
Stand with your legs and heels together and feet pointing outwards. Slowly bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Go down as far as you comfortably can. Hold that position for a second before returning to the standing position.
This one is probably the simplest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Transfer your weight to the outside edges of your feet. Hold that position for a few seconds, then return to the neutral position.
If you can, try to do at least ten reps of each exercise every day. You might struggle at first. If so, do less and work your way up. You’ll soon hit the target.
2. Supportive footwear
Supportive footwear mostly comes by way of arch support. This help to prevent the ankle from rolling, which keeps the foot in a neutral position.
It can also cushion the impact when walking on hard ground, which, although our bodies have become accustomed to this over the years, they’re not designed for it.
You can buy over-the-counter orthotic inserts or have them custom made by a podiatrist. The latter is probably the most sensible option with regards to problems causing uneven sole wear.
There is even orthotic footwear that you can wear when not wearing your work boots, to help release tensions if any, and train the posture and gait.
Also, boots specifically designed for hardcore walking, like backpacking or mountaineering boots, will have hard soles that will take longer to wear down. This will help shorten the vicious circle spoken about earlier.
A Vibram outsole is a good choice if you want toughness and durability.
3. Healthy body weight
Obesity is closely linked with an increased risk of overpronation. This is why maintaining a healthy body weight should ease some of the strain on your inner ankles and arches, which should help you to walk with a more neutral gait.
It’s amazing what problems can occur on those two things at the bottoms of our legs.
Things that can affect our physical and mental health. Like ingrowing toenails, athlete’s foot, club foot, underpronation, overpronation, and sweaty feet. Jeez the list goes on and on.
But you don’t need to stress too much about any of them, because there is usually a remedy. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to advise you.
If you do think you have a problem with your gait, and you’ve tried some or most of the things advised above, then you should seek professional help (get in touch with Dr. Bruce if you happen to live in New York).
You should also seek professional help if your problem causes you pain. Probably before deciding on exercises, stretches, or supporting footwear.
If you’re in Adrian’s boots and the uneven wearing is due to your work, you have two options:
- Buy new boots every 6-12 months (to avoid health problems)
- Or buy Goodyear welted work boots and instead of buying new boots every time your soles wear out, you simply resole the ones you already have (saving a bit of money there)
Bottom line is, we have to be on our feet all day, and there are a lot of pressure points in them that can affect other parts of our body, so the feet need looking after.
We hope you’ve found this article useful and informative. If you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences, feel free to chat with us. It’s always good to get first-hand experiences from people.
Team Members Working On This Page
Hey, Jimmy here. I’m one of the researchers and writers here at BestForMyFeet.com. I’ve been wearing work boots all my life working as a forklift driver, landscaper, groundworker, and now as a tower crane operator so I know a few things about footwear and footcare in general. I’m also working on my first novel. So writing IS my passion. When I’m not writing I love to spend time with my wife, two children, and furball.
Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!
Medically reviewed by
I am a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon based in New York. When not treating patients I enjoy exercising regularly by cycling 30-40 miles/week and lifting weights, writing music and playing the piano/synthesizer, and spending quality time with my family. My approach to medicine includes offering many different treatment options to my patients so they can choose the one that is best for them. I enjoy helping out the guys here at BestForMyFeet.com answering questions related to foot problems. If you have concerns with your feet, feel free to schedule a consultation with me at ProgressiveFootCareNY.com and I will be happy to address your concerns.