In one word, very. As you’ll discover in this article, it’s helpful to own two or more running shoes, and we’ll explain why. In addition, we’ll cover other questions you might have like how many pairs of running shoes that you need and when it might be okay to have just one pair.
By the end, you’ll know why to rotate your running shoes, and you’ll be able to incorporate that information into your workout routine to prevent injuries and make your runs more comfortable!
The Answer is “Yes!”
After you get your first running shoe and you’ve decided to make running a part of your life, you need to consider adding at least another pair. Rotating your shoes will provide two major benefits: reduces the chance of repetitive use injury by slightly changing your gait and muscles used and even make you faster.
We all know the importance of taking time to rest and recover, but your running shoes need that too! According to running coach Mario Fraioli, running compresses the midsole foam of the shoe, and giving your shoes a break gives the foam time to rebound so that it can perform like it’s supposed to.
If you want an extra bounce in your step, you need to make sure that you’re giving your shoes a breather, and you can only do that if you have at least one more pair.
If you’ve been running for a while, you know that the average lifespan for running shoes is somewhere between 300-500 miles, although it depends on how heavy your stride is, the types of surfaces you run on, how often you run, and you guessed it—if you rotate your shoes.
How Many Pairs of Running Shoes Do I Need?
Ideally, if you can afford it, you’ll have at least two pairs of running shoes, preferably two that are different models with different heel drops. By engaging different muscles in your feet and legs, having two different pairs of running shoes will reduce the chance of injury.
One study shows that rotating between at least two models will ensure that you are 39% less likely to get injured as opposed to if you don’t rotate. That’s a pretty big difference! If you’ve been struggling with injuries, you might be able to do something as simple as rotating your shoes.
A reason why this may occur is because you are increasing the variability in your foot strike, and researchers have found that runners who have greater variability in foot strike were less likely than others to be injured.
Actually, this might be the reason why minimalist shoes were so popular a couple years ago. A lot of runners who started using them experienced significantly less knee pain, and the reason was that the impact load had moved to another joint, giving their knees some much needed relief.
If you decide on two shoes, pick one that has more support and protection for your long runs and another lightweight shoe for faster workouts. Not only will this help you stay healthier but you’ll make each shoe last a little longer.
If you run often, you may even consider going above the number two and purchasing multiple pairs. In particular, it can be helpful to have different shoes for different workouts and runs.
For example, you could have a pair of trail shoes for off road running, a pair of cushioned Hokas for recovery runs, and a pair of lightweight, fast shoes for tempo runs and speedwork.
And if you decide to purchase multiple pairs, you’re in good company. Plenty of professional runners and even elite amateurs have several pairs of running shoes. Jeanne Mack went through six different pairs of shoes in five months prepping for the Chicago marathon.
In her words, “I felt like Goldilocks at times, but I believe the mixing up of footwear weekly, if not daily, was instrumental in keeping injuries at bay.”
Other Reasons to Have More Than One Pair
Having different types of shoes for different types of runs may even help your mental game. As running coach Fraioli notes, he knows that it’s time for speed when he puts on his Adidas Adizero Adios Boost shoes.
Research (beyond the running community) shows that it’s helpful to have associations when trying to remember things, so giving your body a visual clue of what it needs to be ready to do with different types of shoes could be very helpful and make your PR that much closer.
In addition, there are the more practical reasons. If one pair gets wet, it will take a day or two to dry, and you don’t want to be sidelined from running just because you happened to get caught in a rainstorm.
Similarly, if you run at work and at home, you can leave a pair of shoes at work without having to bring them back and forth. Then you’ll not only get to train in different pairs of shoes but you’ll also not have to worry about the hustling of constantly ferrying your running gear back and forth.
Is It Really That Important?
Okay, you might be thinking, I understand why it’s a good thing to rotate my shoes, but will it be okay if I don’t? The short answer is it depends. If you can afford two or more pairs of running shoes at a time, it really is that important.
But if you just don’t have the budget for two new pairs of running shoes, it’s okay to have just one. Injuries are more likely, but it’s not a given that you will get injured. Plus, if you don’t run every day, it’s less important to have more than one pair of shoes.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the type of runner that you are. If you’re someone who runs occasionally and participates in a 5k every so often, one pair of running shoes will probably be just fine.
But if you’re running longer races, run almost every single day, and can’t be sidelined by injuries, you really need to consider purchasing at least one more pair!
Remember, though, as you add in another pair to ease into it slowly. You want to make sure that you give your feet plenty of time to adjust and make sure that the new shoes are as good of a fit for you as your other pair.