How Long do Running Shoes Last? And is It Time to Replace Yours?

Over time, running shoes lose shock absorption and stability, which can result in painful injuries like shin splints, stress fractures, runner's knee, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, to name but a few!

This makes your running shoes one of the most important pieces of kit that you own, so don’t take them for granted! Shoes are unquestionably cheaper and easier to replace than new joints!

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules as to when you should retire your old favourites, and spend a bit of cash on a new pair. However, here are a few tips to help you know when it’s finally time to make that trade-in.

The Number of Miles You’ve Pounded Together

The general rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes after every 300-500 miles. However, this figure will depend on your body weight, running style and the type of surface you run on.

Heavier runners will inevitably give their shoes a harder time and wear them out quicker than their lighter counterparts (a good reason to loose a few pounds!). Similarly, runners who strike the ground hard when they run will cause greater damage and deterioration to their shoes.

Soft surfaces like tracks and grass are best for preserving the life-span of your shoes. Conversely, if you run mostly on concrete pavements, you’ll inevitably need to invest in a new pair sooner.

Also, don’t be fooled by those pristine looking treadmill trainers tucked into your gym bag. Although they may still look spanking new and clean (as they’ve never seen the light of day or an ounce of mud!), they will still have endured compression damage and deterioration to parts of the shoe you can’t see. They may also have had to put up with living in a damp and smelly gym bag, and not given the chance to fully dry out after each workout. These poor conditions will inevitably contribute to premature deterioration!

Do They Still Satisfy All of Your Needs?

Looks can be deceiving, and it's difficult to tell when to replace your running shoes just by their appearance. Don’t let a tidy exterior and good tread fool you, these cosmetic looks can be misleading. 

The bit you should be concerned about is the midsole (the spongy layer between the upper part of the shoe and the sole). This portion of the shoe is largely invisible, but has the most function.

Take no chances with your midsoles, as damage will cause loss of stability and cushioning to the shoe, which will almost inevitably lead to increased injury risk. Here are some tips on how to give your midsole a quick MOT:

1) The Twist Test: A worn out midsole will allow the shoe to twist more easily than a new shoe.

2) The Crease Test: Look for creases, cracks or wrinkles in the midsole, especially under the heel or ball of the foot.  These are all signs of deterioration.

3) The Lean Test: Place your shoes on a table and looking at them from behind. If they lean to one-side, the midsole cushioning is probably worn.

4) The Colour Test: Check for discoloration of the midsole. If it’s turning yellow, brown, or grey, the running career of your shoes is near to an end.

Are They Giving You a Hard Time?

Aches, pains, tightness, shin splints, unusual muscle fatigue, sudden blisters and a lack of bounce in your step are all telltale signs that your shoes are past their sell-by-date.

Ideally, however, you owe it to your hard-working feet and legs to replace your shoes well before you start to notice these things!

Would a Newer Version Give You More Pleasure?

Try out a new version of your old shoe. If the cushioning, spring and structure in your old pair feels dead in comparison, you should exchange them for nice new shiny ones immediately. Remember, this isn’t a time for sentimental value, even if you did run your first marathon or a personal best together!

Tips on Knowing When to Finally Give Them the Elbow

1) Record your first date together: Write the date underneath the tongue flap of your shoe, so that you know when you first took them out.

2) Track your mileage: From your very first run together, to the bitter end, log every run so that you’ve got an accurate record of how far each pair of shoes have taken you.

3) Have another pair in reserve: Invest in a second pair about halfway through the life of your first. Use your newer pair as a point of reference to identify when you should ditch the older ones. You could also take them out on alternate runs, giving each pair time to dry out and decompress (they’ll appreciate the rest and it’ll also increase their lifespan!).

Your Running Shoes Are Made for One Thing, and One Thing Only!

Only wear your running shoes when you’re out running. Take them off when you're done, and have another pair of trainers for walking around town, cycling, weight training etc.

Finally, running shoes don't last forever, so make sure you get your money’s worth and take them out regularly. They will still age and deteriorate over time, even if they are abandoned in the bottom of your wardrobe, feeling unloved.

Remember that nothing beats that virgin run in a new pair of shoes!

Posted by Heather Waghorn.