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How to Tell If Running Shoes Are Worn Out: The Signs You Might Have Missed

Running shoes are essential kit. They provide comfort and protection to our feet through workouts and races. They are made of quality materials that last many, many miles. But all good things must eventually come to an end, and even your favorite pair of running shoes will eventually wear out. That cushioning and comfort you originally loved them for will slowly fade, and they will get to a point where continuing to run in them may actually be harmful. How can you tell if running shoes are worn out and must be replaced? Let us find out!

The life of running shoes is measured in miles, not days, weeks, or months. If you run casually, you might only need a new pair every 9 months to a year. If you are a more serious runner, you might be looking at replacing shoes every few months if not more frequently.

When the time comes to replace your old running shoes, this article will touch on some of the things to consider before doing so, ways to assess your shoes, and when the best time to replace shoes is.

How to Tell if Running Shoes Are Worn Out

Running shoes are tough, but, of course, not for a lifetime of use. No matter the frequency of usage, time will come that you need to chuck your old shoes and buy a new pair. Here are some of the signs to look out for.

  • Pain and Discomfort

There is nothing better than the feel of a new, soft, cushy pair of shoes, and how good your feet feel after the first few runs in them. As the months and miles pass by, you might notice that your feet are starting to get a little achier after your runs. Eventually, you will get to a point when your feet really start to feel the runs. This is a good sign the cushioning is worn out and the shoes might need replacing. You shoes might visually be in good shape, but if the cushioning is no longer making your feet happy, it’s time to go shopping.

  • Visible Shoe Wrinkles

Wrinkle lines show that the midsole may be too compressed, which negatively impacts the shoe’s support. This compression happens slowly, and can therefore be hard to notice. But if you compare your worn shoes to a new pair, you will easily be able to see how much volume the midsole has lost. Time to replace!

  • Worn Soles

It’s not often that a runner is able to wear down an outsole before wearing out the midsole. But with the popularity of zero-drop and minimal shoes that have less midsole, this another test to keep in mind. If the treads are worn smooth, particularly in the midfoot area, it’s time to invest in a new pair with fresh treads. Compare an old pair to a new one to determine if this is the case.

  • Blisters

If your once-perfectly fitting shoes are starting suddenly to give your blisters, it might be a sign that the shoes have stretched and do not fit properly anymore. All upper materials will stretch, given enough time, and lacing can only compensate so much. Additionally, if your shoes have significant structural elements that hold your foot in place, these too can break down over time.

  • Mileage

As the general rule of thumb, keep track of your mileage. Most fitness apps allow you to track the mileage of multiple pairs of shoes. So even if you have road shoes and trail shoes, or if you alternate shoes day-to-day (a good way to prolong shoe life, BTW), you can keep track of your aging shows. A high-quality pair of running shoes should last you about 400 miles. There’s some variance in that number, depending on how you run, but it’s a good ballpark guide. Once you have accumulated much more than 400 miles, it is time to buy a new pair.

How to Make Your Running Shoes Last Longer

The damage that your running shoes accumulate over time depends on how you “abuse” them. But whether you use them for short runs to lose a couple pounds, or regular training for marathons and triathlons, extending the life of your shoe counts. For one, it will save you from spending your hard-earned money on a new pair of running shoes.

  • One Purpose and One Purpose Only

As mentioned, most running shoes today are fashionable and stylish, not to mention super-comfy. But wearing them outside of your running workouts accounts for more wear and tear. Keep your good running shoes for running.

  • Say NO to the Dryer

Yes, the dryer will dry your shoes quickly after a wet run, but it will also break down your shoes’ materials. Keep your kicks clean by rinsing them off, brushing them lightly to get the grit off, and then toweling dry and stuffing them with newspaper or paper towel.

  • Rotation Is the Key

If you are putting in a lot of miles, consider rotating two pairs of running shoes. Shoes need to recover, too. Each run you go on compresses the midsole foam a bit, and it takes time to spring back. Allowing each pair of shoes a couple full days between runs allows them time to recover, extending their life in return.

  • Improved Form

Most of your shoes’ cushioning is in the heel, and many people run with a heel strike – that is, you land heaviest on your heel. The cushioning reduces the impact, but landing this way takes a toll on that same cushioning. Working on your stride to favor a midfoot strike lessens the demands you place on the heel cushioning (a topic for a different post, but start but shortening your stride and quickening your cadence). This makes you more efficient as a runner, which means less impact on your body as well as your shoes.

  • Proper Storage Is a Must

Running shoes – or any other type of shoes for that matter – when exposed to extreme elements such as cold and heat can suffer from a serious strain. Store your shoes in between runs in a cool, dry location.

How to Choose the Right Running Shoes for Long Life

Now that we have covered some easy ways to tell when to replace your running shoes, as well as some tips on how to extend its life, we can run through the steps in purchasing another long-lasting, pair of running shoes – a pair that matches your level of activity, style and preferences.

  1. Determine the type of training you do, and your running style. This will help narrow down your options over hundreds of shoes on the market.
  2. Select the right classification of shoes and weigh the pros and cons of features. Doing a little research on your chosen pair will help tremendously in the long run.
  3. Check if the shoes suit your needs. Do not buy running shoes only for aesthetic purposes, although it would not hurt to consider this factor too. Fortunately, most running shoes sold on the market today are fashionable and stylish.
  4. Choose the right size for your feet. That means getting fitted properly. Another tip? Try on shoes in the afternoon, a time of day when your feet are often a little swollen, as they would be at the end of a run. As much as possible, try the shoes on and do a few test runs or walk short distances inside the store. If the store has a treadmill, take your shoes for a trial mile. In this way, you will instantly get a feel for their comfort. Buy the ones that feels the best on your feet.
  5. Buy a pair of running shoes of your choice that has a reasonable price. Until that shoe sponsorship comes through, price is probably an important consideration as well. Balance features with price and resist the temptation to automatically buy the shoes the world record-holder runs in. Shoes manufactured by well-known brands often come with a hefty price tag. However, this does not necessarily mean it is the right pair for you. Consider other brands, too. Remember, you are buying it for exercise and training purposes. Choose and spend wisely.

The Takeaway Is Clear

Running is one of the easiest and least expensive forms of exercise you can do to get fit. After all, you will only need a reliable pair of running shoes, some comfy clothes, and a place to run.

Those reliable shoes are only reliable for so long, however. Just remember the signs that we have discussed to tell if your shoes have served their purpose, and the tips on how to make your pair last longer. When the time does finally come for your trusty trainers to go to the big shoe box in the sky, just follow the tips above, and enjoy finding your next tried-and-true pair of running shoes.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner