Running shoes aren’t forever. While it may be hard to part with your favorite pair of running shoes (and equally tough to fork up the big bucks for a new pair), eventually, the time will come where retirement is inevitable. But knowing when to set them aside and lace up a new pair is critical to running comfortably and staying injury-free.
Here are a few signs of worn-out shoes and guidelines for when to change them out.
One way to tell it’s time to replace your running shoes is to test the rigidity of the midsole material. To do this, grab the heel counter—the stiff, round part of the heel. Then, take your thumb and push in on the cushioning part towards the bottom of the shoe.
When a shoe is new, this material will feel very rigid. However, when the shoe starts to age, the midsole material will soften. This is when it’s time to think about replacing the shoe. It’s essential to get the feel of the shoe when it’s new to have an idea of how rigid this material should be.
The midsole material softens because the air cells in the EVA, the material which makes up most running shoes, are collapsing and staying compressed, meaning it no longer has much shock absorption. You will likely feel the difference in the EVA upon landing, and you might be able to feel rocks through the midsole as the shoes begin to wear. While a worn shoe may no longer be suited for running, it can still be used for walking around.
Rule of thumb
The accepted rule of thumb amongst those in running specialty is to replace your running shoes every 300–500 miles. It’s around this point that the midsole cushioning on most shoes will lose resiliency and stop absorbing shock as well as when they were new, which can cause more impact on your muscles and joints. If you average 15 miles of running per week, then you’ll need to replace your shoes approximately every five to eight months. If you track your runs with a GPS watch or your smartphone, it’s simple to figure out when you’re in the 300–500-mile range. Otherwise, you can estimate roughly based on how much you run each week.
It’s important to note that more minimal shoes may wear out faster. If you are on the heavier side, that may also affect how quickly your running shoes start to see wear and tear. If you notice new discomfort in your feet, legs, knees, hips, or back after running, it may be time for a new pair of shoes. The same is true if you’re getting blisters or feeling hot spots where you never used to.
Get the most out of your shoes
Your shoes will eventually wear out. But with proper maintenance and use, you will get a longer life out of your favorite running shoes.
Rotate two pairs of shoes: When you use different shoes, your body gains a slight cross-training advantage as it adapts to subtle differences in shoe design. Shoe rotation also gives midsoles time to decompress and the entire shoe time to dry out, which will extend the life of your shoe.
Remove your shoes properly: Using the other foot to rake down on the back of the heel to pry off a shoe is bad form. Unlace each one instead and slip it off with your hands. Your shoes will thank you by serving you longer.
Use your shoes only for running: Wearing running shoes around the house or town might be comfortable and convenient, but it will also prematurely wear your shoes down. They were made for running—not running errands!