How many pairs of running shoes do you own? If you’re a serious runner, you may have a wardrobe full of them, with different shoes for different types of runs and races.
Those of us who love the fashion side of running gear may also own a good few pairs in a variety of colors and designs.
Then there are those runners who have their single pair and that’s what they stick to, come hell, high water, or toe box holes.
But is it okay to only have one pair of running shoes? Do you absolutely need more or can you get by with a single pair?
That’s what we’re discussing today, so let’s get into it!
How Long Do Running Shoes Last?
Different shoes have different lifespans. Generally, it’s accepted that a pair of shoes should last around 500 miles before needing to be replaced. However, that does depend on a few specific things.
If you’re buying low-quality shoes, you can expect that number to decrease quite a bit. Shoes that cost less may seem like a good idea at the time, especially if you’re on a budget, but in the long run, they’re not likely to save you much cash.
If you’re spending $80 on a pair of cheap shoes that lasts 100 miles, you’re actually better off spending $140 on a pair that lasts 500 or more. They’ll keep your feet safer too!
The surface your shoes make contact with on a regular basis also contributes to their longevity. Running on a treadmill is generally better for your shoes than the road. The surface is more stable and more forgiving than outdoor surfaces.
If you run exclusively outdoors, though, softer surfaces like grass and trails are easier on your shoes than road, concrete, or other hard surfaces.
If you only run once a week, it’s naturally going to take your shoes longer to wear out than if you use them multiple times during the week.
Also, if you run 5 or 6 times a week but you already rotate through different pairs of shoes, they’ll last longer because each shoe is only being used once or twice during your training week.
If you’re a heavy striker, chances are the rubber on the outsole will wear away faster than those light-footed runners.
Also, overpronators and underpronators may end up having to replace their shoes more often due to uneven wear. Neutral-footed runners’ shoes wear fairly evenly, but those who roll their feet end up with more wear on one side of the shoe.
Can I Have Only One Pair of Running Shoes?
Technically, you can get away with having only one pair of running shoes. If you don’t run that often, then it’s not likely to be a problem.
But you need to be aware that they’ll wear out pretty quickly if you’re using them constantly. Ultimately, we always advise having two pairs at a minimum.
If you’re using your running shoes for everyday activities like going to work, going to the store, and visiting friends, we recommend at the very least investing in a pair of running-specific shoes and keeping another pair for casual use.
You’ll also need to pay careful attention to the cushioning when you only have one pair of shoes. As you wear them, the cushion flattens and no longer provides the right support.
So while you definitely can do your thing with a single pair of shoes, there are a few disadvantages to it. Not only will you be more prone to injury as the support gets less and less, but you’ll most likely have to shell out more money sooner for a new pair.
How Many Pairs of Shoes Should I Have?
You can never have too many pairs of running shoes, am I right? But here’s a quick guide that should give you a better idea of how many pairs you need in your wardrobe.
If You Run 2 to 4 Days Per Week
Casual runners who train on 2 or 3 days a week can get away with a single pair of shoes. This is because you’ll most likely have a day’s rest in between. On those days, your shoes rest too.
This gives the cushion time to bounce back after your last run and settle back into its natural, supportive shape.
However, if you’re using the same shoes for everyday activities in between your running days, then we highly recommend investing in a casual pair and leaving your running shoes for running.
Using your shoes every day, even if it’s not for running, will overload the cushion and reduce its chance of bouncing back.
If You Run 5 to 7 Days Per Week
You definitely should have 2 or more pairs of shoes if you’re running most days of the week. In this case, you aren’t going to be able to give your shoes a full day of rest between each run, so rotation is a great idea.
If You Run On Varied Terrain
Runners who split their time between the road and trails should not only rotate their shoes, but they should have separate pairs of shoes for each type of terrain.
Trail shoes will wear out much faster on the road. And road shoes won’t offer the grip and protection you need on the trail.
So for your own safety and the longevity of your shoes, get at least one pair of each (or more, if you can’t give them a day to rest in between runs).
Reasons You Should Be Rotating Your Running Shoes
Let’s have a more in-depth look at why you need to rotate your running shoes on a regular basis.
They Last Longer
Just like we humans need a rest in order to recover and get back to full capacity, the same is true for running shoes.
Every time you run in a pair of shoes, some of the rubber on the outsole wears away. So it makes sense that if you’re using a pair of shoes 4 times a week, they’ll wear out twice as fast as if you use them twice a week.
And when the rubber is no longer providing good traction, you’re more at risk of slipping and injuring yourself on slippery, loose, or wet surfaces. This leads to our next point…
Reduced Injury Risk
As well as a worn-out rubber outsole possibly leading to slipping injuries, a flattened insole and midsole cushion can also cause pain, discomfort, and possibly worse injury.
If your shoe doesn’t get time to rest and bounce back to its normal spongy foam self, your arch support, shock absorption, and heel support are compromised.
That means your foot isn’t positioned the same way it used to be when the cushioning and support was firm. Pressure lands up being placed on areas that weren’t under strain before, which can cause blisters, strains, and even stress fractures.
So it makes sense, then, that rotating your shoes will keep the cushioning and the rubber in better condition, and they’ll be able to support and protect your feet more effectively for longer.
Different Shoes, Different Runs
We advise getting yourself different shoes for different types of runs. Road runs, trail runs, speed runs, recovery runs… Different runs require different features on your shoes.
For example, a speedy shoe needs more energy return. A recovery shoe needs excellent cushioning. Trail runs need grippy lugs and underfoot protection.
Any time you use a shoe for something other than its intended purpose, it wears out quicker than usual. If you’re one of those runners who enjoys incorporating various types of runs in your training, it’s a great idea to have different shoes for each.
To Match Your Outfit!
Of course, having more than one pair of shoes is also just fun. It can help prevent boredom and spice up your runs a little, especially if you match them with your running outfit!
When to Replace Your Running Shoes
There’s no single answer to this. As we’ve discussed above, it depends on things like your weight, your gait, and the conditions in which you usually use them.
However, there are some signs to look out for that generally signal that your running shoes are coming to the end of their lifespan.
Holes In the Upper
If your toes have managed to poke holes through the upper, it’s a pretty clear sign that your shoes need replacing! While it does help breathability (just kidding), it does compromise the support of the upper.
Wrinkles In the Midsole
Take a look at your shoe from side-on. Can you see wrinkles in the midsole? The side wall of the foam underneath your feet should be smooth. If you see wrinkles in it, that’s a sign that your foam isn’t rebounding as it should and needs to be replaced soon.
Smooth Tread/Worn-Through Rubber
If the grippy rubber underneath has worn away or the tread on your shoes has worn smooth, they’re no longer providing you the protection and traction that they’re actually there for.
In order to stay as safe as possible on your feet and prevent slips and slides on smoother terrain, it’s a good idea to replace the shoes as soon as you can.
Increase In Blisters
When the cushioning starts wearing away, your foot begins to sit differently in the shoe. Suddenly, there may be some friction between your toe and the upper, where there wasn’t before. Or your heel may be rubbing against the ankle collar, causing blisters.
If you’re suddenly developing blisters when nothing else has changed, it’s a clear sign that you should consider a new pair of shoes.
Sudden Foot Pain and Discomfort
Just like blisters, when your foot is no longer properly aligned, you may find yourself dealing with sudden foot and joint pain that you can’t figure out the cause of.
In most cases, replacing your shoes and giving your feet the support they need again will reduce or completely eliminate the pain.
Most running apps and some smartwatches allow you to input the footwear you’re wearing and will keep record of how many miles you’ve run in those particular shoes. If you aren’t sure when to replace your shoes, stick to every 500 miles.