Runners use their shoes more than any other piece of gear, and obviously, they take quite a beating. No matter how many miles you run at a time, you should follow the common guidelines that your shoes should be replaced between 300–500 miles.
But, how do you know when it’s time to retire one pair and move on to the next? There are some specific things you should be looking for so you can get the most out of your shoes and avoid unnecessary breaks in training due to injury.
WHEN TO INSPECT YOUR SHOES
Of course when you first buy your shoes, you are unlikely to find much wear and tear in the first weeks; however, inspecting them when you first take them out of the box is a good idea, so you really know what they look like in their new condition. Then, begin tracking the mileage you put on the shoes so you know when to begin checking them for any deterioration that may occur.
“Runners should begin inspecting their shoes after about 350 miles,” instructs Cori Burns, Under Armour’s run footwear category manager. “That’s when a pair of running shoes that’s heavily worn outside of only running or worn in rougher environments may start to lose some cushioning and traction.”
This rule isn’t hard and fast, however, and Burns notes that if there is a feeling of slippage or lack of response, you may want to begin to check their condition sooner (or even replace them altogether).
It doesn’t matter if you check them before or after a run, explains running coach Phil Clark, owner of The Training Station and Run Shoe Store in Philadelphia. By inspecting your shoes you are doing more than just knowing when to replace them, but also being proactive in your own injury prevention. “Inspection is a way to protect yourself from injury due to some failure of the shoe that may cause you to fall,” he notes.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Knowing what your shoes looked like before you started logging miles in them is helpful, of course, but there are specific areas of running shoes that are prone to wear faster than others. Paying attention to these spots — as well as understanding what parts of the shoe take on the most force — helps you know what you are looking for.
“Similar to how you would inspect the wheels on your car, take a look at the traction pattern on the outsoles of your shoes,” shares Burns. “If the outsole looks flat and it’s difficult to distinguish the lug pattern, then it’s time to refresh. Also start searching for a new pair of shoes if it seems that your shoes have taken a new shape — tilting either medially or laterally — or the midsole seems overly compressed.”
Clark notes that the midsole of the shoe is what wears out the fastest, as it bears all of a runner’s bodyweight. He says there is no way to visually inspect this, but you can teach yourself to feel whether the midsole is ‘dead.’ Because the midsole is what absorbs shock as you run, you will notice your shoes may lack a ‘springy’ feeling and that your legs and feet begin to feel more tired than usual.
Additionally, the sockliner — which Burns describes as the removeable cushioning on the footbed — can experience wear. Luckily, if you discover issues with this part of the shoe, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get a whole new pair. “If it feels like the footbed is not molding to your foot or providing adequate cushioning or support, there are great aftermarket inserts available to buy, if the midsole and outsole are still intact,” advises Burns.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are a number of factors that determine how fast your shoes experience wear — from running surface to gait and more. Not every pair survives 500 miles of pounding, but by keeping a close eye on your shoes, you can get every mile you can out of them. Just as a cyclist would inspect their bike, runners should regularly inspect their shoes to avoid injury or additional stress on your body.