How do I know when to renew my shoes?

How do I know when to renew my shoes?

It's funny how attached we can get to our running shoes, almost as if they are old friends. They run every mile with us, no matter the weather. But (unlike old friends) there comes a time when our shoes need to be changed out for a springy new pair. So when is that time and how can we know it? 
As our shoes run with us, slowly forming to our feet and our gait, they're building the miles faster than we often imagine. At the same time they're losing the protective cushioning that we rely on which means that sooner or later they will need to be replaced. We often get this timing wrong - indeed a recent ReRunnr survey showed that most people don't know when their shoes should be replaced - they're waiting to see obvious signs of wear and tear, which is often too late.

 

Why could it be too late when you start to see holes in the soles or the fabric uppers? Because the first thing to wear in most shoes is the foam cushioning of the midsole which is protecting your legs from the impact of every step. So if you have worn a hole in the sole, it's likely that the foam hasn't been fully functioning for quite some time, and you're already at greater risk of injury. So what's a more robust way to work our when to replace your favorite runners?

 

The simplest way is to mark your calendar and renew the shoes on the anniversary. Many runners change shoes every year, but actually mileage is a much more accurate measure.  Runner's World suggests a good rule of thumb is to renew running shoes every 300 - 400 miles, depending on factors like style, surface, weight etc. How can you track that mileage? Well, the simplest way is to apply your average weekly distance from the day you bought the shoes. So if you usually clock 10 miles per week then you should probably replace your shoes every 30-40 weeks, or around 9 months. Most people are surprised that it's so often - which may be why we all end up with more injuries than we should. More advanced distance monitoring is available through many of the tracking apps. For example, Strava offers exactly this function. Of course, distance reminders are also available to members of ReRunnr!

 

Given that distance is only a guideline for replacement, it's worth actually checking the shoe itself. Are the soles starting to wear or losing tread? Are the uppers (or even inners) wearing thin in particular places? These are fairly reliable signs of ageing and also good clues to any issues you may have with your running style like pronation. Don't be afraid to poke the shoe a bit. Push your fingers into the midsole (the cushioning layer between the sole and the upper). It should be quite squishy so if it feels tough or hardened that means the cells in the foam are compressed and not working to protect you any more.

 

Take The Twist Test
Hold your running shoe at both ends and twist, it should feel firm. An old shoe or one that doesn't have proper support will twist easily. This test, however, does not apply to all running shoes. Most light-weight running shoes will fail this test even when new. But for sturdy, supportive shoes that have a lot of miles on them, this is a good indicator that it's time for a replacement
 
Finally the best test of all is to listen to your body. Are you getting unusual pains after a run? Blisters on your feet that you haven't experienced before? Tendonitis in your achilles? All of these can be signs that your shoes have changed form and are now allowing additional pressures on your legs.

 

Ok, so my shoes are wearing out faster than I had hoped they would. Is there any way to make the next pair last a longer? Actually yes, there are a few things you can do to prolong the life of a new pair of running shoes:
  • Rotate your shoes - that means having 2 pairs (or more) of shoes and alternating them. This is particularly helpful if you run on different terrains, so consider using different shoes for trails and roads. Even if you rotate identical pairs it gives the shoe more recovery time between runs.
  • Only wear them when you run - it's surprising how many extra miles you clock up wearing your runners around the house or when you pop to the store. Save this activity for your old pairs - it's a good way to recycle shoes after their running life is over.
  • Take good care of them - remove stones, allow the shoes to air dry and avoid excessive conditions like hot (or cold) cars which can damage the foam structure.
And don't forget that there should be a second life for your favorite, but worn out running shoes! Soon we will be talking about ideas for recycling, including the ReRunnr Bag that we send to our members with every new pair of shoes.

 

Its hard to say good-bye but just think about that fabulous feeling of your first run in new shoes...

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