My last blog post discussed new ways to tie your shoes. This week I need to remind you to untie your shoes each time you take them off and make sure the laces are unknotted before you try to put them back on.
Are you the kind of person who just jams your feet into your shoes on the way out the door? Well, you may be saving a few seconds of time, but you also might be wasting your money. Let’s review the anatomy of a sneaker:
See the arrow marked “heel counter”?
The heel counter is one of the most important components of a shoe’s support system. It is made up of a rigid plastic semicircle that wraps around the back the shoe, holding your foot in place and keeping you in alignment. The more rigid the heel counter, the more control the shoe will have.
The running shoe above provides good support for my heel because it has a pretty stiff heel counter
This casual shoe has a really wimpy heel counter. It offers little or no support, which is one reason why a shoe like this is not the best choice for people who need motion control.
* Note* Some “minimalist” shoes intentionally omit the heel counter from the design of the shoe. This is intended to allow your foot to move “naturally” as you walk or run. (There are complications with this theory, but that is another post for another time…for now, I will just say that minimalist footwear only works well if you don’t need support) For an excellent review about one of the most famous minimalist running shoes read this post: http://themiddlemiles.blogspot.com/2011/04/gear-review-nike-free.html?showComment=1330300951127#c2105070100071893288
Ok, so you have grasped the concept of a heel counter…literally, haha. You should be able to understand why you need them in your shoes, and from there it is not too much of a quantum leap to comprehend why you want to make sure that your heel counters live a long and healthy life.
Now, think back to all the times you have shoved your feet into your already tied shoes. You know how the back of the heel kind of gets pushed in sometimes and you have to wriggle your heel up and down to get it situated…well, each time you do that you are weakening the heel counter.
Look at the back of your shoes; do they look anything like these pictures?
If so, I have bad news…the security of your sneaker may have been compromised.
At this point, your shoes are probably doing you more harm than good. Even if you haven’t broken the heel counter, you have mangled it beyond recognition and it can no longer provide support to your foot. In fact, depending on the direction you have bent the plastic; you might even be forcing your heel into an unnatural position with every step you take. You are going to have to replace your shoes.
Here is a heel counter checklist to help you know when your shoes are worn out:
- Did the shoe have a stiff heel counter to begin with? (If so, it will last longer)
- Have you bent, mashed or scuffed the heel counter a lot?
- Does the heel counter still pass the vertical test? What is the vertical test you might ask… Well, I am glad you asked. Set your shoes on a flat surface like a table, the toes should be facing away from you. Find something to use as a reference line (I used a highlighter standing up on end – you could use a pen or a ruler or a T-square or plumb line or a laser level or whatever…just make sure that your reference line is exactly perpendicular to the table top. Get down on the same level as your shoes and eyeball it: does your vertical reference line pass right through the middle of your heel counter? See my picture below. My shoe looks pretty good, the heel counter is vertical.
It is especially important to use this checklist shoes when:
– Your shoes are getting old
– You know you have some sort of alignment problem (such as if you pronate or supinate)
– You have been lazy about untying your shoes
– You bought really cheap shoes
– You are putting extra stress on your feet and shoes lately (like training for a marathon)
– You are growing or shrinking (Check the shoes of kids and old people often!)
The take away point is: untie your shoes before you take them off and re-tie well every time you put them on, it can really help your feet be happier. Use your extra ten seconds of shoe tying time to clear your mind, take a few deep breaths, say a prayer before you stroll out the door.
Broken down shoe pictures from: