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

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Running shoes don’t last forever. It’s a good idea to determine their expected lifespan, so you know when you’ll need to start shopping around.

Do you know how to tell if running shoes are worn out? There are some obvious signs, like a worn-smooth outsole and holes in the upper.

But some lesser-known signs can confirm your suspicions. Here’s what you should be looking for.

How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

Running shoes typically last between 300 and 500 miles. Depending on how often and how far you run, that could be anything from three months to a year!

Some runners report their shoes lasting for 700+ miles, so you’ll need to assess this as you go. Typically, max-cushioned shoes last longer, while minimalist shoes and racing flats wear out much faster.

There’s no need to replace your running shoes if they show no sign of wear after 500 miles. On the other hand, if you’ve just hit 200 miles and your shoes no longer support your feet, you should get a new pair – otherwise, your chance of getting hurt goes way up.

Signs That Your Running Shoes Are Worn Out

Here are some signs that your current running shoes are too worn out to continue using. Double-check yours!

Check the Outsole

The outsole is the part that comes into contact with the ground, so it’s likely to have more wear and tear than other parts of the shoe.

Tread Wear Patterns

If the tread is wearing smooth or there’s a “bald spot,” it’s time for new shoes. Anything that compromises the grip of the outsole is a cause for concern. Keep in mind that even “new-ish” shoes can show wear and tear depending on your foot strike.

Uneven Wear

If your shoes are wearing down unevenly, for example, wearing down only on the inside of the shoe, it could be a sign of a gait problem. It’s not advised to continue running in shoes like this, as uneven wear can lead to the foot going out of alignment.

We’ve also found that it’s just plain uncomfortable. And the point of running shoes is to keep you comfortable while you run. If you switch from a neutral to a stability shoe (or vice versa) that matches your gait, you’ll likely find them much more comfortable to run in.

Midsole Is Compressed or Flattened

The midsole is the part that absorbs shock, so it’s essential to make sure it’s still doing its job. If not, it’s time for a new pair.

Visible Cracks or Creases

Seeing visible creases in the midsole from the outside implies that the midsole has been compressed and is no longer bouncing back the same way it used to. Full cracks are an even more serious problem.

Shoe Feels “Dead”

If there’s no longer any bounce in the midsole foam, it may have flattened too much and cannot return any energy to give you that responsiveness. If it’s gone from feeling bouncy and energetic to feeling dead or boring, it’s a sign that the foam underneath is too flat for protection or performance.

Experiencing Pain When Running

Suddenly starting to experience new pain in the feet, legs, or hips while running is a sign that something has changed in your shoes. It’s good to know that single-sided pain is likely an injury, but pain on both sides is likely a sign that you need new shoes.

The Heel Counter Is No Longer Firm

If the once-strong support around the heel is getting soft and unsupportive, you need to shop for new shoes. It won’t hold your foot in place anymore, which could lead to injury.

Noticeable Deformation or Bulging

Any visible deformations should be considered to be a bad structural issue. The ankle collar is no different. If you see bulging or deformed material, it’s time for a new pair.

Visible Cracks or Breaks

Cracks or breaks in the heel counter mean its structural integrity is compromised. You can no longer rely on your shoes to hold your ankle in place and prevent lateral movement, which means you could get injured more easily.

Heel Slippage During Running

If your shoes no longer lock down nicely on your feet and your heel slips out of the shoe while you’re running, it’s a definite sign that it is wearing out. Your shoe should fit snugly, and your foot shouldn’t move. It’s a blister and a tripping hazard!

The Upper Is Damaged

Damage to the upper may be okay, but if it reduces the support in the shoe, it’s best just to replace them. Here’s what to look for:

Visible Signs of Wear and Tear

If your shoes’ upper has loose stitching, frayed areas, tears in the fabric, or is misshapen, it’s probably time to look for new shoes. While some of these may be aesthetic, don’t assume that the upper isn’t an important part of the shoe!

Decreased Support and Stability

If the shoe’s fit has changed, or the upper is suddenly sitting strangely on your foot, then it’s a sign of wear and tear. The upper should still be able to lock down around the foot effectively—if it can’t, you should probably look for a new pair.

Changes in Appearance

It’s important to know that it’s probably normal if your shoes are evenly worn. If one of your shoes looks noticeably different to the other, there’s a higher risk of the problem being a gait issue or an injury that’s causing on side to compensate.

Signs That a Runner Might Have Missed

You know all the classic signs of a worn-out shoe. But what about these signs? You may not realize that they’re also signs of a worn-out pair of shoes!

Feeling More Fatigued Than Usual

Feeling more tired than you should be after your runs? It’s possible that your shoes are no longer supporting your feet so your muscles are working extra hard to help you perform and keep you safe.

Soreness in Joints and Muscles

When the cushioning of a shoe wears out, it can no longer absorb shock as well as it used to. This could lead to more impact on the joints, jarring them and causing pain and discomfort in joints up the kinetic chain.

Running Form Is Changing

If you’re starting to overpronate or underpronate more than usual, worn-out shoes may be to blame. Wearing a stability shoe should keep your foot neutral, so a change in your gait or form is a clear sign that your shoes are wearing out.

A Decrease in Stability or Balance

If your once-stable shoes feel unstable, it could be a sign of worn-out shoes. The cushioning may be wearing down more on one side than the other, changing how the shoes feel and support your feet.

Getting More Blisters Than Usual

Blisters mean that something is rubbing. And if something is rubbing now that wasn’t before, there’s a high chance that the shoe is wearing out and the position of your foot has changed somewhat.

7 Tips to Make Your Running Shoes Last Longer

Take our advice if you want your running shoes to last longer and keep supporting your feet for many miles to come.

1. Rotate Your Shoes

Investing in more than one pair of running shoes is a good idea. That way, you can alternate between them and give them time to rest, recover, and dry out between runs.

They’ll also take longer to wear out because you’re only wearing them half as often as you would be if you only had one pair.

2. Keep Your Running Shoes Dry

Damp shoes are a breeding ground for bacteria! If they’re damp, remove the insole and let them and the shoes dry in front of a fan. Don’t wear wet or damp running shoes, or you’ll risk developing foot fungus!

3. Clean Your Shoes Regularly

Brush debris off your shoes every time you take them off. We recommend cleaning your shoes once a month or so with a mild soap and water solution. Let them air dry afterward—placing them near a heater or in the sun can cause damage.

4. Store Your Shoes Properly

Make sure your shoes live in a cool, dry place when they’re not on your feet. Don’t store them in direct sunlight, as the heat will damage the fabric. If they’re left in a damp environment, mold can build up.

5. Untie and Loosen Laces Before Taking Them Off

Don’t just slip your shoes off without untying the laces when you’re done. This can cause the upper to deform, as well as causing damage to the lacing structure and the heel collar of the shoe.

Rather, take a few seconds to untie your shoelaces, loosen them, and remove your shoe without damaging or stretching it.

6. Wear the Right Shoes for the Right Activity

You get different shoes for different types of runs and for other activities. If you’re going trail running, don’t use a pair of road running shoes, and vice versa.

Don’t use a cross-training shoe for long-distance running, either. Make sure you’re using the right shoes for the right activity.

7. Don’t Run In Extreme Weather Conditions

Running in extreme heat can cause the soles of the shoes to deform and compromise the structure and support of the shoe. Extreme cold can cause similar problems.

Unless you’re wearing a pair of shoes that are specifically designed for these conditions, you should stick to the treadmill when it’s very hot or cold.

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AUTHOR

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.

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