Often times I get the question…”How often do you buy running shoes?” Well it sure seems like a lot! So what exactly is the life expectancy of a running shoe and how do you know when it is time for the shoe’s retirement? More importantly, can wearing worn out running shoes negatively affect your performance? These are questions I have asked for years, and there are actually a few answers.
First and foremost, without a doubt wearing old running shoes can put you at major risk for injuries. Clearly any injury is going to negatively impact your performance, or even sideline you all together. Worn out running shoes are less able to absorb the impact, which sets off a chain reaction of improper impact to your muscles, tendons, and bones. The impact can start at your feet and ankles and run all the way up to your legs and even your back. Trust me, back pain is something you want to avoid at all costs. It is often an injury that lingers.
So we know that old and worn out shoes can put you at risk for injury. How often should you replace them? As a general rule of thumb, many say they should be replaced about every 500 miles. For me that is about every three months, for some that may be longer or even shorter. (I have a few crazy friends that do 50 and 100 milers!) Another indicator is just simply to listen to your body. If you are suddenly or even gradually having more aches and pains in your legs, hips, or knees…. You may want to think about how long you have had your shoes. If it takes your legs longer to recover from long runs, that is another indicator. You also may want to turn them over and check out the bottom. I wear my shoes out in the same pattern. The inside top corner of my right sole wears out first. When I say wears out, I mean I have worn it to the point where I got my sock wet from the rainy roads. That was a real clear sign!!
Barry (our resident running shoe expert at Cool Springs) shared with me that often times shoes break down unevenly depending on how the midsole is put together combined with the runner’s gait. This can put you at risk for an ankle roll or other things that can be out of alignment after your shoes have broken down unevenly. One suggestion I have gotten from Barry and have read in numerous places that can help extend the life of your shoes, is to have two good pairs and rotate them. This actually gives the midsole foam more time to decompress between runs. I have started doing that and I definitely think it has helped.
Good running shoes are worth the money, no doubt about that. You do not want to put yourself at risk of being sidelined because you either didn’t buy the right shoe or wore a pair of shoes too long. I always recommend trying on a new shoe before you buy it, even if you have worn it before and especially if they have revised the shoe.
So what do you do with those old and worn out running shoes? Well we all need one good, old pair to wear around or outside on a rainy day. (But we don’t need a ton of old pairs of shoes) When they are done completely I always give mine to Soles4Souls. It is a great non-profit that takes old shoes and provides shoes to children in need. There are drop off locations all over.
It is a great way to put those old shoes to good use!
“Life is better in running shoes.”