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Running: When Should I Replace My Running Shoes?

Hanging on to your favorite pair of running shoes for too long can cause injury. We've got some easy tips to help you know when it's time to let them go.

Copywriter, J. Sisko

Date Updated on: 8-27-12

Running Shoes


Nothing quite beats the feeling of that first run in a fresh, new pair of running shoes. During those first few miles, it's easy to feel like you could run forever. Eventually however, all running shoes lose their cushioning ability, and when this happens, the stress to the feet and legs increases dramatically. Over time, such added stress can lead to an overuse injury.


Follow these simple steps to ensure you are getting the most out of your favorite pair of running shoes:


How to measure wear and tear on your running shoes


A common mistake in determining whether to retire your shoes is looking at how much the tread has worn. The midsole is actually what provides the cushioning and stability and is usually the first place running shoes break down. This area usually wears out long before the outsole begins to show major signs of wear. Look for wrinkles on the sides of the midsole as an indication that your shoes have begun to lose their cushioning and support. It is this loss of stability and cushioning that can lead to increased stress and injury risk.


However, if you're running in true minimalist shoes with little-or-no midsole, then you will have to pay attention to the tread wear to determine when you should replace your shoes. If the tread is worn down, it may affect how your foot strikes the ground, emphasizing any biomechanical inefficiencies you may have.


Another trick to determine whether your shoes are ready for the recycle bin is to place them on a table and look at them from behind. If the shoes are drastically leaning to one side or the other, the midsole cushioning is probably worn out as well.


If you're more in tune with mileage than observation, there is a rule of thumb on how many miles you should put on a pair of shoes. Approximately sixty percent of most running shoes' shock absorption is lost after 300-500 miles of use. In other words, if you run up to 20 miles per week, consider replacing your shoes every four to six months.


Mark your calendar when you buy a new pair of running shoes so you remember when it's time to replace them. If you use a training log, record when you bought your new shoes; it will help you track how many miles you've run in them. Writing the purchase date on the inside of each shoe's tongue is another good way to help you remember when you first started running in them.


Some other factors besides mileage that influence the choice to replace running shoes include your weight and your running style. If you weigh more than the average runner, your shoe will receive more stress per step and will probably need to be replaced more often. Also, the more pressure your shoe experiences with each stride you run, the greater the wear and tear and the more often you will need to replace your running shoes.


Sure signs you're wearing running shoes that don't have enough cushioning anymore are: muscle fatigue, shin splints, or joint pain. Look for replacement running shoes that feature cushioning technologies such as Nike Air, ASICS Gel, New Balance ABZORB, or adiPRENE and adiPRENE+ from adidas.


Making your running shoes last longer


Are you the kind of runner who likes to squeeze every last mile out of your shoes? There are a few tips and tricks to make them last longer. Remember, we're trying to avoid injury here.


Running on concrete and asphalt can wear out the tread on your shoes faster than running on grass or trails. Taking your runs off road will help the outsoles last longer.


Don't walk or wear your running shoes casually until you do not plan to run in them any longer. This causes unnecessary wear and additional stress that will eat away at the support, cushioning, and fit.


Another way to help your shoes last longer is by allowing them to decompress and dry out between workouts. To extend the life of your running shoes even further, pick up two pairs of your favorite shoe and rotate them every other day or run (or buy a second pair about midway through the life of the first). If you use two pairs of shoes, you should still track mileage per shoe, and replace each pair after it has 300-500 miles on it.


Remove your shoes properly. When you're in a rush, it's tempting to pull your running shoes on and off without undoing the laces. This causes unnecessary wear and tear on the uppers, so make sure you always loosen the laces before you put your shoes on and take them off.


If your running shoes get wet, don't throw them in the dryer. That could cause them to fall apart. Do not place them in the sun to dry either, as the uppers may shrink and become stiff. To dry your shoes, take out the insoles, stuff the shoes with newspaper, and set them aside to air-dry overnight. The newspaper will absorb the moisture, and your shoes will be good as new.


When you're not running in them, store your shoes properly. Keep your shoes in a cool, dry place where they can air out properly. Don't leave them in places like a gym bag or a hot car trunk.


And whatever you do, don't clean your shoes in the washing machine. If you need to wash your shoes, use a scrub brush, mild soap, and cold water, then let them air-dry.


You can find the perfect replacement for that old, worn-out running shoe on our website, or if you need help deciding which running shoe is best for you, check out our handy Running Shoe Finder that details everything a runner needs to know in order to find the correct running shoe for their feet.

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