A common question amongst runners, and one of the more searched for Google terms, is when to replace your running shoes. Many of you will be familiar with this quandary, especially those of you who are fairly new to running. While there are many motivations for replacing or adding to a running shoe collection, the major consideration should be the function and performance of the shoe and whether they continue to be fit for purpose.
While we offer advice aimed largely at trail runners, the advice for replacing running shoes is the same whether you run off road, road or even track and field. Your running shoes are your most critical item of running gear and the ones that can cause you the most problems if you don’t replace them when you should.
Why Replace Your Running Shoes?
There are many reasons that you may choose to replace your running shoes. Some people wait until their current pair are completely worn out and buy a straight replacement while others like to have a few pairs on the go. The main consideration though has to be whether they still offer the support that you need and that they function as they are intended.
To Avoid Injury
Both the cushioning and shock absorption diminish over time offering less orthopaedic support which can lead to injury. Bad shoes can result in pain in the feet or ankles ranging from cramps and soreness to conditions such as plantar fasciitis or ankle sprains. Running in worn out shoes can also change the way you run as you start to compensate for the lack of support leading to other issues.
When it comes to the trails, many runners have different shoes for different conditions. You can buy shoes they are suitable for muddy trails, those they are a good shoe for transitioning from road to trail, shoes for harder ground etc. As you become more accustomed to trail running, you will find favourite shoes that suit the different seasonal changes or those that are more suited to shorter/longer distances.
A Change of Style or Colour
Of course, it may not be the miles you have covered so much as just fancying a change. Some runners like to accessorise their outfits, whilst others prefer to select trainers based on the colour. If there is a new model released, there are those that will want to be the first to try them out. A number of runners (and we count ourselves in this) just like to have new running shoes every so often, regardless of whether we actually need them.
Throwing Away Your Favourite Pair
By contrast, some people hate to say goodbye to their favourite trainers. Even when there is a hole in them they will tape them up with masking tape and try and get those last few runs out of them. At this point, when they are only fit for the bin, many people will still be reluctant to throw them away and will keep them just in case! For those that run wet and muddy trails, you may be familiar with trainers that smell when they are not left to dry properly! At the insistence of the rest of the family, these particular running shoes get relegated to the garage!
How Often Should You Replace Them?
The shelf life of a running shoe depends on how many miles you run in them, not how long you’ve had them. Someone who runs 50-60 miles a week is going to go through running shoes a lot quicker than someone who does 15-20. As a guide, and remember everyone is different, it is recommended that you change your running shoes anywhere between 300-500 miles. This is the same for both road shoes and off road shoes. Some sources say 450-550 miles, some will need changing less frequently and some more.
Tracking the Miles You Have Run
If you tend to wear different pairs of shoes, depending on the type of run, there is a handy little tool on the Strava desktop version that you can use to record which trainers you ran in. That way it will keep a tally of the miles for you and help you stay on top of how much wear they have had. You can also just give them the once over to see how they are wearing. Pre Strava/Garmin days, it was not uncommon to see a pair of shoes with a date written on them in permanent marker!
Rotating Your Trainers
Many runners like to rotate their running shoes and will often have up to 3 pairs of the same shoes on the go at the same time, which they simply alternate when they run. Others have different shoes for speed work, shoes for middle distance runs and shoes for long runs. Some find a pair they really like and buy up a few pairs to ensure they don’t sell out or change with an upgrade to the model. Model upgrades or small changes can often make a shoe feel very different to runners.
Spotting the Signs of Wear
While having a rule of thumb as to how many miles you wear the shoes for is a good idea, you also need to be able to spot the signs of wear. How do you know when your running shoes are worn out? Check the following:
- Toe box – this is the part of the shoe where your toes go. Once the toe box becomes loose and worn, your foot slides around and affects how your foot lands.
- Treads – check the treads on the bottom of the shoe. Just like the treads on tyres, are they worn down? If they are, they won’t provide the grip or traction meaning you could slip.
- Cushioning – the midsole padding, support and responsiveness of the shoe becomes less effective and shock absorption reduces due to the continual pounding
As well as a visual inspection of the shoe, it is also important to acknowledge how they feel. We all know that feel of bounce that we get in a new pair of running shoes. After a while this can dissipate and they don’t feel as good or as bouncy as they once did.
Choosing New Shoes
Whether you are looking for to replace your running shoes because they are worn out or you are looking for shoes for a different terrain, there are so many to choose from. In addition to our advice and reviews here, you can visit individual retailers like Nike, Salomon, Adidas, inov-8 or Hoka or you can check out the extensive range of trail shoes available from stockists like Sportsshoes.com where you will find not only the latest models but also last seasons at reduced prices. There are shoes to suit all budgets and requirements and their delivery is usually only a couple of days. In fact, we have just bought ourselves a selection of off road and road shoes!
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