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When to Retire Running Shoes

The speed at which running shoes wear out varies greatly depending on factors like how often and how far you run, your weight, your running style, and your preferred terrain. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to determine when it’s time for some new kicks.

When to Retire Running Shoes

Old Shoes Lead to New Injuries

In addition to making your workouts uncomfortable, running in worn-out shoes also increases your risk of injury. The increased stress placed on your body once the cushioning in your shoes breaks down means that things like plantar fasciitis, fractures, sprains, tendonitis, and shin splints all have a much greater chance of sneaking up on you if you keep running in old shoes.

Keep Track of Your Miles

IInstead of replacing running shoes based on time (e.g., every six months or once a year), keep track of the miles you rack up in them. This has become incredibly easy with the rise of running apps—such as RunKeeper and MapMyRun—and online communities like Garmin Connect and Suunto’s MovesCount.

The majority of running shoes are designed to last about 400 miles; however, depending on the runner, shoes may last anywhere from 300 to 500 miles. If your shoes look or feel worn, and fall within the 300-500 mile range, it’s probably time to start shopping around for a new pair.

Signs it’s Time for New Shoes

Once you enter the 300-500 mile range with your shoes, start to pay extra attention to two things: (1) how they look, and (2) how they feel. If your shoes start to exhibit any of the following “symptoms,” then it’s time to let them go.

I. How they look:

i) Are the outsoles smooth like a bald tire?
ii) Do they no longer sit flat when you put them on the floor?
iii) Are there any tears or other signs of wear in the uppers?
iv) Are the midsoles starting to show?
v) Do the shoes twist with little resistance?

Here’s an example of old vs. new outsoles. The sole of the bottom shoe looked just like the sole of the top shoe (color aside, of course) 350 miles ago. As you can see, it was clearly time for the bottom shoe to be replaced.

A comparison of the way these two shoes sit on a flat surface further proves that it was time for retirement:

When running shoes come out of the box, they’ll sit flat on a smooth surface. When it’s time to replace them, they’ll sit like the shoe on the right. You can also see that the upper material on the heel had started to show folds and creases, which is another indicator that they needed to be retired.

II. How they feel:

i) Do the shoes no longer feel snug on your foot, even when laced properly?
ii) Are you experiencing out-of-the-ordinary aches and pains in your feet, legs, knees, or hips during or after your run?v

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’ll want to start shopping for new running shoes sooner rather than later.

Tips for Making Your Shoes Last Longer

Worn-out running shoes are an inevitable reality, but there are ways to squeak a few extra miles out of them and help them last to the higher end of the 300-500 mile range.

i) Run on appropriate terrain—This one should be a no-brainer. Road shoes are for road running, and trail shoes are for trail running. For example, the outsoles of road shoes are designed for smooth surfaces, so taking them on trails is a surefire way to quickly destroy the soles.
ii) Have more than one pair—Rotating between multiple pairs of running shoes won’t technically extend the life of the shoe (they’re still subject to the 300-500 mile limit), but it will extend the amount of time between purchases a bit. It’s also incredibly beneficial for your body; each pair will work your muscles in slightly different ways, making you a stronger runner overall.
iii) Practice more efficient running—Runners who are light on their feet tend to get a lot more miles out of their shoes than runners who literally “pound” pavement (or dirt). Practicing a more efficient stride—quicker cadence, landing on your mid- or forefoot instead of your heel, etc.—will help extend the life of your shoes.
iv) Only wear them running—That’s why they’re called “running” shoes, anyway. They’re not “walking the dog” shoes, “errand” shoes, or “hitting the town” shoes, so don’t treat them as such. Wearing your running shoes for anything other than running will only speed up the wearing-them-out process.

Come to Us for Your Next Pair!

Once you’ve determined that it’s time for a new pair of running shoes, visit your local Eastern Mountain Sports and talk to one of our Foot Gurus. (Or call Customer Service and ask to speak with a Foot Guru at 888-463-6367.) What's a Foot Guru? It's an EMS sales associate who has been trained to analyze your feet and custom fit your shoes—for FREE!—to make sure you get the best outdoor experience.


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