Many of us runners grow emotionally attached to our running shoes! So when the time comes to replace them, we probably hang onto them a little longer than we should.
But knowing when to replace running shoes—and replacing them at that point—is important to keep you running comfortably and injury-free.
The more you run in your shoes, the more the cushion flattens and the stability features begin to wear out. The traction gets worn down and you’re more likely to slip.
Let’s take a look at how to know when it’s time for new shoes, plus a few tips to help make your running shoes last longer.
How Long Do Running Shoes Usually Last?
There’s no hard and fast rule here. Multiple factors go into shoe wear, but it’s generally accepted that your running shoes be replaced every 350 to 500 miles.
It’s important to start paying attention to your shoes as you near those miles. Then, you’ll need to start analyzing your shoes to see if they’re displaying signs of being worn out.
If not, you can probably continue to use them but constant vigilance is important to ensure you don’t become injured.
Factors That Affect Shoe Wear
Several different factors can affect how quickly your shoes wear out. Knowing these will help you estimate the approximate wear time for your running shoes.
Heavier runners will get fewer miles out of their shoes than lighter runners. The more weight on the cushioning, the faster it will wear out. Remember, when you run, you’re exerting 3 to 4 times your body weight on the padding of your shoe.
This means the shoes’ cushioning will flatten faster with more weight on it than it will with less weight on it. Runners on the heavier side can expect to get 300 to 400 miles from their shoes, regardless of the type of shoe they’re wearing.
Your foot strike affects how your shoes wear out. For example, overpronators’ shoes tend to wear out quicker down the inner—medial—edge, and when that wears down, it can exacerbate the overpronation problem.
The key here is to wear a shoe that helps maintain a neutral gait. Overpronators should wear a stability shoe—wearing a neutral shoe will only cause it to wear out faster as excess strain is placed on specific shoe areas.
Forefoot and midfoot strikers also tend to wear out the forefoot of the outsole faster, while heel strikers’ shoes seem to last longer because there’s naturally more cushion in the heel.
How Often You Wear Them
If you only run once a week, of course, your shoes will last longer. It’s important to note that the 400 to 500-mile rule still stands here—it will take you much longer to reach 500 miles if you’re only running a few times a week.
Also, remember that if you wear the same shoes you run in when you’re out in casual situations, they will wear out faster. The miles you walk through the mall or around your neighborhood count toward the total!
The Terrain You Run On
Running on the road will naturally wear your outsoles down faster than running on a treadmill. But running on hot tar will also cause your shoes to wear out faster than if you’re running on a smooth, cool road.
It’s also likely that your shoes will need replacing sooner if you go offroad on your regular runs, in your road running shoes. Using shoes on terrain designed for different surfaces will make them wear out quicker.
Type of Shoe
The type of shoe you’re wearing makes a difference. There’s some confusion about minimalist shoes—some say they don’t last because there’s less cushion, but others say they last longer because there’s less cushion to compress!
However, there’s evidence to suggest that barefoot-style shoes last longer than average IF you choose a pair that has a top-quality outsole. There are no fancy cushioning or support features in these to wear out, so it all comes down to the outsole.
In general, stability shoes need to be replaced sooner than neutral shoes. In these cases, you aren’t just considering the cushioning—the stability features of the shoe wear out as well, and once they stop providing you with the support you need, you’ll be more prone to injury.
It’s best to err on caution and replace your stability shoes every 350 miles or so. That way, you don’t run the risk of inadvertently running in shoes that aren’t providing the stability your feet need.
Lightweight shoes usually contain less material to save weight, which means they’re likely to wear through faster. The same goes for carbon-plated shoes—they tend to have a thin outsole built for speed, which can wear away much faster than more robust trainers.
However, whatever type of shoes you’re wearing, it’s still important to perform constant checks on the shoes so you can spot or feel the first signs of deterioration.
When to Replace Running Shoes
So although we’ve got guidelines as to when to replace running shoes and we know what factors influence running shoe wear, how can you tell when your pair needs to go?
Here are some easy ways to tell if your current pair is past its best.
If You Have New Pain In Your Joints and Muscles
If you’ve noticed aches and pain popping up that you didn’t have before, it could be a sign that your shoes are no longer supporting and protecting your feet.
It’s important to note that you don’t only need to feel pain in your feet for this to be the case. Pain in the legs, knees, hips, or even the back, during or after your run, can be a sign that your shoes need to be replaced.
Another telltale sign is if you’re suddenly developing blisters where you never had chafing before.
All of these things indicate that the structure of your shoes has changed. The shoe features may no longer provide support in the places they should be, and as a result, you’re feeling pressure on parts of your foot that you didn’t before.
When the foot changes, the entire kinetic chain is affected, which accounts for pain in the legs, hip, and back. It may also change the positioning of your foot in the shoe, which could lead to blisters.
In many cases—but not all—when you develop the same pain on both sides, it indicates that you need new, supportive shoes. If the pain only develops on one side, it’s more likely to be an injury.
If The Outsole Is Worn Down
Visible wearing down of the outsole indicates that your shoes need to be replaced. Firstly, if the outsole is wearing through, it’s only a matter of time before it starts wearing the midsole out.
Secondly, a worn-out outsole means your shoes won’t provide a good grip on whatever surface you’re running on. This puts you at risk of slipping, tripping, or feeling the impact forces.
Note that if the wear is uneven—on one shoe but not on the other—it could indicate a possible problem with your gait.
If The Midsole Is Tough and Hard
Some shoes have a naturally firmer midsole than others. But if it’s noticeably tougher and more complicated than it used to be, it could be a sign that the cushioning has worn out.
This happens when the padding under your feet compresses and no longer bounces back. Instead of a spongy, soft feeling, it feels dense and tough.
In this case, the cushioning can no longer provide shock absorption, so you’ll be more prone to injury from the impact force.
If The Shoe Looks Worse for Wear
If your shoes are looking worse for wear on the outside, there’s a high chance that they’re also worn away on the inside. Wear to check for includes:
- Holes in the upper
- Fraying inside the heel
- Creases in the side of the midsole
- Inability of the shoe to stand up straight on a flat surface
If They’ve Got More Than 500 Miles On Them
If your shoes still look good, don’t have worn-out outsoles, and aren’t experiencing any new aches or pains, they may be good to go for another hundred miles or so.
However, it’s always best to replace running shoes before you start to feel the physical effects of them wearing out. We highly recommend replacing them once they’ve hit the 500-mile mark, even if they still look good on the outside.
Around this time, most shoes lose the bounce-back in their cushioning and start to wear through the rubber of their outsole. To avoid pain from increased impact force on your joints, try to replace your shoes when they reach 500 miles.
You can track this on your smartwatch or phone to keep up with how many miles you’ve run in them.
Or, if you run a set mileage per week, you can write the date inside the shoes with a permanent marker when you buy them, and using that and your weekly mileage, you should be able to figure out when they need replacing.
For some context, someone who runs 15 miles weekly will need to replace their shoes every 5 or 6 months. If you run 20 miles a week, that lowers it to 4 to 5 months if you’re going by mileage.
Tips to Help Your Running Shoes Last Longer
That being said, if you take care of your running shoes, they should last you a pretty decent amount of time. Here are some tips and tricks to make your shoes last longer.
Rotate More Than One Pair
Rotating your running shoes is a trick the pros use, but you can—and should—do it too. Make sure you leave at least one full between every wear of the same pair of shoes. This gives the cushioning time to bounce back in between uses.
You can buy two of the same type of shoe to rotate, which is quite safe. Or you can buy a less cushioned pair for tempo runs, for example, and a more plush pair for recovery runs and long runs.
As long as both are the right shoe for your feet and you’re allowing a day in between wears, you’re good to go. This should take twice as long to put miles on your shoes!
Don’t Use Them for Other Activities
Wearing your running shoes for other activities will make them wear out faster. Every mile you put on them counts towards your total—it doesn’t matter if that’s a running mile or a mall-walking mile.
Keep your running shoes for running and buy other shoes for casual wear. This will significantly increase the lifespan of any pair of running shoes.
Clean Them the Right Way
If you stay on top of it, you can keep your shoes clean and debris-free. Wipe them down after each run to remove dirt, so you don’t have to wait until later when you really have to scrub to get it off. Remove any small pebbles in the treads and wipe down the outsole.
What NOT to do is more important than what to do. Never put your shoes in the washing machine, dryer, in direct sunlight, or on a heater. Heat can damage the materials and warp any stability features, rendering your shoes useless.