How to Tell When It's Time to Replace Your Running Shoes + Tips to Extend Wear
If you ever fell in love with a pair of running shoes you may have noticed that over time, they don't love you back like they did when they were new. Running shoes generally have a life span of about 300-500 miles, but this can vary depending on your running mechanics, your body weight and the surfaces you run.
Every time I quote this running shoe life span, I inevitably hear from someone who tells me they've been running in the same shoes since 1992 and they feel fine. Of course, everyone is different and there will be outliers, but the majority of runners (probably you) will benefit from replacing their shoes every 300-500 miles. If you're still wearing the same shoes you wore when you wore MC Hammer pants, it's probably time to make some updates. If you run 20 miles a week, you likely need to replace your shoes every five to six months. Heavy-framed runners and road runners will likely wear their shoes down faster than small-framed runners who crank out most of their miles on softer surfaces.
How can you tell when your shoes need to be replaced? 300-500 miles is a fairly large variable. You don't want to unnecessarily replace them too soon and you certainly don't want to risk injury by continuing to run in shoes that should be retired.
How to Tell When It's Time To Replace Your Running Shoes
Check the Outsole Wear
Just like you wouldn't continue to drive on car tires that have worn down tread, when the grooves on the outsoles of your running shoes are worn smooth, it's a sign that it's time to replace. No matter how miles you have run in your shoes, when they start to show signs of excessive wear, it's time to replace.
Check the Midsole Wear
Over time the midsole (inside of shoe) breaks down and loses its shock absorbing qualities. If press down on the midsole on the inside of the shoe with your thumb you can usually feel if it is still springy. When the midsole wears down you'll probably notice your running shoes are not as comfortable as they once were.
Your Body Will Tell You
If your body starts to scream at you with new aches and pains it may be a sign that it is time to replace your shoes. If you pay close attention, you can usually feel when it's time to retire those running shoes. When you feel new aches, check your outsole and midsole wear, take a few days off to make sure you just don't need rest and recovery. Then if all the signs point to worn out shoes, head over to your local specialty running store to be running like new in no time!
Tips To Extend The Life of Your Running Shoes
I know that running shoes can be expensive so we want to make sure we are getting the most of the shoes we buy.
Alternate between two pairs of shoes
If you run every day, a good strategy is to alternate the running shoes you wear every other day. This allows the foam in your shoe to decompress before you run again. By allowing your shoes to recover between runs you can extend their shelf life (and by the way, you need to recover in order to extend your shelf life too).
Even if you buy the same model shoe, having two pairs will wear down differently allowing your strike pattern to be slightly different with each run. Alternating shoes can also help prevent overuse injuries on muscles and joints.
Don't wear your running shoes when you're not running
I know you want to show off your fancy running shoes to all your non-running friends, but wearing running shoes while at work or running errands only adds unnecessary miles to the life of your shoes. The only one who sees my running shoes is my dog at 5am, they last much longer that way. Buy an inexpensive pair of tennis shoes for when you're not running and save your running shoes for training.
While a lot of runners make the mistake of risking injuries by wearing their shoes too long, I usually don't need much convincing to buy new running shoes. I always need new running shoes!
This is usually my decision-making process: