Heel slippage can make every run uncomfortable and unpleasant. Not only does it cause your Achilles to rub against the shoe, possibly causing blisters, but it also reduces the efficiency of your run, because you don’t get a smooth push-off.
When your heel slips, your shoe lags behind as you push off, making some of that energy return in your shoes disappear into thin air! If your heels are slipping, it’s best to fix it as soon as you can.
We’ve covered some easy ways to prevent heel slippage in running shoes. Some might not work for you, depending on the cause of your heel slippage. But there should be at least one method here that fixes your heel slippage and keeps your feet safe.
What Is Heel Slippage & What Causes It?
Heel slippage—also known as heel slip or slipping heel—is when your heel slips out of your shoe as you’re walking or running.
It doesn’t need to slip all the way out of the shoe to qualify as heel slippage—even just a slight up-and-down movement of your heel against the heel counter is heel slippage.
Any up-and-down movement of your heel inside the shoe can be uncomfortable, and sometimes painful.
Before we get into solving this problem, let’s look at possible causes.
Poor Fit or Lack of Support
Wearing a pair of shoes that’s the wrong fit for your foot could lead to the heel slipping.
The shoes could be slightly too long, leaving too much space between your foot and the heel counter, so the shoe doesn’t fit snugly.
If the length is correct, the problem could be with the arch support. For those with high arches of flat feet, a lack of support under the arch could lead to the foot falling inward or outward upon each step, leading to the heel slipping or rubbing.
In some cases, shoes built on a wide last—mold—may not fit your heel if you happen to have narrower feet.
Many of us are guilty of not tying our shoes tightly enough! If your shoes are not tied properly, there’s a chance that your feet will move too much inside your shoes. This could lead to your heel slipping out of the shoes as you run.
There’s a simple solution—tie your laces properly! They shouldn’t be tied so tight that your feet become numb, but there should be no slipping of the heel when your laces are properly tied.
Alternatively, you could switch to longer laces if you can’t get a good lockdown, or try flat laces instead of rounded ones, which can help.
Wearing the Wrong Socks
If your socks aren’t moisture-wicking, they may become soaked in sweat and rub against the back of your heel. This can also reduce the gripping effect of the heel counter, making the heel slip.
Socks that are too thin can also keep a space between your Achilles and your shoe, leading to your heel moving up and down when you walk.
Inefficient Heel Counter
If your shoes have a heel counter that’s not sturdy enough to hold your foot in place, your heel is likely to slip. On the other hand, if it’s too stiff, it won’t mold to your heel and the inefficient fit may cause the heel to slip.
It can be hard to tell upfront if a stiff heel counter is too stiff and won’t mold to your foot with wear. It’s worth doing some research on the shoe you like before buying it.
Your Shoes Aren’t Broken In
In some cases, a stiff heel counter is simply because your shoes haven’t been broken in yet. The materials are still stiff before they’ve been worn, which means the heel counter won’t necessarily fit around your heel comfortably yet.
Spending a few hours every day just walking them in can fix the problem. The heel counter will soften with wear, molding around your heel’s specific shape so it can provide the support and security you need.
If you buy quality running shoes, this shouldn’t be the cause – they don’t need a break-in period. But if wear cheaper shoes or trainers, this might be the issue.
Why Is a Snug Heel Fit Important?
While heel slippage isn’t really a problem when you’re walking at a moderate pace, it can become an issue when you’re running. Here’s why heel slip is a problem that you should fix as soon as you can.
Friction Leading to Blisters
Heel slippage is highly likely to cause friction between the skin of your heel and the heel counter.
When this happens, you’re likely to develop blisters on the Achilles. And unless you take a break until the blister has healed, there will be chafing against the blister when you run the next time.
If you don’t take a break and the friction continues, there’s a chance that the blisters can become infected, which will set you back much further than taking a break for the blisters to heal.
May Lead to a Changed Gait
When your foot isn’t locked into your shoe, you may find yourself changing your gait in order to feel more secure when you walk or run.
You might find your toes “clawing” the forefoot of the shoe in order to get a better grip and prevent your foot from sliding.
This increases your chance of injury, as your foot ends up being positioned in an unusual way and doesn’t have the full support it needs. Over time, this could cause you to develop more serious foot conditions.
Reduced Security = Reduced Performance
When your foot isn’t secure in your shoe, it becomes harder to run efficiently. You can’t take advantage of the natural energy return in the foam of the midsole, because your heel is leaving the midsole as the heel comes out of the shoe.
If your foot isn’t locked in, you’ll never be able to run at your optimal performance. Fixing heel slip isn’t just about injury, it’s about performance as well!
How to Prevent Heel Slippage in Running Shoes
If you struggle with heel slippage in your running shoes—or walking shoes—try some of these methods to get a better lockdown on your foot.
Choose Your Socks Carefully
This is a small thing and easy to do, but it can make a big difference! Choose socks that are non-slip to prevent any excess movement within the shoe.
Also, make sure the socks you choose are moisture-wicking. You should avoid cotton socks, as they tend to hold onto moisture, which can increase the chance of friction.
If there’s a small amount of excess space between your Achilles and the heel counter, you can try wearing slightly thicker socks to fill the gap.
Buy the Right Size Running Shoes
We highly recommend getting your feet professionally measured.
This will help you to find the perfectly-sized shoe, because you’ll be measuring by inches instead of going by shoe size—brands differ slightly in size, so it’s not a reliable way to size your shoes.
If you’re buying your shoes online, it’s an excellent idea to research brand sizing before you buy. Some brands run narrow and others run wide, so knowing this will help you to get the right size for your feet.
If you’re buying at the store, try to shop in the afternoon. This is when your feet are their largest, as they swell during the day. You’ll be able to get the best fit on your foot at this time so you’ll get an accurate idea of how comfortable the shoe will be.
Learn Different Lacing Techniques
Learning heel lock lacing can be highly effective at preventing heel slippage. Many of us never use that extra set of eyelets on our shoes, but that’s exactly what you’re going to do here.
Lace your shoes up like normal, in a criss-cross pattern from forefoot to the bridge of the foot. But instead of tying the knot where you usually would, lace each end of the shoelace through that extra eyelet on the same side of the shoe.
Then, cross the laces over each other and through the small loops created on each side. When you pull them tight and tie them, it creates a much better lock around your foot than regular lacing does.
Try Heel Pads or a Tongue Pad
If your shoes are too big for your feet, a simple solution is to fill up the space with something soft and comfortable.
You can use heel pads like the Hotop Cushion Pads, which you stick on the inside of the heel counter to both take up the extra space and provide softness to prevent chafing.
As an alternative to heel pads, you can try tongue pads, although they’re less common and harder to find than heel pads. These kinds of measures are also an excellent choice for those who prefer to run without socks, as they can fill up the extra space that’s left between your shoe and your heel.