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WHEN TO REPLACE YOUR RUNNING SHOES

We’ve all got that favourite pair of running shoes. Those go to ones that we just can’t bear to throw away as they hold too many memories of past running glory and you still think they’re good for another few miles or one last race.

The reality though is that even your most loved and precious running shoes have a life span and could actually be doing more harm than good in terms of injury, particularly to your ankles, knees and hips. 

While you shouldn’t just wait until you lose grip or pick up new injuries before realizing you need a new pair of running shoes, how do you actually know when it’s time to trade in beloved pair for a new model and are there signs you should be looking out for?

The distance

As a general rule of thumb the lifespan of a pair of running shoes falls between 300 and 500 miles, but around 300 max for a lightweight pair. However, this can depend on a variety of factors such as running surface/terrain, your own running style and the material of the sole as to how durable it is.

It’s worth being aware that many of the new breed of “super running shoes”, with carbon plate technology will offer considerably less miles and designed purely for a few top performance races. World-class runners complete well in excess of 100 miles a week in peak training and will go through considerably more shoes than the average runner, often given new ones for race day.

Tip

Make a log/diary of how many miles you’re running in your shoes from the first time you use them.

Surface/Terrain

Different running shoes are designed for different surfaces and so before purchasing a new pair these need to be partnered up. If you’re running mostly on the road then you’ll need suitable shoes but these will wear considerably faster if you take them off road onto rougher and more demanding surfaces. You can find running shoes that will offer all-round designs for any surfaces so it’s best to do your homework and research what will bets suit your running.

Your build

In general, if you are of a heavier build then it is more likely your running shoes will wear out quicker but it entirely depends on how heavy your footstrike is as even lighter and smaller runners can have a heavy impact with each ground contact. Everyone is different in their build and running style so pay close attention to your running shoes and refer back to the distance you’ve covered in your log/diary.

Running style

No two running styles are the same and so it’s important to know your own individual style as this is key to determining the wear of your running shoes and what exactly to look out for. A first point of reference should be the sole of your running shoes, to see exactly where your shoe is taken the most impact and wearing away the quickest. Do you lead with your forefoot and off the toes or are you more of a heel striker which is common with long distance runners.

The wear on the sole will also determine if you’re a pronator, over-pronator or neutral style of runner so you can buy appropriate running shoes to match this and provide you with the suitable comfort and protection.

Tip

If you can, rotate your running shoes so you’re not using the same ones all the time for training and racing. This will increase their lifespan as well as help eliminate potential muscle imbalances. You can also use different running shoes for different session such as lighter ones for speed work and more cushioned models for longer, recovery runs.

New injuries

A common tell-tale sign that your running shoes have seen better days are that you’re becoming more injury-prone due to the breakdown in cushioning and support from your favourite pair. If the pain is occurring on both sides then chance are it’s time for a new pair but this should be considered alongside looking at the wear of your shoes and checking on your run data/mileage.

Don’t think that new running shoes will solve all your running problems and lead to instant PB’s. They need time and patience to break in and ideally rotated with an existing pair of your running shoes. While any new injuries are not necessarily to do with breaking in new running shoes, there is a high likelihood of the two being linked, particularly if you’re changing models and there’s a significant change in the level of cushioning between the two pairs you run in.  We would suggest you break new shoes in gently and with short, low intensity runs so that your feet and body become gradually used to them over time.

 

Signs of running shoe wear

·       An obvious smoother tread on certain parts of your running shoe sole

·       Wearing away of the upper material, particularly obvious on minimalist-designed lightweight racing shoes that often don’t offer much upper protection

·       General wear inside the running shoe and less support around the ankle/heel area

·       You begin to start feeling the surface as your tread/sole starts to thin and wear out

·       Less grip, particularly on off-road surfaces as this can become dangerous

 

So you’ve decided that the time is right to buy a new pair of running shoes but how exactly do you take care of them and help increase their running life?

Keep them clean

We all love that fresh out the box look and feel but the reality is that after a few hundred miles they are probably not in quite such a pristine condition. Don’t be tempted to just chuck them in the washing machine as this will breakdown the construction of the shoe much quicker and decrease their life. Instead, remove any dirt and mud after your run as soon as possible and then simply use a good old-fashioned sponge and warm water. Air dry and stuff with newspaper until your next run.

Only for running

It goes with out saying that the more you wear your running shoes then you’ll be wearing away the tread and breaking down the cushioning and support. You’ll also be wearing them in a different way walking than if you were running so avoid this temptation and keep them for solely running if you want them to achieve their full life.

Laces

We’ve all had that moment when returning from a hard session or race and you just want to get your running shoes off as quick as possible, often without untying the laces just to get that sweet feeling of freedom on your toes. We’ve not going to judge but taking just a few seconds to slip them off properly and paying attention the laces can help prevent the wear of the heel in particular and avoid stretching of the shoe. As an alternative get lace locks so you can simply undo them and slip your feet easily out without having to worry about laces.

Sock it

Even socks can play a part in the life of your running shoes. Investing in a proper pair of running socks means they won’t be abrasive against the internal fabrics of your running shoes and will provide a smooth barrier between your skin and material. 

If you’re unsure about purchasing a new pair of running shoes and what best suits your type of running style then it’s worth investing some time in a gait analysis and speaking to the experts. Think of your new running shoes as an investment, that should help keep you injury free so you can enjoy your running.

TRI UK is home to leading running shoe brands including Nike, adidas, ASICS, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Saucony and Salomon.