If you’re training for a half marathon or just trying to kick up your morning jogs a notch, investing in a sturdy pair of running shoes is a worthy splurge. But spending upwards of $100 every time you need a new pair can get old quick.
While there is no set rule for how long running shoes last, most fitness experts peg it around the 300 to 600 mile mark. But the longevity of your shoe may depend on many other factors beyond your mileage, including your body weight, running style, typical route and much more.
You may be lightweight but run heavy – or vice versa. If you’re light on your feet and have an efficient stride, the cushioning in your shoes will likely last longer than if you pound the ground with your heels. Where you run also matters. Sticking to paved roads can wear your shoes out much quicker than running on grassy trails or dirt roads. Going for daily runs may also break shoes down faster.
When It’s Time to Toss
Whatever your stride or routine, it’s best to avoid running in threadbare shoes. When the midsole, which provides most of the shock absorption for your feet, starts to lose its bounce, your body takes the brunt of the impact. A less-than-springy midsole combined with a bare tread on your shoe can put extra pressure on your legs and joints, causing sore arches, shin pain and achy knees. Persistent aches and pains after runs can eventually lead to more serious injuries in your feet, legs and hips that can sideline you.
The best way to avoid this scenario is by replacing your shoes at the right time. But how do you know if your kicks have run their course? Some signs are obvious: visible creases or cracks in the midsole, a shoe that leans to one side on a flat surface or has a bald tread, a heel that bends easily or tears in the upper part of the shoe. These tests can also determine if your shoes are on their last legs:
- The press test: Put one hand in your shoe and use the other hand to press into the center of your outer sole. If you can feel your fingers pressing through, the cushioning and tread are worn out.
- The twist test: Hold your shoes at both ends and twist. If your shoe lacks proper support, it will twist easily.
- The shopping test: Visit a shoe store and test your shoes out against a new pair of the same model. If yours feel flatter than the store model, it might be time for another pair.
Extending the Life of Your Shoe
Even the most durable running shoes are bound to break down over time, but taking care of them can go a long way in preserving them. Take these four steps to help your shoes last longer.
- Pick the right shoe. When shoe shopping, ask about the quality of materials in the midsole. Different models wear out at different rates. Lightweight or smaller runners, for example, may be able to get a lot of miles out of a minimalist shoe, while those with a heavier stride or larger build may need a more cushioned shoe. Choose shoes based on how they fit and feel, not on how they look. Shoes with knitted uppers are a good option because they form to your feet and allow your foot to breathe.
- Buy a few pairs. It can be tempting to use one pair of shoes for all your workouts. But running shoes are not designed for softer surfaces like basketball or tennis courts or activities like weight training that require more lateral moves. You may even need different sneakers for longer trail runs versus shorter, faster sprints. Rotating several pairs can also give the padding in your shoes time to recover after each run and help them last longer than they normally would.
- Track your mileage. Mark down the date you purchased your shoes inside them and track how many miles you run each week in a notebook or an online training log that calculates the mileage for you. Once you approach 300 miles, break in a new pair and rotate each one every few days or weeks. Switching up your running surfaces—hitting the treadmill or running on softer surfaces like dirt and grass once a week—can also help you squeeze more miles out of your shoes.
- Treat them right. Don’t expose shoes to extreme cold or heat or wear them to run errands. Always untie your shoes instead of stepping on the heel to kick them off. Instead of throwing grimey shoes in the wash, use an old toothbrush to scrub the surface with athletic shoe foaming cleanser, then stuff with newspaper to dry them out. Keep the insides smelling fresh by deodorizing with baking soda or a dry medicated powder.