If you’ve worn a really poor-fitting pair of training shoes, then you may have some experience or exposure to heel slip. Heel slip is something that can be incredibly frustrating for lifters and athletes that are trying to get the most out of their shoes. Not to mention, heel slip can not only be uncomfortable but really problematic during certain workouts.
On my YouTube channel, I’m constantly answering training shoe sizing questions and working to help others navigate things like heel slip. Shoe sizing can be really tough to navigate at times due to how individual all of our feet are and how many different shoe lasts exist.
In this article, we’re going to discuss heel slip and navigating around it. If you’re noticing that your heels are popping out of your training shoes, then read on and we’ll discuss what to do about it.
What Is Heel Slip?
Heel slip is the act of the heel popping out of the boot of the shoe unintentionally during various movements. Heel slip severity in your shoes can vary and the act of heel slip can present itself at different times based on the activity you’re performing, how your foot is built, and how the shoe you’re wearing is built.
For example, if your shoes fit very poorly and you’re experiencing a lot of heel slip, then you can experience heel slip when doing low-intensity exercises like walking. Conversely, if your shoes fit okay but there are still discrepancies between your shoe’s sizing and your foot anatomy, then you may only notice heel slip when doing things like plyometrics, lifting, and other high-intensity exercises.
The latter of the two examples discussed above is the most common in which heel slip will present itself during one’s time wearing a pair of shoes. With high-velocity and high-intensity exercise, we’ll be placing a greater demand on the ankles and their function and more specifically when they’re moving through plantarflexion and dorsiflexion.
Plantarflexion is when we flex the ankle downward with the balls of the feet driving into the ground, and dorsiflexion is when we flex the ankle with the toe pointing towards the feeling.
When we move through rapid rates of plantarflexion and dorsiflexion, then we can run into problems with the heel slipping out of our shoe’s boot if the shoes we’re wearing don’t fit properly. This can be even more prevalent when we consider multi-directional activity, too, AKA moving forward, laterally, and backward with our weight as a whole shifting into these directions.
Why Is Heel Slip Bad?
Heel slip is bad for three key reasons. First, it can hinder your workout performance by making your shoes feel less secure. For example, let’s say you’re doing a box jump and you have heel slip during the take-off phase. This can throw off your confidence with your jump and cause issues during the landing phase of your jump.
Second, heel slip can cause blister issues on the ankle and Achilles tendon. When we have shoes that are constantly sliding up and down the Achilles and ankle, then we can run into blister issues due to the increased friction. Blisters can not only feel uncomfortable but also ruin our socks and stain the boots of our shoes.
Lastly, heel slip can change our movement mechanics. If we notice that our shoe is sliding around when training, then we’ll start to subconsciously move in a means that allows us to feel more secure in our shoes. Small mechanical changes can add up over time and cause decreased performance, which is the last thing we want when training consistently.
When Does Heel Slip Happen?
We touched on this point briefly above, but to provide more context and to help you understand to a greater depth why heel slip can happen I wanted to dive into three specific areas that can play a role in heel slip.
1. Poor Fitting Shoes (Misaligned Shoe Lasts and Foot Anatomy)
The first and most common reason heel slip can occur is that your shoes don’t fit your foot properly. This could mean that your shoes are a bit too large in regard to length so the additional toe box room causes your foot to slide forward and your heel to pop out.
In addition, this could also mean that the last (mold) of the shoe you’re using doesn’t align with your foot’s anatomy. When building shoes, companies have hundreds of shoe lasts to select from, and they try to choose a last that will capture the widest market share. A shoe last is essentially the foot mold in which their shoe is based on and sized around.
This is why some shoes, no matter how you size up, won’t align with your feet. A good example here would be an athlete or lifter with a very narrow foot trying to fit into a Reebok Nano X which has a slightly wider last and construction.
No matter how this athlete sizes their Nano X, they may never fit this shoe completely and that’s because the last of the shoe doesn’t align with their foot anatomy. This is normal and adds to the importance of exploring different models to find shoes that actually fit your foot’s anatomy well.
If you’re someone with a wider or more narrow foot, then you can be a bit more prone to experiencing heel slip in certain shoes. Generally, athletes and lifters with more neutral feet can get away with wearing a wider range of models without issues.
2. Low-Profile Boots
Another reason you may run into heel slip with your training shoe is their profile and boot construction. At times, a shoe’s boot construction can be the sole reason for heel slip with some lifters and athletes despite the shoe seemingly fitting well.
Some good cross-training shoe examples here would be the Nike Metcon 6 and Nike Metcon 7, these are both models with low-profile constructions.
Let’s say you’re someone that has a thicker heel bone and there’s less physical boot construction making contact with your heel in something like a Nike Metcon 6 and Metcon 7. In this case, you may experience heel slip despite technically having your sizing right because there’s less material to help keep the boot secure on the heel.
The big takeaway here is that sometimes heel slip is inevitable if shoes you’re wearing and that can be due to how a shoe is built and your individual foot and ankle anatomy. Not every shoe is going to work with our feet and that’s normal, and we’re not weird for having some issues that just don’t agree with us.
How to Prevent Heel Slip
If you’re experiencing heel slip in your training shoes, then there are a few things to do and try in order to navigate around this issue without fully ditching hopes of wearing the model in question.
1. Try Sizing Down a Half Size
The first potential fix for heel slip is to try going down a half size. This is the easiest potential fix and will be best for those that are experiencing heel slip due to excessive room in the toe box.
If you find that you have about an inch of space at the end of your toe box, then you should try sizing down a half size to see if this limits the heel slip issues you’re having. Ideally, you want anywhere from .2-.3″-.6-.7″ of clearance in the toe box.
Now, let’s say you’re having heel slip issues and the shoe fits true in regard to length, should you size down? No, because the shoe already fits well in regard to length, and sizing down could make it too tight. More than likely, for this scenario you may just need to explore other models because the shoe’s last in question is not aligning with your foot anatomy.
2. Try Using Lace-Lock (Heel Lock)
Another potential fix for heel slip is using a lack lock or heel lock style of lacing your shoes. If your shoes feature a lace-lock eyelet, then this can be a super easy option for keeping the shoes a bit more “locked-down” on the foot.
Essentially, lace lock and heel lock lacing techniques are designed to provide you with an even more snug fit with your shoe to prevent it from sliding up and down the ankle.
This technique can prevent blisters and heel slip, check out how to lace lock below if you have shoes that feature additional eyelets for lack locking.
Step 1: Use the Additional Lack Lock Eyelet to Create a Loop
For this step, you’ll create a loop with your laces by stringing the laces out on the second to last eyelet, then back in on the lace lock eyelet. You want to have a little loop when doing this correctly.
Step 2: String the Opposing Side Lace Through the Loop
Now that you’ve created your loops, you’ll then take the opposing side’s lace and string it through the loop. So, you’ll string the left side’s lace through the right loop
Step 3: Pull Tight So There’s No More Slack In the Loops
Once you’ve strung your laces through the opposing side’s loop, pull tight. Make sure you pull tight enough to where there’s no slack in the loops. This will provide a “locked-down” feeling throughout the mid-foot and top of the mid-foot.
Step 4: Lace-Up Your Shoes As Normal
Once you’ve taken the slack out of the loops and have pulled tight, tie your shoes as normal, and voila — you’ve successfully lace locked/heel locked your shoes. This should provide you with an extra layer of mid-foot security and limit heel slip.
These are two fixes you can try to limit heel slip. Please note, they may not work for everyone and you may just need to invest in a pair of shoes, but these are definitely worth trying before exploring new models!
Heel slip can be incredibly frustrating especially in the context of training shoes. Heel slip can not only hinder performance in the gym but can also cause blisters which is less than ideal for long-term performance and comfort.
If you have any questions about heel slip and what to do to navigate around it, feel free to drop comments below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly).