How Long Should Your Running Shoes Last? Telltale Signs

Our favorite pair of comfy running shoes. You know the pair. Trusty & reliable. The very same that has slogged through mile after mile with us, rain or shine.

Is it finally time to retire them?

Visually they may look fine. But on the inside, the cushioning or shock absorption might be long gone. Your joints might not hurt now, but the damage might be building. Replacing your shoes at the right time will go a long way in prolonging your running career.

Well worn pair of running shoes

Average Miles for Running shoes

How long do running shoes last? If you’re looking for a global average, they tend to last 300-500 miles (about 500-800km). This works out to approximately 5-8 months for casual runners covering 15 miles (24km) per week. Again, keep in mind that both of these are ballpark figures.

Why The Range?

For some us 200 miles might be the limit, while (lucky) others might get 1000 miles out of them. How long your favorite pair lasts will differ based on:

  • Running Style – Do you tend to land on your heel at the end of your stride? If so, you might need to change your shoes more often than others.
  • Climate – Surprisingly, footwear lasts longer when used in cooler climates with less moisture. The firming up of the midsole (the cushion part) helps to better brace the impact of each stride.
  • Build – Height & weight play an important role. The wear timeline for 90 lbs runner and a 200 lbs runner is significantly different.
  • Shoe Care – One of the most overlooked points that can account for big swings in your shoes lives. See below for more tips.

Your Range

Rather than using a general average, a better method is to figure out your range. If your range is 450-550 miles and you’re coming up on mile 600, you might be overdue. Or if you’re only at 300 miles and they feel worn out, you’ll know something isn’t quite right.

When To Replace Running Shoes – Signs To Look For

The Best Method

We know it sounds unscientific. But the absolute best method is to listen to your body. Does something hurt? Do they feel “flat”? Experienced runners tend to have a 6th sense for when it’s time to replace them. For the rest of us, or if you’d like a more visual approach, see below.

Pain & Injury – Listening To Your Body:

New Pains

If you’re feeling sore in new areas of your foot, shin, or back that’s a red flag. Is it isolated to one leg or both? If both of your legs hurt in the same spot, especially if it’s your knees, that’s an even brighter red flag.

Lingering Pains

Imagine this. You finished your normal route. You’re sore, and that’s normal. Only this time it’s been days or even weeks later and the soreness is still there. Not a good sign and another red flag.

Pain From New Shoes

What if your shoes are relatively new but you’re experiencing pain? Rather than shoe mileage, it might be a fit issue with that specific brand or model. Try on another pair and see if it helps.

Black Toenails

If you’re a marathoner or hill runner there’s no avoiding them. What’s not normal is when you start to get them on your regular runs. If your shoes are still new, it’s likely related to a sizing issue.

Other Shoes Just Feel Better

Your running shoes should feel bouncy or springy with each stride. Not “flat” or “dead.” If you can feel each step through your legs, hips, or back, it’s time to buy another pair. The cushioning is definitely gone. Your muscles, tendons, ligaments are now taking the brunt of the impact instead.

Visual Inspection:

Rubber Tread (Bottom of Shoe)

The rubber tread of your shoe is designed to last the longest. If the rubber tread is long gone it means the rest of your shoe is way past its intended life.

Emphasized heel tread wear of a shoe

Cropped & emphasized. “tread wear pattern – _MG_1871” by sean dreilinger

See how the tread is completely worn through? It’s time to retire them if you the midsole (the middle cushy part) is exposed!

Take note of your tread wear pattern. This provides valuable insight about your running gait and the type of shoes that might be a better fit for you. You’ll want to stop running on shoes with well worn treads ASAP. Continuing to do so may alter your running gait and increase the chance of injury.

Midsole (Cushy Middle Part)

Illustration of fissures on midsole

The midsole is the most important part of the shoe. It’s also the hardest to visually inspect for wear. Usually made out of EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) foam, midsoles are responsible for the springiness of the shoe. If your shoes feel “flat” or “dead” it has lost its ability to rebound. If there are fissures or cracks, that’s another giveaway sign as well.

Having some fissures or cracks is normal. An excessive amount is cause for concern.

Outside Of The Shoe

Just because it looks ugly, doesn’t mean it’s time to toss them. Few or small holes are usually normal if you’re on tough trail. But big holes, are a definite no – even if the mileage of your shoe is low.

Shoes tend to wear out a whole lot quicker if running in damp or muddy conditions. Even worse when they’re not given a chance to thoroughly dry out after each use.

Inside Of The Shoe

Take a look at the upper (the inside part of your shoe that covers the top, side, and heel of your foot). Does it look like a perfect mold of your foot? If it does, it may signify that your midsole isn’t functioning correctly.

The lack of rebound means the shoe isn’t following your foot as you step off the ground. Instead of gently pressing into the upper, your foot is forcefully pressing into upper. Repeated enough and it’ll mold into the top of your foot.

Back Of The Shoe

Place your shoes on a flat surface. Now take a look from the back. Ideally they’ll lie flat, stand straight, and look even.

If they look lopsided it means the midsole isn’t working properly and causing deformity. Try not to use a pair of shoes like this. You’re more likely to roll an ankle and your knees & shins are taking a hefty dose of impact.

Lopsided shoes due to damaged midsole

Emphasis added. “tread wear due to supination? over-prona” by sean dreilinger

Notice how the line is crooked. This means the midsole is overworn to one side, and/or the tread is an irregular wear.

Flexibility of Your Shoe

Your shoes should be firm. Not flimsy or flexible. Give ‘em a good yank & pull (but not too hard) with these tests:

  • Twist Test – Try twisting your shoe. Hold the toe and heel and give it a good twist. It shouldn’t twist much, if at all. If it’s easy, it’s past its expiration.
  • Press The Sole Test – Push inside shoe with your hand. Does it bounce-back or does it feel “flat?” Now try placing your other hand on the sole of the shoe. Can you feel your thumb pressing through? If so, the cushion is dead.

How To Make your Shoes Last Longer

Wear The Right Shoe

Shoes are designed with an “ideal” surface in mind. They’ll usually say if it’s specifically for trail, track, inside, etc. If it doesn’t say, it’s probably for road running. Try to use them for the intended surface as much as possible.

Only Use Them When Running

I know it’s tempting. Especially when there’s a quick errand to run. In the interest of your wallet, we strongly urge you to kick this bad habit.

Undo the Laces

It may seem trivial, but try to undo your laces when you’re removing or putting on your shoes. We agree – toeing them off is definitely easier, but doing so racks up the damage.

Wear the Right Socks

Remember, moisture is the enemy of your shoes. Wearing a good pair of athletic socks will go a long way in preserving the fabric & glue within the shoe.

Cleaning

Hose them off if you need to. Hand wash them if you can. But try to avoid chucking them into the wash as much as possible. A washing machine will significantly reduce the lifespan of your favorite pair.

Drying

Even worse than a washing machine is a dryer. The better method is to take out the insoles and stuff the insides with newspaper. This keeps the shape and prevents moisture from seeping into the glue & materials.

Rotate Your Shoes

Having at least two sets is a great practice. It’ll make an even bigger difference if you’re running in a wetter climate or you tend to sweat a lot. Giving a pair ample time to fully air dry (you are air drying them right?) is one of the best things you can do.

If you don’t have a second pair yet, consider purchasing one designed for a different terrain. Training on a different terrain requires your legs to use different muscles. It’ll go a long way in building resistance to injury.

Myth or Fact?

Rotating shoes helps the midsole (made usually from EVA) to “recover.”

False. The springiness of EVA tends to recover in a matter of hours. Giving them a day to rest in between doesn’t make a difference.

But. Rotating your footwear is still a great practice for two reasons:

First, moisture is the enemy of shoes. By letting a pair completely dry-out you’ll increase the shelf life of your favorite pair.

Second, rotating your shoes also comes with the added bonus of preventing injury. By using different pairs, your legs need adjust to the wear of each one. This causes your legs to use slightly different muscles and helps to prevent injury.

I can put my shoes in the washing machine.

False with a caveat. Washing machines aren’t great for your running shoes. Deep down, I think we all know it. But if they’re caked in mud it’s pretty tempting to throw them in. The better practice is to hose them off, then clean them by hand as best you can. Be sure to air dry them too. The dryer is one of the worst things for your kicks.

But what if my running shoes are machine washable?

If you’re sold on the idea, we’d recommend following these steps. For caution, use the gentle cycle and avoid the dryer altogether!

Holes in the mesh are a deal breaker.

False. Having small and limited number of holes in the mesh is pretty normal. Especially if you’re running in a wetter or muddier climate. If they still feel “good” and pass the visual inspections (see above), you’re good to go!

My shoes still look good so I can keep using them.

False. Arguably the most important part of your shoe is the midsole, which act like a cushion or spring. It’s also the hardest part to inspect. If you see fissures or cracks that’s one indication of wear. The better indication is by feel. Does it feel “flat” or “dead” when you run in them? If so, the cushion is probably worn down and has stopped rebounding.

Worn out running shoes are useless.

False. They might not be any good for protecting your feet while running. But feel free to use them in a non high-impact setting. Got a dirty job? Need to mow the grass or clean up the garage? Don’t ruin your brand new running shoes, use your old floppy pair instead!

Putting It All Together

Your running shoes last as long as they still feel good. Don’t worry too much if it’s not within the so called average 300-500 mile range. The most important thing is that you still feel “springy” or “bouncy.”

If you’re looking to increase the life of your footwear, proper wear and care does make a big difference. Remember, moisture is the enemy of longevity. Stuffing them with newspaper and letting them air-dry will go a long way. Better yet, rotate your shoes and you’ll develop the added bonus of injury resistance.

Happy Running!

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