Why do you get holes in your running shoes

We regularly get asked “Why do I get holes in my running shoes?”. This is such a common question and many runners assume it’s a fault with the shoe, but it’s certainly not as clear cut as that.

How do I get holes in my running shoes?

Holes in the upper of your running shoes are very annoying. After spending decent money on some lovely new shoes, the last thing you want is holes in the upper. Unfortunately this is often the reality of owning running shoes that have thin mesh uppers designed with only breathability and support in mind.

The simple reason for the holes occurring is friction, the reason for the friction is dependant on where the holes occur:

Holes in the Toe Box of Shoes

holes in my running shoes
Example of holes created in the toe box of running shoes

 

These are the most common holes you see in running shoes, we would estimate that roughly 1 in every 5 runners will get this type of hole in their running shoes regularly. The reason for it occurring is due to the big toe rubbing away at the mesh from underneath.

This is down to one major factor and that is your big toe function. If your hallux joint doesn’t move freely through its entire range of motion when it is loaded (when you toe off) then the distal phalanx will over extend to compensate this “lifting” of the distal phalanx occurs at a time when the mesh is close to your toes (a fraction of a second after it should). This slight difference in timing and the angle of the extension of the end of the toe (which contains the tip of the nail) rather than the whole toe is enough when repeated thousands of times per run, to wear away the mesh pretty quickly.

It’s not uncommon for runners to see a thinning of the mesh after just a few runs, annoyingly although manufacturers are well aware of this problem, their focus is on comfort and breathability so they very rarely reinforce the mesh in the toe box.

Holes in Heel Collar Lining

Holes In heel
Hole caused in the heel or a running shoe

These holes are the next most common type of hole we regularly see in customers shoes. They occur due to excessive heel movement in your shoes, this can be unnoticeable heel movement or heel movement you are aware of. It is most often down to unnoticeable heel movement caused by more pronation on one foot than the other.

As the foot pronates the lateral heel lifts up, again this is due to a biomechanical function and is very difficult to remedy. This movement is repeated every time you take a stride and so thousands of up and down movements per run. This results in a lot of friction and therefore it’s easy to see how the soft silky linings of running shoes are easily worn through.

What can I do about holes in my running shoes?

Whilst holes will be inevitable for some runners, some people will be able to avoid (or at least reduce the amount of) holes in their running shoes by taking a few precautions:

Holes in Toebox

  • Try to choose shoes with a deeper toe box where possible
  • Most local cobblers can apply patches inside the shoes as a preventative measure
  • Keep your toenails as short as possible
  • Choose technical running socks with good toe padding
  • Make sure you have running shoes properly fitted, that can help improve big toe function

Holes in Heel Lining

  • Make sure you have running shoes professionally fitted by a running shop
  • Adding corrective insoles can help reduce pronation and therefore lateral heel rub
  • Choose technical running socks with good heel padding
  • Again most cobblers can apply preventative patches inside the heel lining
  • Use the last lace hole in your shoes to lock your heel in better

If you have taken all of the above precautions and you are still being haunted by holes, then the chances are that you will get holes in any running shoe, as you biomechanics will dictate so. You may be lucky enough to find certain shoes go unscathed, but this will be down to luck!

If you have any other advice for your fellow runners, or would like to suggest a question for us to answer then why not add your comments below?

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Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.